People can spend years fantasizing about a new kitchen, imagining what it will look like and how it will be laid out. Added to the fact that it is one of the most expensive home improvement projects, there can be a huge amount of expectation surrounding the end result. Yet, it is all too easy to forget about one minor element; the kitchen wall decor.
Often, and understandably, seen as an afterthought next to more expensive fittings and finishes, in fact, your chosen wall decor can be the perfect finishing touch – taking your kitchen from drab to delightful in an instant.
There's no denying that kitchen ideas need to be functional, but that doesn't mean they can't be stylish, too. Your existing furniture, cabinetry, and appliances will usually influence the room's decor, yet how you decorate your kitchen's walls can enhance the space and crucially, your mood, too. Wall decor ideas can, indeed, give your space a whole new personality.
What should I put on my kitchen walls?
If you're keen to give your kitchen a whole new look for 2023, we've curated the best ways to style a kitchen wall to perfection – along with inspiring pictures of kitchens – to help you transform your space for the better.
1. Create a wall of art
‘The walls and shelves of kitchens can be transformed with art, providing a daily dose of happiness,’ enthuses Erica Davis, co-founder of Murus Art (opens in new tab). ‘Hanging a large colorful piece above a dining table creates an uplifting atmosphere while propping smaller pieces on shelves and countertops will inspire you as you cook. When leaning artwork on countertops, choose pieces framed behind glass so splashes can be wiped clean.’
2. Add in an accent color with strong contrast
‘An accent color idea above eye level is a simple way to add strong contrast to a room, without overpowering. As it’s not immediately noticeable, the accent color will draw the eye up for a visual surprise,’ says George Miller, home designer at Neptune (opens in new tab). ‘This can have particularly good results in rooms with taller ceilings or grand cornices, accentuating either feature to great effect.’
Continuing the accent color across different surfaces and planes – for instance, the cooker hood here – has a blocking effect that feels modern and can help smooth out any awkward architectural junctures.
3. Make a scene with a wall mural
Out-there murals aren’t just for designer dining rooms; in the kitchen, the unexpectedness of the up-scaled pattern adds impact without wasting precious space. Wall mural ideas are perfect for creative designers who just want that little bit more.
‘Over recent times there has been an explosion in high-tech digital printing which has changed the game somewhat, allowing a huge amount of experimentation and emerging new designers,’ explains Martin Waller, founder of Andrew Martin (opens in new tab).
Keep the look liveable by balancing out an exotic mural with low-key minimalist kitchen ideas and cabinetry. Sleek, handle-free doors in neutral shades work well. Placing the mural on the same wall as the main entrance, so it’s behind you as you enter the room, will dial it down further.
4. Decorate above kitchen cabinets
Decorating above kitchen cabinets is a wonderful way to fill the empty kitchen wall space with an attractive feature, rather than just letting it sit bare and unloved.
In this French country kitchen, celebrated interior designer Jessica Summer (opens in new tab) brings an element of joie de vivre to your kitchen wall by decorating with art and styling above cabinets. Many would argue that art belongs in the kitchen just as much as it does in any other room, and we can't help but agree.
Here, the designer sets the scene with earthy tones and plenty of texture. ‘The cabinetry is minimal and contemporary to allow the natural materials and neutral artwork above to stand to attention.'
5. Introduce a decorative moment with painted shelving
Make use of wasted wall space in a tight spot, by adding a couple of runs of painted kitchen shelving ideas for contrast and intrigue.
‘I often think the kitchen is a room where one can have some fun and play with color,’ says interior designer Stephanie Wilhelm, who incorporated boldly painted shelves in a recent project. ‘We used a rich red for the shelves and set them against a backdrop of deep blue walls to allow the items on display to stand out, adding an extra element of character to a utilitarian space,’ she says.
6. Invest in a backlit wall behind a display cabinet
Simple LED strips or miniature spotlights can be used to illuminate shelf displays, enhancing their impact and adding subtle evening glamor, especially useful when you want to create a softer mood for dining. Some kitchen wall materials can be backlit, as Richard Moore, design director of Martin Moore (opens in new tab), explains of his use of a striking faux-marble onyx as a backsplash and backdrop to glazed cupboards.
‘The veined onyx is lit by an LED panel, creating a suffused light effect, which can be increased and decreased to suit the time of day,’ he says. ‘With its warm, soft glow, it showcases glassware and objects stored on the shelves beautifully.’
7. Reflect light with a metallic backsplash
'Using the same strong cabinetry color on walls and ceiling is an effective way to trick the eye, enhancing depth and height,' says Lucy Mayers, decorator, Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler (opens in new tab). 'To help balance the dark walls and cabinets, the choice of kitchen backsplash was of utmost importance. These porcelain tiles look like brass but are easier to clean and have a brilliant reflective quality, beefed up with under-cabinet lighting. The surface injects a real sense of glamor while helping to bounce light around the space. Avoid overdoing statement surfaces, sometimes having less of something can make it feel even more luxurious.'
8. Beautify with joyful wallpaper
‘Kitchen wallpaper adds interest to pantries but also creates the perfect backdrop for camouflaging any untidiness,’ says Kasia Piorko, design director, of Kate Feather Kitchen Design (opens in new tab), who worked on this cute pantry in collaboration with Cat Dal Interiors (opens in new tab).
‘We love how the fresh botanical print makes the space less formal. Brightly colored designs featuring fruit, veggies, and other greenery will always add good energy in a space dedicated to food storage.’
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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