History and significance of trompe l’oeil, and examples of furniture

A picture trick, a technique that goes back to the era of the great masters, an optical illusion that is not only useful for making paintings, but also for decor and for optically enlarging spaces such as a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom. Here is the story and meaning of trompe l’oeil.

That trompe l’oeil It is a very special craft technique with picture decoration. This technique uses several means to make the representation so real that generate in the observer the illusion of reality of three-dimensional scenes, even if they are painted on a two-dimensional surface. The history and significance of trompe l’oeil is curious and fascinating to discover. They are also interesting in light of the applications we find of this technique in everyday life and in the world of modern interior design.

A ceiling made with the trompe l’oeil technique

Originally born to represent still lifes in the most realistic way possible, this particular technique spread to the perspective artifacts used in Roman art, in the Renaissance, in Baroque art. Today, it is widely used in home decor, to give an idea of ​​the expansion of an environment. In this article we will find out more about this particular technique and we will see how it can be used in our home.

Find out how to combine trompe l’oeil at home

Trompe l’oeil: What is it

The technique of trompe l’oeil uses color, shadow and perspective to create lifelike images that give the impression of being three-dimensional. That trompe l’oeil can be applied to furniture, paintings, walls, ceilings, decorative objects, sets or building facades. Through perspectives and color games, the effect mimics the real to give the impression of removing an existing wall. In this way, it is transformed into a garden, a sea view, a terrace and thus provides space for enclosed environments.

Often the benefits of trompe l’oeil it is compared to the painting by René Magritte. This painting often uses optical illusions and surrealism in its paintings. And as the painter said …

And this is how we see the world: we see it as outside us, even though it is only a mental representation of the one we experience within ourselves.

René Magritte

That trompe l’oeil he seems to respond to this deep analysis of himself and of the relationship between truth and imagination.

Trompe l’oeil: A short story

The French expression trompe l’oeil (literally, fool the eye) first appears around the end of the nineteenth century, but in reality this imagery technique was also prevalent in earlier eras, since ancient times. Pliny the Elder relates that Zeusi and Parrasio, two great Greek painters of the fifth century BC, challenged each other in a competition: On the lawn used for competition, each of the two had brought their own work protected by a cloth. When Zeusi showed his, where he had painted a bunch of grapes, the birds came down from the sky to chop him. Proud of the success and declaring himself the winner, Zeusi invited Parrasio to lift the cloth to show what he had achieved, but Parrasio had actually painted the cloth using the technique that would later be defined trompe l’oeil.

In ancient Greece, painters applied pigments to wet plaster to create realistic details and lift smooth surfaces, add false columns and other details – the technique was used to add a sense of grandeura, give the impression of a larger space, play with perspective and skillfully alternating light and shadow. Some good examples of trompe l’oeil of this period can be admired wandering among the villas, palaces and churches of the ancient city of Pompeii.

Another famous example of effect trompe l’oeil and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Here, Michelangelo used the fresco to create biblical angels and figures surrounded by columns and beams, using rich colors to give a sense of depth to his work. In recent times have trompe l’oeil it was exploited by the famous anonymous artist Banksy to depict scenes in which the characters interact with the wall on which they are glued, usually with a political statement that creates the effect of using gluing instead of painting.

Trompe l’oeil effect in modern design

The illusory effect of trompe l’oeil has come back into fashion in modern times, where it has often been necessary to somehow create the effect of one more space in ever smaller environments. Thanks to this technique, you can literally open up the spaces and create a unique and exceptional environment, a breaking point in terms of the standards of architecture and design, both internally and externally.

The technique of trompe l’oeil in fact, it can also be used in the garden’s outdoor space to get guests to see a larger room or an alternative view. Or on the facades of the building to create a suburban and surreal view in a high-rise urban context.

How to take advantage of trompe l’oeil in the home

The paintings in style trompe l’oeil is not limited only to the walls: the realism of trompe l’oeil it can also be found in ornate ceilings and floors, as well as doors and even furniture. Any room in or around the home can have a design trompe l’oeil:

  • Bathrooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Stuer
  • dinning room
  • Kitchens
  • Corridors
  • Entrance roads
  • Yard
  • Perimeter walls

Bedrooms and bathrooms

A wall painted with the effect trompe l’oeil able to radically change the look of a bedroom: think, for example, of the scene with a lush tropical beach or the view skyline of the most romantic city in the world! The mural can be limited to a single wall, for example the one where the head of the bed is located, or also cover the other walls in the room for an enclosing effect.

In a small bathroom, the effect can be exploited give the illusion that the farthest wall opens out to a small patio or on a secret garden, or you can paint a scene that conveys serenity and relaxation behind a large outdoor tub.

Kitchen and dining room

In the kitchen, a well-placed painting can create the illusion of a picturesque niche in the wall, enhanced by a rustic Tuscan planter, or create the illusion of a real stone backplate.

In the dining room you can make use of the technique by trompe l’oeil to make one imaginary window overlooking the countryside, on a lavender field kissed by the sun, on a green meadow surrounded by mountains and crossed by a stream. Or it may give the illusion that the room is surrounded by a lush vine, which climbs the walls up to the ceiling and creates the effect of a natural gazebo.

Ceilings and floors

Another widespread use of the technique for trompe l’oeil it is on ceilings and floors. The illusion of a glass roof, like a greenhouse, can be created in the ceiling. This allows you to see the blue sky crossed by light clouds looks like cotton balls. Or a starry sky of those seen only in areas where artificial light is almost completely absent.

Thanks to the illusion effect, even a simple concrete floor, typical of the industrial style, can be transformed into a floor of fake stone or terracotta tiles or even parquet.


The technique of trompe l’oeil can also be applied to individual furniture: you can paint a chessboard on a coffee table with such a realistic expression that you almost feel like sitting down and playing a game of chess, or decorating wardrobes and chests of drawers with floral motifs that give the impression that all our things are protected of gardens in bloom.

How do you make trompe l’oeil

Of course the best way to have an authentic painting with this effect is it off contact a professional artist: however, the obviously high costs must be considered and the project carefully planned.

An authentic mural is one real work of art, and should be treated as such. It is necessary to carefully choose the position and design of the work, identify the perfect artist for one’s taste, check references, credentials and previous works, schedule meetings and negotiate the price. The most modern technologies make it possible to achieve a mural or finish trompe l’oeil thanks to wall coverings very similar to it wallpaper design traditional. It is clear that this must also necessarily be installed by qualified personnel to achieve the desired effect.

You can also choose to install trompe l’oeil coatings that reproduce drawings by well-known artists, such as the Canadian Yves Lanthier. Lanthier has created murals in several East Coast mansions, including the Celine Dion property in Florida. Whether it’s a mural or an artist’s painting, a mural in style trompe l’oeil adds a touch of art. But also of elegance and creativity to any space.

Alice Grisa

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