Are current design trends starting to feel a little stuffy and overly Instagram-ready? Take a look at these mural ideas — the perfect prescription for adding lived-in vibrancy to your home.
We’re all for sleek and chic, but recently, some aesthetics seem a little too perfect — and likely impossible for most of us mere mortals to maintain. At some point, trendy organization methods from experts like KonMari moved from tackling unnecessary clutter to targeting our walls, resulting in minimalist spaces that used only one or two objects to ground the room. And interestingly, the trend went beyond simple design preferences: it was heralded as a way to streamline your life and functioned as a sign of virtue. In short, simple spaces meant that you were holding it down and keeping it together.
But all trends eventually evolve, and sometimes our preferences move to the opposite end of the spectrum. And as art lovers, we’re here for it! Bold patterns and colors are back, and if you’re looking to make your home a statement piece in and of itself, a customized mural could be just what you’re looking for.
Maximalists, this one’s for you: we’re going to take a peek at some examples of the trend throughout art history, as well as contemporary approaches that feel fresh and modern. And, of course, if you’re looking for mural ideas that could transform your own home, we’ll share some tips on how to do that, too.
David Krovblit creates a surrealist fantasy in his maximalist piece “Honey Lips”.
Not Just a Modern Trend: Wall Mural Ideas Throughout History
When aesthetics become updated and au courant, it’s easy to forget that we often look at a new iteration of a celebrated tradition. And while the original versions might be a little outdated (or even bizarre), it’s touching to think that humans have wanted their homes to function as a visual statement for thousands of years. Quite quickly, our shelters — which are critical to our survival — evolved into canvases that expressed our unique personalities.
Egyptian Tomb Paintings. In ancient Egypt, tombs were elaborately decorated to usher the dead comfortably into the afterlife. Featuring deities that offer protection, elaborate funerary rituals, and portrayals of a blissful existence on the other side, the murals were created to comfort and celebrate the individual who had already passed.
Famed King Tutankhamun embraces Osiris, Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead.
Ndebele House Painting. In the Ndebele tribe of South Africa, the women create elaborate geometric designs to adorn their homes. Dating back to the 18th century, the tradition was born after a war was lost with a neighboring tribe, bringing hard times and harsher punishments to the Ndebele people. It is thought that these expressive symbols were born from an expression of grief, quickly evolving into a more sophisticated system of communicating cultural resistance, prayer, marriage announcements, and more.
Striking geometric patterns and gorgeous colors function as more than mere decoration for the Ndebele people.
Scandinavian Painted Decor. Dating back to the time of the Vikings, Scandinavian-painted decor remained popular and in fashion until the late 19th century. The striking motifs were created to provide cheer and can be seen on furniture, ceilings, and even structural beams— as well as in churches and larger public institutions.
At Binkhaven in Door County, Wisconsin, artist Elliot Taillon celebrates the historical folk art tradition throughout his stunning bed and breakfast.
Saturn Devouring His Son. Even for its time, Francisco Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” was an unlikely choice in home decor. But we love it all the same! One of the 14 so-called “Black Paintings”, the mythological masterpiece was a personal work created for private display, possibly reflecting the artist’s mindset after witnessing the violence and terror that was initiated by the Spanish Inquisition.
Francisco Goya’s dark masterpiece illustrates the myth of Saturn devouring his offspring.
Trompe L’oeil. Although the term itself first appeared in the salons of 19th-century Paris, this illusionistic technique dates back thousands of years. In Ancient Greece and Rome, murals might depict a window, door, or hallway with the intention of suggesting a grander space while opulent materials such as marble and glass might be represented to further the impression of one’s wealth during the Renaissance.
This cheeky example features a sneaky nun peeking out from behind a shutter.
Wall Mural Ideas for Contemporary Homes
While you’d likely rather avoid a mythological ode to death and destruction adorning your dining room wall, you may be interested in other approaches when considering wall mural ideas for your home. So what are some popular choices — and, more importantly, what actually looks good? We’ve rounded up some of the most exciting trends that around the interior design world.
Customized Landscapes. Is there a special place in nature that has significance to you? Why not bring it home! Artists like Charlotte Terrell specialize in creating custom wall murals to your specifications, allowing you to pick a specific landscape and immortalize it in the room of your choice.
Better yet, you needn’t live in the area to utilize her services: the artist paints on custom fit panels of birchwood in her studio before scanning and, ultimately, transforming them into a bespoke wallpaper, allowing them to travel anywhere in the world.
Artist Charlotte Terrell hard at work in the studio, creating a bespoke piece for a lucky client.
Aquatic Whimsy. Looking to embrace your inner-mermaid? Consider transforming your space into an underwater palace with these mural ideas. Bold blue walls can mimic the ocean, and seashells can serve as adornment, allowing this concept to range from campy and childlike to playful and sophisticated. We also love how recreating natural environments allows us to play with textural elements like sand and surf.
Vesna Longton takes us into another world with her whimsical ode to life under the sea.
Unique Abstractions. Sometimes, we know distinctly what we like but can’t put a finger on what we want. When you look around your home, do you notice that certain colors and palettes seem to repeat themselves? Then a beautiful abstract mural may be just the thing you’re looking for. Be brave: the showstopping piece will be sure to bring the room together.
