What’s Washington, D.C.’s most famous accent wall? The royal-blue panels of the White House press briefing room, of course.

Bill London, the local designer who helped revamp the space back in 2006, says that accent walls are particularly tough for denizens of the D.C. area. We shy away from the bold colors that can really define a room and instead try to use inoffensive, neutral tones.

“Washington is a political city,” he says. “It’s hard to get anyone to make a strong commitment, even when it comes to paint color.”

Extract yourself from the mushy middle with this advice:

Be bold.
Pick a color, then go two shades more extreme — whether that means richer, darker or brighter — advises London. “It’s just paint. You can always redo it.”

 Consider a rich neutral.
“A dark taupe is just as beautiful as red or orange,” he says. “But it has to be dark enough so that it really stands out.”

Have fun with patterns.
Stripes, zigzags or even harlequin diamonds can make a room feel more lively and fun than a flat-colored wall can.

Avoid shiny paint.
“Matte paint hides imperfections in the wall,” London says. “That’s especially important with older homes.”

Begin and end on inside corners.
Accent walls work best when they are framed by corners where two walls meet, creating a pocket where you could tuck a side table rather than a point you could stub your toe on.

 Consider the whole space.
Imagine what your accent wall will look like from other rooms. “You never just sit around in a single room; you’re always moving through your house,” he says.

Think outside the paint can.
Instead of color, try accenting a wall with an artfully arranged collection of clocks, photos or framed paintings. “Don’t be afraid to hang stuff high, and don’t be afraid to hang stuff low,” London says.