The wall is a blank canvas. Yet it’s surprising how few of us do much more than paint on one block colour. Yet with a little imagination, masking out a wall and painting pockets of colour can look surprisingly chic. These paint ideas for walls can transform the traditional into something altogether modern, and make the unassuming seem really rather clever.
Colour blocking will help to zone different areas, which is particularly useful in open-plan spaces. Colour is a great way to break up open-plan spaces and create zones that mark the difference between where you cook, say, and where you relax.
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By painting two-thirds of the wall with a colour and leaving the top third white will help to visually raise the ceiling height. Splitting a wall with two tones can look modern and sharp, and a light hue above a darker one makes a room seem larger.
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A dado or picture rail makes a good divider, but where you draw the line will depend on the room’s features and where the light falls. Painting borders can create the illusion of a dado rail where there isn’t one, and painted borders can also frame floors, fireplaces, arches, windows and other features, drawing attention to them.
Highlight interesting architectural details with contrasting or complementary shades and create a picture frame effect.
And, if it’s maximum drama you’re after, it pays to be brave. We love some of the striking paint ideas used below, illustrating how to create geometric shapes, horizontal stripes, smart check patterns or even mountain effects, bringing imaginative flair to schemes.
At the other end of the spectrum, using a single colour for your entire scheme, ceiling and all, will pack a punch and instantly enhance the mood. For a particularly sumptuous effect, choose a rich, deep shade to envelop the room in saturated hue. Dark tones such as emerald green, inky grey or midnight blue will also create a warm, cocooning feel.
Brush up on these creative ways with paint…
In this long and thin corridor, the colour was only taken half way up the wall. If the narrow space had been blue all the way to the ceiling, the space would have felt very enclosed. By using a light shade at the top, the area feels more open.
Get the look: The lower half of the wall is painted in Inchyra Blue; the upper half in All White, both by Farrow & Ball. The overhead light is from Gong. The bauble decoration is from Habitat.
Using masking tape, you can easily create some eye-catching geometric patterns.
A neon stripe runs up the stairs, cutting diagonally across the wall and punctuating through the grey colour palette.
Here, a large frame acts as a border for a plane of contrasting colour. It's a striking effect, and works well with these two pastel shades.
Get the look: Lichen and Setting Plaster estate emulsions, both £45 each for 2.5L, by Farrow & Ball.
This living room scheme features a sea of deep greens and rich textures to create a dramatic yet harmonious feel. Flashes of metallics and a dash of contrasting colour in the accessories heighten the glamour.
Get the look: Walls are painted in Huntsman Green elite emulsion, £49 for 2.5L; woodwork in Taylors Grey acrylic eggshell, £34 for 1L; sofa in Quartz Velvet in Teal, £117m, all Zoffany.
Here Dulux shows how you can easily create a smart check pattern simply by choosing a backdrop colour, then overlaying it with a criss cross of stripes.
We love this paint effect idea, where masking tape has been used to create neat lines, borders and boxes, inspired by the artist Mondrian, and then coloured in.
Twin beds are given the illusion of headboards simply with paint.
Painting the headboard the same shade as the walls creates a striking look, especially when the colour isn't taken all the way up to the ceiling.
Zesty yellow is an unusual choice for undertake dado, and the colour is taken up the inside of the arched hallways too. The effect is playful and uplifting. Get the look: Walls in Soane Yellow by Papers and Paints. Stairs in Highland Green by Dulux. Asparagus ferns, Nikki Tibbles Wild At Heart. Star, Ginger Ray.
The ceramics collection on this alcove ledge is highlighted by the strip of pastel pink.
Get the look: The wall light and pedestal were bought at online antiques auctions. Find similar at Tommy Mitchell. The reclaimed wood dining table is by DT-69. These are vintage white Ant chairs by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen and Peppermint DSW chairs by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Ammonite and Calamine Pink estate emulsion.
A ribbon in burnt ochre contrasts against the ink-drenched room.
A powerful shock of incandescent yellow around the architrave, links the front living room to the middle sitting room, and instantly saves the two spaces from becoming ‘too polite’.