Artist Helen Kagan knows how to make a statement with her explosive paintings.
Street Art and Graffiti. So popular that it’s become an undeniable part of the pop culture canon, graffiti art can be brought in from the streets to decorate your home. Customized stencils, colorful freeform abstracts, and bespoke murals can make even the most suburban home feel edgy and cool.
Kyle Confehr’s installation at the Down Market in San Antonio, TX brings a distinctive energy that undoubtedly enlivens the entire space.
Where the Wild Things Are. Once again inspired by nature, an elaborate jungle theme can enliven a space and even lend an opulent, Great Gatsby-esque elegance to your home. Imagine the Tea Room in New York’s famed Plaza hotel, but kicked up a notch.
Palms and tasteful wall treatments will transport you to an era of opulence.
Homage to the Past. Are you mesmerized by the traditional frescos from the Old World? Great news: with modern technology and specialized artists, you don’t have the bank account of a Countess to recreate the look for yourself. From large scale narrative scenes to playful trompe l’oeil detailing, there are tons of ways to adapt this concept to your particular tastes.
Donald H. Green transforms a bedroom into a Tuscan pavilion with stunning views into an imaginary garden.
Chinoiserie. Originating in 17th-century Europe, “Chinoiserie” was the western interpretation (and, ultimately, imitation) of predominantly Chinese artistic traditions. Although it reached its popularity during the 18th century, it remains a beacon of sophistication and elegance. Do you dream of escaping into your own secret garden? This mural would be a true work of art unto itself.
Your own secret garden can become more than a fantasy with the addition of a chinoiserie wall mural.
Golden Hours. When creating work on such a large scale, you also have an opportunity to put an emphasis on the background color. So why not let it shine – quite literally? Gold is synonymous with divinity and power and screams of luxury and success. Want to have a home fit for a king? Gold is a fabulous go-to.
Gary Lung juxtaposes gold and blue hues in this beautiful abstract.
Modern Stencils. Interested in a contemporary approach? Bold, geometric stencils are both refined while offering a whimsical, hand-painted touch. You can keep it simple by relying on a mere 2 or 3 colors, or go all-out psychedelic. The important thing is that your wall mural reflects your tastes, making it all about you.
Paging Matisse! This cheerful solution from HappyWall is an affordable way to make your room pop.
Don’t Forget the Ceiling. Why stop with the walls when you can give the entire space the full treatment? You’re already going large, so dream big! Most mural designs can easily be extended along your ceiling, making a bold statement even bolder.
Donald H. Green thrills with his imaginative contribution to a client’s personal library.
Now that we’ve explored some decorative options, the practical — and seemingly daunting — task is to establish how to do it. Let’s demystify how to commission such a large-scale and personal piece.
How to Find a Mural Artist
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Look Around Your Own Neighborhood. Have you noticed that most cities and towns have an extra pop of color these days? Public art is on the rise, and our streets are becoming stunning galleries in their own right. Take yourself on a tour to see what’s new, and take note if anything feels like you’d love to bring it home. Oftentimes, the murals you’ll see are created by local artists: which means you can easily hire them to enliven your home. Just look for their names, or increasingly even their Instagram handles, to reach out directly and start a conversation. Even if the project doesn’t move forward, they’re sure to be touched by your appreciation of their work.
Know What You Want, but Trust the Artist. When you’re truly in love with what an artist does, it can be easy to say, “Just do what you want.” But unfortunately, this rarely works out because you likely have a vision or idea you’re eager to see play out. Before a conversation, think about what you want your space to say. How is this reflected in the artist’s work? You can even go through their portfolio and select pieces that feel especially resonant: this will give them a more precise idea of how to create the perfect piece, especially for you.
However, it’s not always about strict directives. It’s essential to be open to a conversation, too! Remember that, at the end of the day, the artist is the expert. And while it’s their job to create something according to your specifications, they may also have some ideas about what works – and what doesn’t. An open dialogue means they’ll be crystal clear on what you’re hoping to achieve while elevating your vision to the next level.
Talk Openly About Costs. Unfortunately, there’s no set price when it comes to art, and costs will vary wildly from artist to artist. Another thing you’ll need to consider? The amount of time it’ll take to make your vision come to life – from start to finish. That means everything from sketches to creating the final piece itself, a number of hours that, with straightforward and thorough communication, the artist should be able to establish to give you a quote fairly.
There are ways to simplify if you have a particularly elaborate vision, but ultimately, your wall mural needn’t pillage your savings account. Plenty of up-and-coming muralists would be thrilled to add another project to their resume, working for as little as $1,000. And while this may seem like a steep number, remember: it’s actually quite reasonable when you remember that you’re commissioning something, especially for your home.
Do it Yourself. Do you pride yourself on your DIY skills? Why not really put them to the test! Even those of us that don’t have a gift for painting can make some exciting embellishments with a bit of thought and patience. Consider using cardboard to create stencils of simple organic shapes or use painter’s tape to create bold lines across your walls. You’d be amazed at what a few simple adornments can do to transform a space.
Feeling inspired and thinking about taking the plunge? What mural ideas draw you in? Scribble on our comment wall to let us know.