More often than not, when it comes to kitchen reno, homeowners tend to focus on new cabinets, kitchen countertops, splashbacks, or flooring, leaving the bare walls...well bare. Kitchen wall decor ideas become a bit of an afterthought. But, little do people realize that the largest surface area in a room, apart from the floor are the walls! If these aren't tended to, chances are the room won't look complete, design-wise. When thinking of decoration, living rooms or bedrooms usually come to mind as canvases for creativity but why should the kitchens get the step-child treatment?
'The kitchen has become more important than ever over the past year, as we are noticing more and more people keen to add vintage pieces, worn comfy sofas, or soft velvet armchairs to make the room feel a little less utilitarian and more lived in.' explains Helen Parker, the creative director of deVOL.
'Big tables, low lighting, subtle warm wall colors, and a sense of being cosseted by familiar and beautiful things. It's all about tapestry, vintage lighting, and layering of fabrics and wallpapers. It's less of the gadgets and more of the real-life comforts. A few old candlesticks and some pretty vintage cut glass, foliage gathered from a walk or the garden just reminds us how important nature and home is.'
And when it comes to kitchen ideas that are going to make the space feel less...kitcheny, we say look to walls...
10 inspiring kitchen wall decor ideas to replicate
Largely, the kitchen is a hard-working space that can be enlivened with even a slight touch of design. You want to decorate it but not go overboard, lest the space becomes too impractical to use. With a change in kitchen color scheme, a new artwork, or wallpaper, the kitchen walls can be uplifted, changing the mood of the entire room.
'We all spend a significant amount of time in our kitchens, so it’s important to love the space where the heart of the family is. Even if a complete renovation isn’t on the cards, you can elevate your kitchen decor with DIY or budget ideas,' says Astha Khetan, the founder, The House of Things (opens in new tab).
If you're looking for fresh, smart kitchen wall decor ideas, then this is the right stop. Browse through our handy list, and convert this very important space into an inspirational one.
1. Rescue bare walls with pretty shelves
Who says kitchen shelving needs to be used only for storage? Use them as display units for your prized possessions and have a little kitchen gallery of your own. You could consider bright-colored, floating shelves that could add a splash of a bolder shade to the walls.
Keep the kitchen clutter (bags, paper rolls, stationery) inside closed cabinets so that the open shelves are reserved for only pretty things. Stephanie Nix, kitchen designer at Neptune (opens in new tab), says 'If you want to add a bit of character to your kitchen without making too much change, then floating wall shelves are the perfect way to showcase your books, artwork, and ornaments, or even glassware with minimal installation. Including artwork, whether it’s in the form of sculptures, paintings, or framed prints and photographs on shelves, is another great way of adding a pop of color and personality.'
If floating units aren't the most appealing (because you can see the dust collecting on them every day) you could opt for closed shelves. Shelves with an etched design or colored glass can induce all the interest you need on the walls.
If you love DIY, this could be a great project for you. Look for old crates, wooden planks, or even small baskets, possibly lying around unused in your home or garage. Paint or polish them so they look brand new and install them on the walls. Make the best out of waste!
2. Freshen up the scene with plants
Indoor plants are perhaps the best decor items because they serve many purposes. They help cleanse the indoor air (heard of air-purifying plants?), make for great 'house pets', and can be moved around in the home without any problems.
'In our Berlin project, we displayed a collection of pale green glassware and plants on our client’s custom brass curvilinear shelves. It helped tie in with the custom pendant over the fluted island and added a secondary color to the fairly monochromatic kitchen,' shares principal designer Keren Richter of the Brooklyn-based firm, White Arrow (opens in new tab).
Choose the small plant varieties like a Chinese money plant, Jade plant, Peace Lily, Snake plant, or Bonsai. A row of similar-sized plants will help create a charming vignette. Remember to pick those varieties that can last long indoors, without much exposure to sunlight.
