The illusory effect of trompe l’oeil paintwork, “tricking the eye” with the impression of classical proportion or architectural detail, is as useful today as it has been down the centuries — perhaps more so as we search for ways to increase the sense of space and add interest to modern interiors.
Wallpapers that look like wood panelling, mouldings or other architectural features are a clever way to add character.
In Chelsea, interior designer Niloufar Bakhtiar-Bakhtiari commissioned trompe l’oeil artist Bruno Romette to paint a fire surround on a bedroom wall. The result is a lighter alternative to an actual chimneypiece and adds a period element.
But if you can’t afford a hand-painted mural, several design companies are offering more accessible ways to get the look.
1. MARVELLOUS HI-TECH ‘MARBLE’
Brooklyn design duo Rachel and Nick Cope of Calico fuse traditional artisanship with digital technology to create their ethereal marbled wall murals, launched in the UK during the London Design Festival in September.
Each design starts with a handmade artwork, created using ancient techniques such as paper marbling. To give a look of stone, colours are floated on a liquid surface and the resulting pattern is applied to paper. The artwork is then digitised and printed in any size, with the option of delicate metallic tones.
Other options for marble-effect wallpaper include a version by Danish brand Ferm Living, in grey or on-trend rose.
2. ANTIQUED GLASS
When it comes to making a small space appear bigger, nothing beats the light-enhancing power of mirrors, but a patterned, textured or antiqued surface is far more interesting than the uniform look of plain mirror glass.
Queens Park-based designer Rupert Bevan is a specialist in this field, producing a range of different surfaces. Antiqued glass is silvered and then exposed to various conditions that encourage patination — verre églomisé is glass made reflective by gilding on its reverse side. Fabric-backed glass panels gain a mottled, antiqued surface.
Bevan advises positioning mirrors on opposite walls so that they reflect each other: “You can create a ‘fourth-dimensional’ effect of an infinitely reflected room, which can be quite exciting and fantastical, and really opens up the feel of the space.”
3. ‘URBAN CHIC’ FAUX CONCRETE
Add glamour to an interior with a more industrial-looking, modern trompe l’oeil by faking materials such as concrete, stone or metal. Companies including Cosentino offer faux-concrete cladding panels that add an urban look to interior walls, while concrete-effect tiles can be used on both walls and floors for a wraparound finish.
Surface View’s Textures collection uses the latest advances in high-resolution photography and printing to give astonishingly realistic representations of cracked concrete, rough plaster, exposed brick and even pebbledash, available in bespoke sizes and a smooth or textured finish. Ella Doran’s new Peeling Paint wallpaper also achieves a 3D, distressed appearance.
4. INTO THE WOODS
Wood-effect porcelain tiles are a mainstay of modern bathrooms and kitchens, but if you want to fake the raw, rustic look of reclaimed wood, a mural or wallpaper is best. AllPosters offers a Nordic-style whitewashed wood mural, while Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek’s popular Scrapwood wallpaper is newly available from Rockett St George in a striking Prussian blue colourway.
For wallpaper offering the traditional classical trompe l’oeil effect, consider the work of Piero Fornasetti. The Italian artist was a modern master in the art of visual trickery, and some of his archive drawings are now available as wallpapers from Cole & Son.