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The Feature Wall…How To Get It Right

 In Home Decor

So you just have to have that feature wall….

…oh well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

“Yes, but we did, didn’t we, we had to, we had no choice, it was de rigeur for goodness sake…there was no escape!”

The times I have walked into a home and thought, why? A feature wall is literally that, it is to call attention to a point in the room. It has been the random use of colour to highlight unattractive details that has given the feature wall such a bad reputation.

A feature wall has to make sense and when I say feature wall we can also think bulkheads, columns, fireplaces or any architectural detail that protrudes or recedes. The reason to pick out a detail is to enhance the overall appeal of the room and in most cases it adds strength to the room which depending on the skill of the decorator will have either a positive or negative effect. A feature colour can also be used to add warmth or interest to a room that otherwise has very little going for it. You don’t want to do it just because there is a blank wall.

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Use a contrast colour to enhance structural details

I rather like the use of a contrast colour to enhance a structural detail e.g. columns. It’s useful to use a colour that recognises the purpose of the structure. If it’s a support, then the colour or construction material needs to indicate strength. Remember my thoughts in my article on kitchen bench top colours coming from the basic building blocks of nature…slate, marble, granite, chalk, pebbles, wood, sand, charcoal and so on. They suggest strength and purpose…wishy washy colours won’t have the same impact or credibility.

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Stone clad columns suggest the use of the columns to provide strength and support.Peter Fryer Design, Residential Building Design, 08 9384 6323

Be very careful where you start and stop with a contrast colour.

The colour should always finish on an inside corner.

A colour that stops on an outside corner is not attractive for a few reasons:
a) Rarely is Gyprock or a plaster edge perfectly straight the result being a smudgy edge finish.
b) The outside corner when viewed from different angles can give a distorted appearance particularly if you are looking at half the contrast colour and half the main wall colour.
c) If for example it’s a fireplace with a chimney protrusion, the structure hasn’t been honoured as the colour should return to the wall to really define both strength and use.
d) Quite simply, it looks unfinished

Bulkheads can be troublesome as they often run into a wall or column and there is nowhere to intelligently end the colour. Just stopping the colour where there isn’t an end point because you want a contrasting bulkhead will look so wrong for all the reasons listed above.

Often walls are not straight and don’t have clean lines in the corners, so even if you have a wall in a sitting room that would be a great spot for a feature wall, you well may find that once painted the edges might appear blurry and uneven. A useful way to overcome this is to tape a 5 -10 mil border all the way around the wall so the colour finishes before the corner edge. This will create a knife edge to the block of colour. The eye doesn’t read that the colour stops short of the corner; it just sees a very sharp clean finish.

Of course, we are not limited by paint when it comes to feature walls.

You just have to look at the array of wallpaper, timber, stone, metal, glass and tiles available. Each one of these is a topic in itself, the variety of looks just limited by the imagination.

Imagine a wall with floor lights and a perforated metal screen fixed 100 ml in front of the lights. Depending on the design in the metal, the finish of the metal, the paint colour behind it, the shapes from the shadows and the other elements in the room blending or contrasting with this bold feature wall, you set the tone for a dynamic individual room. Such great finishes that really add depth and texture whether you are wanting to create a rich elaborate interior or a reasonably neutral minimal look.

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The red feature wall below is a good example of well placed colour. It sets off the cantilevered stairs and acts as an anchor point for all the other areas of the home, linking them together.Peter Fryer Design, Residential Building Design, 08 9384 6323

The key is texture

The key is texture, which is so important to have in an interior. We are part of nature and to ignore this can leave a home feeling quite barren…I digress but it is somehow linked. I love Tom Wolfe’s book From Bauhaus to Our House, a very entertaining book with great observations on architecture and people; he is talking about Modern Architecture which became known as the International Style in America.

With the onset of Nazism in Germany before the onset of WW11 the “White Princes” of architecture in Germany, the founders of the Bauhaus, fled to the USA and “educated” the common man and told him how he should live and be in a house…so many skyscrapers later and minimal interiors void of anything that suggested the Bourgeoisie of days gone by was eliminated…sad faces everywhere as people secretly tried to add a little silk cushion or a curtain to soften the interior that insisted the matching pair of Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs and not much else. But the Mies police were alive and kicking and would with sirens blaring swoop on the wretches who dared to sneak a little texture – dare we say colour and feminine softness into an “honest, nothing hidden interior that just didn’t live up to the souls that we are who need nature, colour, texture and a touch of the gaudy to really reflect ourselves and give us a sense of belonging”.

“…the point I guess I wanted to share is that with feature walls, in fact with anything we design, we can’t leave nature behind as we are from those same building blocks and to do so is to ignore who and what we are.”

So in my slight diversion, the point I guess I wanted to share is that with feature walls, in fact with anything we design, we can’t leave nature behind as we are from those same building blocks and to do so is to ignore who and what we are…I feel so much better now and wish you fun as you ponder the details in your home. Look at it with fresh eyes, love it, embrace it, for it doesn’t matter how humble it is, the love and feeling that goes into your interior is what makes it a home.

Each day as I see the homes of the people in the area in which we work, I am humbled by the beauty they display, the tenderness with which they show us the intimate side of their lives, the collections over the years the evolution of the lives alive within their homes, it is such a gift they give us and I am inspired always by them as they share their journey with us.

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