And of course, not everyone has green fingers and if you do identify yourself as a plant novice then definitely choose artificial plants or flowers. These too can do a great job at adding color to a space.
3. Make a big statement with art or wallpaper
A life-size artwork in the kitchen? Now that is unique! If you have an open plan kitchen then go all out, as the larger space will be able to handle a large print and can connect the different zones within the space too.
Think of a mural on the walls, perhaps an eye-catching row of graphic artworks. 'The natural thought is to hang art or stand it on shelves, but now the fashion of art being painted on your walls or in your cupboards is becoming popular. You can do this in the form of wallpaper, now much more acceptable in a kitchen, but also bespoke hand-painted murals, collages, or designs. Multi-functional art has seen so much love over the last few years and is quickly creeping into so many kitchens too. Bold, busy, moody, vibrant, anything goes,' adds Helen.
Kitchen wallpapers work just as well. There's no better way to create a 'wow' factor than with larger-than-life prints. 'A great way to add pattern and texture in the kitchen is through wallpapers. From geometric to tiny floral motifs, to any other imagery that flatters the rest of the kitchen plan, the choices are endless,' offer Hardesh Chawla and Monica Chawla, founders of Essentia Environments (opens in new tab).
4. Choose artistic lighting to add interest to kitchen walls
Kitchen lighting needn't be all form over function. How about an intricately designed, laser-cut chandelier that throws artistic shadows on the walls? Or maybe a series of long thin backlights that help define the architecture of the space.
Light not only brightens up a space but also changes the mood of an area. If you have a large kitchen and love hosting friends in it, make sure you set up the space to be as welcoming and decorated as any of your other social areas. Picture this: As you carefully put together a charcuterie board, and your friends hang around making conversation, a series of wall-hung lamps dispensing warm yellow light set the perfect mood.
You could consider dainty wall sconces too, that are just as effective. 'Whether illuminating an entryway or flanking a kitchen counter, wall sconces operate as decorative yet practical additions to your space. Add in some sleek kitchenware to accentuate the look,' advises Astha Khetan.
In this space, the concealed lights line the beams of the walls and ceiling and encourage you to look up and admire the height of the kitchen.
5. Add pattern, texture and color with tiles
Tiles are like miniature building blocks that help complete the design puzzle of your home. Think of creative, eye-catching kitchen wall tiles to give the space a cool finish. You can choose from a wide selection of colors and motifs. If you're looking to do just one wall, go bold and let it stand out. And, if you're the king of subtly and sophistication, then a marble block with beautiful veins will seal the deal.
'Tiles, like wallpaper, are a great way to add texture, color, and pattern to large areas of a room. We love to expand the tiles away from just the cooking area and make feature walls; tiling up to the ceiling and down to the floor and even behind glazed cupboards. It is always nice to try and avoid having an area of tiles that just stops short of a corner. The sides of tiles can be difficult to hide so covering whole walls avoids this problem,' adds Helen.
Another good way to choose tiles is by matching the colors to the floor so the room overall looks in sync. A few brands offer stick-on tiles that can be simply installed on pre-existing walls and give the effect of, say, brick or wooden walls.
6. Install a chalk board to create your own designs
How often do you catch yourself wishing you had a handy notepad to jot down recipes or ideas while in the kitchen? We suggest you think bigger. How about a kitchen wall that is in fact, a chalkboard?
If your children are at an age where every wall becomes their coloring book, you can coax them to work on the kitchen wall and leave the rest alone. You can use this wall to leave your family reminders while you're out; you can create a groceries checklist on it or even use it to list down emergency contacts.
A chalkboard wall may sound tedious but you'll be surprised how many paint companies offer chalkboard finish paints with a wide selection. If you don't want to go all the way with a paint job, you can even buy an installable board and simply hang it on one of the walls or the kitchen door. Plus, when you're hosting, use this board to create a quick, artistic sketch so it looks like artwork on the kitchen wall.
