Interior Painting: Murals and Trompe L'Oeil

The Renaissance frescos of Italy and its ancient cities provide much basis for today's murals and trompe l'oeil works. Not that contemporary murals are Italian in nature, but they owe something to the decorative tradition made famous by those ancient villas of Venice, Florence, Rome - even Pompeii. The following text discusses the use of murals and trompe l'oeil around the home with regard to subject matter and technique.

Trompe l'oeil is a highly decorative mural that is often illusory in nature; for example, it may depict a set of French doors opening into a garden giving one the impression of absolute reality, though it is in fact only a painting. Its deceptive devices render it highly ornate and absolutely fabulous. While many murals pretend to be little more than what they are - painted scenery - they nevertheless convert an otherwise plain wall into something quite stupendous.

Murals and trompe l'oeil can work in any size space, but it is always important to consider what it will share with that space. Consider furniture, shelving, mirrors, light fixtures, draperies and even lighting. Allow your mural to either stand out on its own or to blend in with its surroundings; there's no point in forcing it to compete with those red velvet drapes, for instance. Like any decoration, you'll want it to fit the overall style of your décor. Also, be sure to position your mural so its center is at eye level or higher. Placing the painted work too low should be discouraged unless you are covering an entire wall or installing the work in a nursery or young child's room.

When planning a mural for your hallway, you'll want to choose welcoming colors as well as a welcoming scene - a subject that invites. Natural scenery is often chosen, but classical scenes of nymphs or women in native costume make excellent subjects as well. Frequently, murals are used to decorate around a given object such as a mirror and ornate consul or small table. A simple swag of laurel at the top of the mirror and along the sides can enhance it beautifully - only be sure that you plan to leave the furniture there on a permanent basis!

Another ideal design for a hallway is simply to paint garlands of flowers or fruit around a painted niche. Then fill the niche with a pedestal or table holding a real marble statue of Bacchus or a classical personage for a wonderfully sophisticated effect. As a garnish for your objects, trompe l'oeil can be a great accompaniment if you decide you don't wish it to be the actual focus of the scene. This can easily be done for entryways, mirrors, windows, French doors, etc.

Be sure to consider your ceiling in the design as well. A chandelier in your foyer or dining room can be enhanced by painting a lovely scene around it. To provide an airy scene, consider a twilight sky or design featuring a seashell motif with light colors. A ceiling painting can also give the added impression of greater height. Of course, choose something in the style of your décor. If your style is Oriental, consider a mountain peak beset with clouds.

Trompe l'oeil works well in small niches. Transform any bare panel into a niche for a painted window showing anything from a carved statue to a woodland pond. Your color can be realistic or painted in black and white, sepia, burnished red - anything you like that is in keeping with the overall design. Transform a blank closet door into a corridor of evergreens or a long window overlooking a field of lavender.

Trompe l'oeil can even be rendered to appear as framed oil paintings or large roundels hung by corded ribbon. A series of family portraits can conceivably be done right on your walls or on canvas that is attached to the wall. Large scale murals can depict anything you like - a ceiling of our galaxy, a wall of prancing ponies, an entire room underwater. Other types of scenes might be depict a cliff overlooking the sea, a lake scene, a woodland fairy scene, a Roman patio, a southwestern desert full of cacti and sand, a Mediterranean coast, a Moroccan market, an African savannah, and so forth. The possibilities are boundless.

While ornate work should ideally be accomplished by a talented artist, some things may be attempted by the homeowner. For instance, framing two wall sconces with a rectangular frame can easily be done with a yard stick. Some outlines may be created with stencils. Of course, hiring a professional will allow you to create murals and trompe l'oeil without a hint of amateurism - and as the designs are meant to last for a long time, you'll want them to look as beautiful as they may.