Get the look: Bookcase painted in Bone China Blue, Little Greene. Vintage chandelier, George Smith – try Vinterior. Zero-In table, Barber & Osgerby for Established & Sons. Vintage armchair, Les Couilles du Chien; upholstered in Pueblos linen-mix, Pierre Frey. Early 20th- century Chinese rug, Talisman.
Yellow skirting also achieves a modern, zingy and uplifting effect.
In this example from Farrow & Ball, masking tape has been used to create a striking effect on the wall in three complementing colours.
The painted dado-effect appears spill over onto the curtains. Matching curtains to wall colour creates a feeling of space and uniformity so could be a good option for smaller spaces. Play with contrasts, however, for dramatic effect and to create a focal point within the room.
Get the look: Farrow & Ball’s Ammonite, Brinjal, Charlotte’s Locks and Rectory Red estate emulsions, £45 for 2.5L, Farrow & Ball. Find a similar Sixties-style Schreiber lacquered wood dressing table on eBay. The curtains are made in Harlequin’s Tranquil Bayberry/Praline 130954 viscose/linen-mix, from £68.85m, from Fashion Interiors.
Painting a repeat pattern like these pastel stripes on the walls creates a smart, wallpapered effect.
Flashes of red keep this decadent cinema den feeling daring and grown-up.
Get the look: The sofa is from BPA International. This is the E1027 side table by Eileen Gray for Aram Designs at Aram Store. The patterned cushions are by By Nord at Houseology. The linen cushion covers are from The Linen Works. This is a Windowpane throw by Raft Furniture.
Using a fun colour on the stairs, even just on the vertical part of the steps, instantly makes them more cool.
Here the vertical part of the stairs is painted in a zingy yellow, giving a cheerier contrast to the palette of white and greys.
Introduce splashes of colour through painting doors in bold colours, and leaving the rest of the room more neutral. In this sitting room, a grey palette is lifted by the Tiffany blue door, the two fuchsia chairs and tangerine artwork.
Get the look: The I Like It. What Is It? poster is by Anthony Burrill. The pink velvet armchairs are from Fern & Grey. The coffee table is from West Elm.
In this idea from Little Greene, a feature wall is made to look 3D simply by painting the sides of it in a slightly darker shade.
These gorgeous Deluxe shades complement each other perfectly, and look very smart in this arched window composition.
Who said you need an actual dado rail to have a painted colour below dado height? Using masking tape instead, you can create a more up-to-date and modern version of the idea.
Blanket coverage with a single paint colour makes a bold design statement. Faux flowers both relieve and enhance the dark and moody colour scheme.
Get the look: The flowers and vase are by Abigail Ahern. The vintage stool and Deco mirror are both from eBay.
Here, a thin painted line acts as a border to the colour below it.
You could even use tape to break away from straight lines, by overlapping tape at different angles or by intentionally creating messy lines – as long as you make it look intentional, as has been achieved here.
The painted skirting, doorframe and door create a striking frame into the next room.
Get the look: The tiles are from The Antique Floor Company. The mirror is from Absolute Flowers & Home. The wall lights are from Caroline de Kerangal. The bath and brassware are from The Albion Bath Company.
This idea is illustrated again here, where a grey doorway creates a transition from this room into the next.
A wall of built-in storage is given a makeover with three contrasting colours and a roll of masking tape. We particularly love how the purple doesn't carry right up to the ceiling but is cut off at an unexpected point, halfway up the top cupboard.
The space behind the kitchen counter is painted in a block colour, creating the effect of a splash back. Of course, this would only work if the sink is in the kitchen island, unless you protect the paint with a waterproof coating.
Three different shades from Little Green instantly transform this traditional room into something ultra modern.
A deep indigo anchors the lower half of the room, with a textured wallpaper above and a strip of blue as a zingy divide.
Get the look: The print of Slim Aarons’ Poolside Glamour is from Grapefruit Gallery. Console, Wood’n Design. Indigo Blue paint (on lower half of wall), Sanderson.
A bold colour framing the window creates a framed picture-like effect; the picture in this case being the view. In this bathroom, the window frame and ceiling have been accentuated with dashes of sunny orange and ultramarine, giving the period space a contemporary feel.
