Focus: Wallpapers - Fool me once, fool me twice

Mineheart is bringing the classic art of trompe-l'œil up to date with its unique range of wallpapers and rugs

Words by Francis Pearce

Deceiving the eye is something we all want to do with any interior design project, from making spaces feel bigger and brighter, or cosier and warmer, to more natural or more industrial. These are all ways in which to take design to the next level and make something appear to be more than it is.

Originating in the baroque period, this idea of deceiving the eye – trompe-l’oeil – was done painstakingly by the grand masters to depict a window, door or hallway to make a room seem grander. They created iconic murals of glittering ceilings to give the optical illusion of opening the roof to the heavens. But centuries later, advances in technology and bold designers give us limitless options for interior design deception.

This room is white panelled, thanks to a Mineheart wallpaperThis room is white panelled, thanks to a Mineheart wallpaper

This is what Young & Battaglia, a Cambridge-based design duo emulates daily throughout their brand Mineheart – that all is not what it seems. ‘We love that people might not see something on the first look,’ says Brendan Young.

‘We like that people are surprised when they realise an intricate bookshelf is actually just wallpaper.’ This is exactly what the ancient Greeks wanted from their trompe-l’oeil murals: competing to see who could fool others in the most convincing way. Young explains that a good trompe-l’oeil is ‘one that tricks you, that makes you look twice and then smile!’ Mineheart’s range of more than 60 wallpapers certainly make you smile. With a wallpaper they can transform spaces into libraries, opulent Georgian panelled rooms, leather-studded gentlemen’s clubs and even rooms that are above the clouds.

A regal effect from the Palace Wallpaper Mural, from MineheartA regal effect from the Palace Wallpaper Mural, from Mineheart

Mineheart’s interior design deception extends further than wallpapers and this where they feel the trend of trompe-l’oeil will extend to in the future. They have tongue-in-cheek portraits with ornate gold gilded frames printed onto the canvas and ‘cowhide’ rugs that are 100 per cent vegan as they are actually digitally printed fur on a thin fabric-backed rubber.

Bookshelf Wallpaper, here in SepiaBookshelf Wallpaper, here in Sepia

Their love of trompe-l’oeil started from their first home, a tiny Victorian terrace that they wanted to feel spacious but cosy, so created their iconic bookshelf wallpaper. Other wallpapers, such as the Palace Wallpaper Mural do the complete opposite – to make a room feel grand and opulent and a vast illusion of space. But while a good trompe l’oeil stands out and shocks, it is important it still feels part of the room. Young & Battaglia recommend taking similar lines and tones from the wallpaper and incorporating this into the accessories and other parts of the room to ensure it remains cohesive with the rest of the space.

Gypsy rug, in purple, printed on to a vegan ‘hide’Gypsy rug, in purple, printed on to a vegan ‘hide’

Taking something classical and then putting a twist on it to make it more contemporary and playful is what Mineheart is all about, they say. The company want you to enter its fairytale and explore the story until you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not – exactly what the grand masters, with their ceilings and oils, wanted to do to you in centuries gone by.

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