A Picture to Ponder: Trompe l’oeil Molding

Trompe loeil: to deceive the eye; French

One of the things old homes have (unless they have been sadly altered), are beautiful moldings.  Moldings that are $$$ today that builders don’t really choose much anymore unless you have a really custom house.   After receiving a few emails from people lamenting the lack of molding in their homes, I was reminded of trompe l’oeil molding (pronounced tromp loey) and knew I needed to share it with you!  It is budget-friendly, the options are endless, and it can add some serious architecture to a room in need!

It’s not just for little girl bedrooms.

Candice Olson, Divine Design

This is the original photo that sparked my interest in faux painted molding.  So much to love here!  Where to start?

  1. Color Palette – My favorite crayon color as a child was “Cornflower Blue”.  Anyone recall the lovely shade?  I was completely mesmerized by that color, and the blue here reminds me of it.
  2. Art Collection – In my opinion, these are very difficult to do, and do well.  This is so beautifully arranged, and I love that they threw a mirror into the mix.
  3. Large Scale Polka Dot Fabric – So unexpected and lends a bit of fun to an otherwise serious space.
  4. Lucite Legs on Desk – Awesome, really lets the art shine.


Source Unknown

In case you are wondering why I have the word in the previous paragraph crossed out, it is because that word is no friend of mine.  It makes me cringe every time I hear it.  My ears cannot entertain that one syllable without thinking of this highly unfortunate 80’s and 90’s paint technique.

UglyHousePhotos.com - Yes, this is a real website.

So so sad.  Mr. Faux, I bid you adieu.

Clearly, trompe l’oeil molding will involve some serious painters tape, and some serious measuring.  Unless of course, you are going for the more freehand look.

Speaking of painters tape, have you ever used it, following the instructions to the tee, rubbing your fingerprints off pressing it so hard, only to take it off and find the paint has still bled through?  Me too.  So frustrating.  I have since learned a tip known by few…after you put the tape down, paint a thin coat of the wall color on the edges of the tape to seal it better.  This really works wonders, especially if you have any texture to your walls.

After considering all of the photos I could gather, I have divided this technique into two fairly obvious, but major categories:

  • Arts&Crafts/Craftsman – straight lines, more traditional, feels more formal, sharpens the lines of a room

Greg Natale

Greg Natale

Zounds Design

Apartment Therapy

Emily Henderson


 Chalkboard paint door, chalk molding, so fun!

Source Unknown

Source Unknown

Nina Freudenberger

Nina Freudenberger


  • Whimsical – may have curvy lines or a pattern,  background color possibly coming through/lines are not solid, can be more fun/playful, and depending on the pattern, contemporary/modern

Boxwoods Garden & Gifts - Atlanta, Georgia




New Traditional Home


Source Unknown

I majorly love this one, it is my fave!  So simple.  Really liking how this look adds so much height to the room.

Architectural Digest

 Really interesting idea here…Dorothy Draper-esque painted molding around campaign hardware – you could add molding to any piece of furniture with this technique!



Perusing the world wide web, I discovered several images where some very smart people used foil tape as trompe l’oeil molding.  Word of warning: I think you would have to be really careful when doing this or it could end up being a major “I stuck some tape on the wall” disaster.

Pine Cone Hill

Pine Cone Hill


Check out the mini-tutorial in the picture below.

In Style

I wouldn’t feel right if I posted about molding without including some pictures of my all-time favorite use of molding ever.  Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts, houses the most fantastic hallway of picturesque windows and breathtaking detail.  (I will definitely write about this home in the future – worth the trip if you are up there for any reason!)  I still think about this hallway with its arched ceilings and beautiful aqua green molding.  So stunningly beautiful.  I do not think Miss Wharton would be offended if you replicated with a little trompe l’oeil.  D’accord?

Edith Wharton's Home, The Mount

Edith Wharton's Home, The Mount

How will you use trompe l’oeil molding?



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