For years, accent walls reigned as the statement-making paint treatment of choice. The single painted accent wall gained popularity as an easy way to deliver a splash of color without the commitment of a whole-room paint job. But now, we're seeing designers and homeowners embracing bold paint colors in bigger ways, and two-tone walls are one of our favorite wall treatment ideas yet.
Painting walls with two colors creates instant contrast and architectural interest with just a few strokes of paint. “The two-toned wall provides a clean, modern way to add dimension and the illusion of architectural details to a space,” says Nivara Xaykao, a color specialist at Benjamin Moore. “Plus, it’s also a lot easier to paint a wall than to install trim."
Whether you want to make your space feel larger or deliver an unexpected dose of color, this paint technique is easy to customize to accomplish the look you crave. Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, suggests varying the height of the paint line according to your liking. "I prefer to switch hues in either the lower third of the wall or up top towards the ceiling," she says. "It doesn’t have to be exact halves!"
To achieve the two-tone look, first determine the height of your paint line, measuring from the ceiling down. Once you've finalized your design, tape it off using painters tape and a level, and start painting! Looking for two-tone wall inspiration? Here are six tips and ideas to get you started.
Line It Up
Can’t decide where to start your paint line? Use an existing feature in the room—such as a door frame, chair rail, or fireplace mantel—as a guide. Align the block of color with your horizontal element of choice to achieve a crisp, orderly look.
Bring Color to the Ceiling
Another idea on where to break between colors: Paint one color up to picture molding height, usually about 12-20 inches below the ceiling. For extra impact, Wadden suggests painting the ceiling the same color as the top hue to create the feeling of a more expansive space.
When it comes to this paint trend, we say the bolder the better. Pick two of your favorite daring shades for a high-energy, color-on-color effect. To keep the two-tone treatment looking cohesive, stick to one paint sheen for both colors.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Paint Finishes
Highlight a Specific Feature
Use the two-tone technique to emphasize or add depth to a certain area of the room—without adding any fancy millwork or other architectural details. “A two-tone wall can be an effective trick to either make your space feel larger or more intimate, so experiment with where you put the blocks of color to achieve your desired effect,” Xaykao says. Painting one section of the room in a different hue, for example, can turn an ordinary corner into a cozy nook.
Temper an Intense Shade
If a floor-to-ceiling bold color on all four walls makes you nervous, two-tone walls may be your answer. "My favorite application is pairing bright colors with a light neutral or white," Wadden says. Limiting the vivid hue to one half of the wall prevents it from overwhelming the room.
Ann VanderWiel Wilde
Two-tone walls are even more eye-catching when you add some personality to the treatment. One idea: Carry the color block across secondhand artwork for a touch of humor. Make thrifted or garage-sale art pop by skimming the bottom of the piece with the lower wall color and matching up the paint lines.
Whether you go bold with a vibrant color combination or meet in the middle with a muted pastel treatment, two-tone walls are guaranteed to make a modern impact.