Are two-tone walls stylish again?

Over the past few years, monochromatic walls and ceilings have ruled homes everywhere. While we can expect this trend to trickle into the next few years, there’s another painting style making its presence known again: The two-toned wall. Evolved from the traditional bottom wainscoting and bare wall top designs of yore, this trend is coming into style once again with new twists. Here are some ideas to help you create a mood board.

Small black desk against a two-tone wall
Josh Hemsley/

What is the traditional two-tone wall?

A conventional two-tone wall is a natural path for homes with base trims and wainscoting. Most homeowners keep the trim white and paint the top portion of the wall a contrasting color. Choosing a shade is easy when the other color is a bleached white or off-white, so this is a simple decision for many.
The more adventurous choice is painting the trim a color besides white and then painting the top portion of the wall a complementing color. Many apartments and homes even apply the top color to the ceiling for a more interesting look.
Homes with no wainscoting or trims can still feature two-tone walls, with many folks choosing to paint exactly halfway between the ceiling start and the floor. Some two-tone walls also feature a third strip of color that connects the bottom and top colors. Often, this is a neutral color like white or black.

Two-toned painting ideas to try

Two-tone walls offer a vast catalog of color combinations and stylistic choices. For instance, you don’t have to paint exactly halfway between the ceiling and the floor. Try bringing the bottom color two-thirds of the way up the wall and then bringing the top color all the way over to your ceiling.
Two-tone walls also don’t have to be painted straight across horizontally. If you’re feeling creative, paint roughly halfway up in imperfect strokes, giving your wall an artsy makeover. Also popular are pointed mountainous shapes that are more exciting than a straight, horizontal line.
If you are, in fact, enamored with the classic horizontal two-tone wall design, we’ve discovered an idea we can get behind. Hang up thrifted artwork and paint it in line with your wall. You might also paint doors and other furniture like lamp legs for a modern, quirky effect.
One last idea to consider is creating a block of color instead of bringing the paint across your whole room. For instance, you may paint just the area behind your dresser up to the wall, creating a color block that makes guests do a double take. This inspired design brings the two-tone wall to a whole different level.

Popular colors to consider

Like we mentioned above, white as the neutral color with a second color is a popular choice. We’ve found that warm tones are increasing in popularity, particularly shades like ochre, earthy browns, deep greens, and warm pastels. Focus less on bold, cool colors and more on organic colors that age well — if at all!
For a fresh kitchen, consider ochre and a sandy pink combination with bursts of white. Warm pinks and various shades of green are also a match made in heaven that work well in kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms.

Two-toned green and white wall
Transform your bedroom into a haven with a combination of moody green and a soft, teal-ish blue to keep it feeling nature-inspired. Add even more warmth with tan and beige accents like light wood pieces.

How to make two-tone walls successful

Achieve an impressive two-tone wall by first selecting colors with the same sheen. This means buying gallons of paint that are either all eggshell, all flat, all satin, all glossy, all semi-gloss, or all high gloss. This makes your walls look extra clean and cohesive.
Next, use painter’s tape if your design includes sharp lines that beg for accuracy. A stray stroke of paint can take you out of the fantasy when admiring your finished work. Before painting, use primer if necessary. Old paint peeking through the new coat can muddle the color, compromising your vision.
Last but not least, accessorize strategically. Whatever your design aesthetic, make sure the colors, finish, and size of any decor complement your wall design.

While quirky pastels and darker colors in monochromatic schemes graced living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms for years, two-tone walls may be making a comeback. In fact, this timeless design may have never left at all, but simply hid from the spotlight for a while. We recommend starting with the guest room or an accent wall if you need a guinea pig for your design. From there, paint with confidence and proceed to more ambitious areas like your living room and bedroom.

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