If you're covering the kitchen with chalkboard paint then bear in mind that it will be exposed to stains; oil or food. Choose an oil-based variety that can resist spills and splashes.
7. Create a mixed media wall that reflects your tastes
Give conventional kitchen wall ideas some rest and tap your creative flow. Choose to display an old record, next to a modern candelabra, next to a terracotta lamp. Add family pictures, tiny curious, metallic accessories and miscellaneous objects for an unusual tchotchke set up.
'Lean a sleek ladder against a wall for showcasing table linen, or add a floating shelf on a wall to create extra space. Spice things up with chic miniature works that lend character to your kitchen space without being too overwhelming,' advises Astha. Take a step back and look at the selection – do you think it will generate interest in passersby?
Another way to place these objects is by creating a story. Design a travel wall that showcases some of the most interesting things you've picked up while on the go. Or, a shelf of all the things you've created by hand. Anything that subtly showcases who you are without being too over the top.
8. Set the right tone with contrasts
The magic of contrasts is one to watch and admire. With different palettes and materials, you can make the space seem brighter and more upbeat. 'Having a different material for the kitchen wall helps differentiate it from the main kitchen. It could contrast with the kitchen, or complement it with a similar tone. For example, a bold wall shade for a neutral kitchen, or vice-a-versa,' share Hardesh and Monica.
Create a striking combination of opposing vibrant hues, or with two materials, say a marble kitchen contrasted with wood paneling. Another way to make this work is by choosing a different material or tone for the splashback and another for the wall. Keep the cabinetry in muted tones so the entire kitchen doesn't turn into a bit of a kaleidoscope.
9. Tap into the power of mirrors
Mirrors are known for their space-expanding, light-enhancing qualities. They can make a kitchen feel bigger and lighter in an instant if you hang it in the right spot.
If your kitchen has just one window, one way to install the mirror is to place a paned one to reflect the natural light from the windows across from it, so no one has to work facing a blank, dark wall.
Another way to add a reflective surface, if not mirrors is to choose contemporary tiles with a mirror effect. From antique mirror tiles to mosaic ones, there's plenty to choose from. Keep in mind that these tiles however are appended with a few cons. Even the smallest spills and splashes become immediately visible on these tiles, and they are less resistant to scrapes and sharp edges. It's best to choose these varieties in an area of your kitchen that doesn't see much wear and tear.
10. Expose the walls
The steampunk decor style has been an interior design trend for quite a while. Exposed bricks and beams, raw materiality, deep tones that were till recently seen in restaurants and bars have very slyly made their way into homes as well.
Contrary to what most people may believe, exposed walls can actually create quite a cozy, inviting ambiance in the home, and become wonderful backdrops for rooms. Think of them as showstoppers as they help define the architectural features in the room. Brick walls can be used as a gorgeous accent addition or even as a splashback feature.
One way to make an exposed statement wall work is by choosing deeper, warmer tones on other walls to complete the style and create a more comprehensive look. You could even add a few metallic elements in the room for the authentic industrial kitchen vibe – think copper-toned handles and knobs, antique gold powder-coated lights, and more. If the rustic, peeling brick walls aren't for you, you could think of painting them for a trad-modern look.
One thing to note about brick walls is their structural integrity—you want to be sure they can carry the weight of the cupboards and shelves. You could speak to your carpenter about structural reinforcement before you undertake a major kitchen remodel.
What can you hang in the kitchen?
Everything that you can think of! With changing times, the kitchen truly has emerged as the hero of the home, and possibly the most important place where you do practically everything—cook, spend time with family, chat, and even socialize.
Think of the kitchen as a versatile space, just like the living room. Make it showcase central, with artworks, murals to wallpapers. Apart from hanging kitchen essentials (you can have a wall dedicated to just that), you can create a feature wall that's only reserved for displaying varied articles, accessories or, wall hangings. How about a macrame curtain? A series of potted plants? Family photographs? The choices are endless.
Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.