Illusions inside the home makes solid design sense

March 28, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

The ability to create illusions has always been one of the strongest tools available to an interior designer.

While it's generally true that form should follow function, sometimes a bit of fantasy is needed to make a room come truly alive. In fact, if it weren't for the various design techniques that alter perception of space, we might all be living in white, box-like rooms filled with only the most functional furnishings.

A skilled designer is able, through subtle touches, to produce an atmosphere that's conducive to work, play or relaxation. Many of us are most familiar with these persuasive illusions from attending theater performances. And as a matter of fact, the formal look of stage sets is becoming more common in private homes as designers apply theatrical effects in residential settings, usually with a certain whimsy or irony.

These days, vistas of Arcadian landscapes are being painted in living room niches. Clouds are appearing on flat bedroom ceilings. And old wooden floors are being given a faux marble treatment, while jungle-like flora and fauna decorate the walls of breakfast rooms. None of this is meant to be confused, of course, with high art. It's all done in a spirit of playfulness and with the aim of creating an environment that's both attractive and enjoyable.

The photo offers a good example of this increasingly popular design approach. Here, Forbes-Ergas, a New York design firm, used the technique of the stylized mural to produce a feeling of lightness and a sense of depth in a Manhattan apartment. The mural is illuminated from the soffits in order to enhance the illusion of an entrance to a terrace.

Artists Andrea and Timothy Biggs of Brooklyn, N.Y., specialize in these grand sorts of trompe l'oeil (trick-the-eye) productions. In this way, the Biggses are direct descendants of the painters of previous centuries who would collaborate closely with architects, interior designers and clients in integrating their work into the overall look of a particular space.

The current craze for stage-type illusions thus actually represents a revival of a very old tradition. Those of you who might like to embellish a room or two in a wry sort of way may be pleased to learn that some of the most magnificent settings down through the ages have benefited from precisely the same impulse.Perhaps the less adventuresome will likewise be encouraged by the knowledge that illusionary productions, like the mural in the photo, arevery much in vogue among today's interior design gurus.

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