Breaking The Feature Wall
by Tristan Lott
Modern design favours seamless and uncluttered finishes, so it is no surprise that the painted feature wall has fallen from grace. A lime green or brown suede feature wall doesn’t exactly scream sleek or elegant! No longer a quick fix to simply add a pop of colour to every room of your home, feature walls have become a carefully considered and thoughtful addition to a space. Modern design is reinventing and revitalising this staple of the past to suit the contemporary Australian home.
From unique textures and bold materials, to subtle variations in colour and wallpaper or decals, there are countless ways to incorporate this feature into your home. The Little Brick Studio is a design firm that is well-versed in how to tastefully introduce feature walls that make a statement in your home. Here, Tristan Lott speaks with Amy Hart, the company’s director, to learn how feature walls can embolden your home’s style.
OUT WITH THE OLD
The feature wall was the must-have home design feature of the 1990s and early 2000s, but the once-popular, brightly painted feature wall is now widely considered outdated and overpowering. Just as design’s affinity for innumerable rose gold accents or rooms swathed in millennial pink has lessened, the appeal of a bright purple wall dominating your living room has too. “Feature walls were always a cheap way to add some interest to an otherwise plain room,” says Hart. “The problem with the 90s style feature wall is that they were often overused – not every room should have a feature wall!”
Cheap and cheerful, creating a simple painted feature wall was – and still is – popular amongst people with limited budget or those who like a bit of DIY, especially when completing an already costly renovation. The difference today is that modern homeowners are often taking a more careful and considered approach by introducing holistic design and ensuring the feature wall fits into this. “What we see now is a more toned-down version where the feature is incorporated into the design … and most are taking a more textural approach so the emphasis is not always on a colour contrast,” Hart confirms.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
A great option when pondering ways to create a feature wall that feels cohesive with the rest of your home is to carry elements from the exterior into the interior. The Little Brick Studio has done many designs that feature a wall running from the interior out to the exterior, as Hart confirms. “It’s a way of bringing the outside in, making spaces larger and continuing the exterior style on the interior.”
Consider how to carry the theme of your house through the build. Hart recommends choosing complementary materials – for example, a light, natural stone feature suits a classic white weatherboard home, while a red brick or concrete wall might be too harsh. “While designed to stand out,” Hart says, “a feature wall should reinforce a design style, not detract from it.” Feature walls are great way of personalising the chosen style of home. A classic Hamptons home can be modernised with an interesting stone feature wall, while barn-style homes with timber and cladding throughout are rising in popularity. “A feature wall does not have to actually be a copy of external materials, but it should follow the theme of the house,” says Hart.
Today’s trends are all about texture. Muted colour palettes are favoured, with rich accent colours being a cohesive design feature more than a staple. Rather than a bold colour change, Hart recommends introducing a unique texture. “Perhaps a stone or V-groove cladding, bricks or even a concrete finish,” Hart says. “It’s important that the wall is a part of the design as a whole, rather than just introduced to provide some interest on a blank wall.”
When it comes to deciding which material you should choose for your feature wall, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. Firstly, be aware of the room in which you’re including a feature wall. “Some materials are not suitable for external or wet area use or need to be installed differently to comply with building regulations,” says Hart. If you’re considering adding a feature wall to your bathroom, for instance, remember to accommodate waterproofing. Select something non-porous like feature tiles, or something you can seal like rammed earth á la The Little Brick Studio’s award-winning Merilyn Project.
“The structural implications of the material you choose obviously need to be considered,” says Hart. Something like wallpaper or paint has no structural impact, but heavy stone or cladding will. Considerations need to be taken for the thickness of the material, especially around fixtures and when retrofitting – if a door or a window is impacted, it can be very difficult to remedy. Hart also warns not to forget allowances for hanging points for televisions or artwork. “If you think this through before you proceed, proper structure can be incorporated correctly, avoiding the need to remove the cladding post-build!”
Once your feature wall is completed and installed, trying to find a way to style it without doing too much or too little can be daunting. Hart believes that “styling on a feature wall is very dependent on the material or colour.” If you have something highly textured that already adds a lot of interest, then simple artwork is all you need. Contrastingly, a simple feature wall can be bolstered by detailed artwork that almost becomes a part of the statement.
A feature wall doesn’t necessarily have to be a wall to make the same impact. A popular alternative is introducing contrast around the fireplace. “Using cladding or a contrasting colour … can really draw the eye to the space and can create a grand or cosy feeling depending on the material use,” Hart says. Another popular alternative is introducing colour or texture to the back wall of bookshelves to create a subtle impact. Wall decals and portrait walls are an easy way to achieve the look and aesthetic of a feature wall without spending too much money or if you’re renting.
Feature walls have been given new life as this old classic takes on a refined, contemporary look. Melbourne Home Design + Living expects to see more unique and interesting feature walls as this trend continues to go from strength to strength and become a showpiece of modern design.
Images courtesy of The Little Brick Studio