I Spy Trompe l'Oeil

I Spy Trompe l'Oeil

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As I hustled through Nordstrom at lunch yesterday to pick up a baby gift for my new niece (sweet Eloise, born early Wednesday morning), some shoes caught my eye.  I'm always on the hunt for cute black shoes (typically flats, since, as my dad says, I am a "tall drink of water"), and when they have a fun detail like an oversized gold buckle or pretty satin bow, I have to use all of my willpower to resist!  But when that fun detail is a turquoise trompe l'oeil horsebit, well, they come home with me. 

Trompe l'oeil is French for "trick the eye" and typically describes paintings that create the illusion of spatial depth on a two-dimensional surface.  Trompe L'oeil is nothing new- it was popularized in Italy during the 15th century and since then has experienced the ebb and flow typical of any art form over the years.  But lately it has been showing up in interiors.  It is certainly clever and can be a good way to up the style quotient of a space otherwise lacking in architectural details.

Darryl Carter used trompe l'oeil to make the fireplace in this modern bedroom appear to be surrounded by aging white wooden cabinets barely hanging by their hinges.

Darryl Carter

The lattice-work trellis in this garden gives the illusion of depth.


The hallways of Clare Fraser's New York apartment are dotted with blue and white delftware- some real, and some not.

Photos courtesy of New York Social Diary

Trompe l'oeil can take on a kitchy cute form as well.  For instance, Rita Konig used it to mimic an overly fancy mantle, in contrast to the clean lines and lack of frills throughout the room. 

Rita Konig in Domino

Birdcages are a classic trompe l'oeil element.  Here, they cleverly house sconces rather than birds.

Photo courtesy of The Swelle Life

Doesn't this grandfather clock fit perfectly with the vintage bentwood chairs and saarinen (ikea?) table?

Joanna Henderson

You don't have to worry about that precarious stack of books on the nightstand toppling over...

Trompe l'oeil isn't just for walls.  These painted stairs give the illusion of a rug that does not exist.

Karen Okley

While you can spend a small fortune hiring an artist to paint trompe l'oeil forms in your home, there are some very inexpensive and decidedly fun options as well.

Is your bed lacking a headboard?  How about adding this playful decal?

This baroque French coffee table isn't really as fancy-pants as it appears.

Artist Jan Habraken's line of wall decals for Brik is a mod twist on classic trompe l'oeil.

In one of my favorite interpretations of trompe l'oeil, how about turning a very plain (ikea?) chest of drawers into this fabulous illusion of grandeur?

Skona Hem

And as is evidenced by my new kicks above, trompe l'oeil has made its way over to fashion as well.  For years now, Moschino has used it to mimic collars, pockets, and buttons on its designs.


And who can forget Marc Jacob's clever twist on his now-classic hardware?!

For some truly fascinating trick of the eye, check out the work of "sidewalk artist" Julian Beever.  You will find yourself guessing and second-guessing whether what you are looking at is real or an illusion. 

And of course, last but not least, everyone's favorite variation on trompe l'oeil:  the bikini tee shirt.

So what do you think?  Do you have any trompe l'oeil in your life?

(By the way, Charlotte readers, the unfortunate departure of Bob Ellis has allowed Nordstrom to replace its displays of Stuart Weitzman and Arches with Gucci and Jimmy Choo, and Louboutin and Chanel soon to follow!)  Yes please!

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