This Popular 3D French Decor Trend Is Taking the Design World by Storm

published Jun 3, 2024
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Striped upholstered stool in hand painted bedroom.
Credit: Erin Derby

Design trends have a tendency to come back around, and one example is trompe-l’œil. This hand painting technique, meant to make a flat surface look three-dimensional, has recently been surging in popularity and dates as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, even if it wasn’t originally called by the same name.

Trompe-l’œil is actually a French term that translates to “deceives the eye.” This concept is surprisingly renter-friendly — instead of adding moldings and trim with glue and nails, you have the option to paint your desired aesthetic, which is much easier to reverse upon moving out. As shown by DIY designer Marco Zamora, who nearly broke the internet recently after hand-painting faux architectural detailing on his doors and walls, trompe-l’œil can make an otherwise bland room or hallway feel delightfully whimsical. 

Lately, I’ve even seen this painting technique used with less realism. Effortless line drawings in the style of Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau give off a unique playfulness, especially in spaces full of antiques or modern furniture. Designer Leanne Ford just used the technique this way in her sister-in-law’s nursery. Keep an eye out for Trompe l’œil used on the ceilings (puffy clouds, inky skies) of luxury hotels and restaurants, too. 

The “gotcha” effect of trompe-l’œil can feel fun and cheeky — proof that interior design doesn’t have to be taken too seriously — which is why I love the below decor items that play with what’s there and what’s not.

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Single-line embroidery stands in for paint on this linen table runner from Etsy, which mimics the look of a fully set table. It depicts plates, silverware, and drinking glasses, plus a fruit platter and croissant, all in blue and black thread.

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Four place mats that resemble a full place setting are another playful way to channel the trompe-l’œil concept and set a cheeky table for a dinner party. These are from tabletop brand Misette’s black-and-white Line Drawing Collection, complete with matching napkins, coasters, a tablecloth, and a table runner.

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was $38.48

Renter-friendly removable wallpaper designed to look like panoramic landscapes can transform an entire wall. Try it at the end of a hallway to give the eye somewhere to go, or go wild with it in a kids' bedroom.

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There’s no painting involved in the illusion of this ceramic vase disguised as a brittle paper bag. But it does deceive the eye at first glance, even when it’s not filled with flowers.

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The hand-painted embellishments on these switch plates from Anthropologie make them look and feel more ornate than they really are. Available in single and double toggles or rockers, as well as an outlet cover, you can decorate any light switch in style.

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Neiman Marcus

Jonathan Adler’s Venezia vase uses the line drawing technique to add more shape, dimension, and elegance to a simple vessel. It doubles as decor, too!