Get the look: Walls are painted in Flint, ceiling in Deep Space Blue and window frame in Marigold, all from £22.50 for 1L absolute matt emulsion, Little Greene.
The brilliant blue of this doorway creates a cheerful entrance.
Get the look: This is the Red Serpent artwork by Aboriginal artist Long Tom Tjapanangka. JGM Art is a good source of Aboriginal art. Find the Lora pendant shade by weplight at Spatial Lighting.
Drenching this coat room in a fiery orange shade creates a jewel-like colour to emanate from the neutral passageway.
Get the look The doors, frames and storage unit are painted in Charlotte’s Locks estate eggshell by Farrow & Ball.
This room’s low dado rail makes a natural split, while the daring shade of turquoise instantly makes the space more modern.
Get the look: For a similar paint shade, try Fresco Blue 1829 chalky emulsion, £35 for 2.5L, Craig & Rose.
In an open-plan living space, zoning different areas in contrasting colours can create rooms within rooms. Bubblegum pink frames the lounge area in this open-plan space, while the hallway beyond sports a dramatic fire-engine red, which is ideal for making an entrance.
Get the look: The wall is painted in Nancy’s Blushes and the panelling in Charlotte’s Locks, both estate emulsion, £43.50 for 2.5L, Farrow & Ball. Planter in Scallion pure flat emulsion, £49.50 for 2.5L, Paint & Paper Library.
A pink ‘racing stripe’ has been added to this cornicing, adding a modern twist to the traditional room. The back of the fireplace is painted in same pink used for the cornicing.
Get the look: Mr and Mrs cushions from Liberty. Coffee table found on Golborne Road. For a similar armchair, try Graham & Green. Upcycled chaise longue by Ines Cole at Liberty. Vases on mantelpiece from the Oriental department at Liberty. Little plates to the right, high up on the wall, by Yvonne Ellen, from Liberty. Painting above mirror by Hugo Guinness. Persian rug from Liberty. Flowers from Wild at Heart.
These walls are painted in a gradually fading ombre effect, while the contrasting pastel pink ceiling has a crisp, neat edge.
Get the look: The bed is vintage French. The light is by Lee Broom. The wallpaper is Designers Guild. The bedside table was from Alfies Antique Market. Wild & Wolf does a turquoise Trim phone.
The vibrant red-orange under the dado continues onto the floor in a carpet that matches the shade.
Get the look: The Villa Bright Floral rug, from £49.99, is by Carpetright.
As the hallway isn’t a space where you’d spend a lot of time, the space can afford for a more intense colour. Painted in a shock of pink neon, Matthew Williamson's hallway has a great impact when you first walk into the apartment.
Get the Look: Doorframe in Neon Pink by Bristol Paint. Gold mirror from Tann Rokka. Seat underneath mirror from Cologne & Cotton. Pink table – an old beside table bought from eBay and re-painted in pink. Blue marble vase, part of Matthew Williamson’s Butterfly Home collection at Debenhams.
It's very subtle, but the skirting and doorframe are painted in a different colour to the walls.
Get the Look: Doorframe in Neon Pink by Bristol Paint. Gold mirror from Tann Rokka. Seat underneath mirror from Cologne & Cotton.
Here, the gloss painted floor boards with a stripe effect acts as the focal point of the room, and instantly makes this otherwise uninteresting room feel modern and cool.
Brightly painted borders on the floor inject a playful energy.
In this kitchen, paint playful cuts across the grooves of the kitchen dresser. The dresser itself is a fun twist in that the grooves carry on up the wall and onto the ceiling.
Pistacchio walls are a light, calm contrast to the dusty blush ceiling and dark olive dado.
Here, teal is taken right up to the cornicing, where it's met with a clean, crisp line of white.
In this off-the-wall idea, the dado rail is placed unusually high, with the space above it painted in a wild fuchsia.
Here, a monochrome scheme is made more interesting with painted cornicing, skirting, doorframe and dado rail, plus the contrasting pop of the raspberry pink door.
This example from Little Greene proves that you don't need to break up the wall to make it interesting. Here the entire wall is drenched in the same shade, with a powerfully calming effect.
Enveloping each room in a different paint colour will create distinctly different zones, rooms and moods.