Design trends: illusions

You might not be able to scale the walls at home like you can at Dalston's latest art installation, but you can shapeshift your rooms with fake bookshelves, 'floating' lights and good old trompe l'oeil murals.
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Dalston House
The “fooling the eye” technique, known as trompe l’oeil, was used by the Greeks and Romans and fascinates to this day.

The latest large-scale example was unveiled in London yesterday in Dalston — a complete house that isn’t really a house at all, by Argentinian artist Leandro Ehrlich — commissioned by the Barbican.

Visitors can climb up the wall of the house or hang off it, just by lying on the ground. They see themselves as scaling the brickwork.

Read more about Dalston House
1. Literary look
Designer Tracy Kendall produces a trombe l'oeil book wallpaper. Cover a whole wall to create a private library - or use small panels for a more discreet effect. It costs £25 per linear metre including VAT. Visit or call 01843 449 677 (01843 291 896 from July 1).
2. Floating lights
Designers enjoy playing with illusion using interior objects. Paul Cocksedge's "Shade" for Flos, launched at this year's Euroluce lighting fair, looks like a typical lampshade. However, it is anything but. It is hung from very fine wires that are almost invisible, and the light comes from an LED source placed on the floor. The resulting design appears to float in midair. Because no central fixing point is required, it can be used anywhere in a room. Visit, 7-15 Rosebery Avenue EC1 or call 02033 285 140.
3. Large-scale illusions
For a large-scale trombe l'oeil or even a small window, artist Marina Hughes can create almost any effect. Where space is limited she can "extend a room", create a virtual sideboard to go with a real table, hide unsightly radiators, create a fireplace or a window and even come up with a palm-fringed shore by the bed. Prices, according to complexity, from £500. She works in stately homes as well as small private ones. Contact 07977 099 191 or
4. Patterns
Bilge Nur Saltik, a recent RCA graduate, plays with optical illusion in her "OP-jects" series, using colourful, geometrically patterned, optically distorting textiles and tiles. She also makes glassware including platters, bowls and glasses specially designed to distort the patterns and confuse the eye. Four coasters, £20, glasses from £50, plates and carafe from £70. See or bilge.
5. Conceal with trompe l'oeil
A contemporary way to disguise an uninteresting or unpleasant view is a see-through trompe l'oeil. Contra Vision makes self-adhesive panels printed with images selected by the client. Developed originally for commercial purposes, but increasingly for domestic use, the panels allow light in and cut down solar heat gain, UV radiation and glare. Prices depend on design and size. Contact Contra Vision Supplies on 0161 439 9307 or visit

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