Q: I grew up in a house where the presence of murals was ridiculed, often by referring to them as "murials." The term was presumably intended to suggest that wall paintings were somehow dowdy. Now I see this type of art in even the most elegant interiors, and I'm thinking about having one added to my own dining room. Please tell me -- have murals come to be more respected? And what kind of mural might be right for a dining room?
A: I remember the term "murial." It's seldom used these days because the style and quality of murals have improved a lot in the past few decades. In fact, I sometimes hear them referred to as "wall art" -- which certainly expresses the elevation of murals' status.
It's still possible, of course, to see "murials" deserving of such denigration. They're often found in not-so-posh restaurants. These works may actually not be murals at all, but wallpaper depicting a scenic setting. I've also come across large, unframed images painted on a wall in what might be described as an impressionistic style. These types of decorations are often used in lieu of an outdoor view.
But today's murals for the home are done for a much different purpose. The objective isn't to create a stand-in for a nonexistent window, but to display a large and original work of art.
Some murals are done in a playful, fool-the-eye fashion, though the trompe l'oeil technique will succeed only if executed by an artist skilled in this type of illusion. Other murals are representational, and I also see abstractions from time to time. An aim in these instances is often to make a room appear larger.
Floral and animal subjects are popular, particularly when painted in a naive or primitivist manner. These murals look especially good in a child's room, as you can see in the case of the cat-in-the-arbor fantasy shown in the photograph. Please remember, though, a mural does need to be decoratively appropriate for a particular space.
What kind of subject would be suitable in your dining room? That depends on personal taste, along with factors like the amount of available wall space and the size of the room's furniture. You also have the option of painting the ceiling as well as a wall or two. Just be sure to select a painter who knows exactly how to proceed.