Interior Design Glossary: Murals

Our Austin Interior Designers Define, Review the History, and Explain the Benefits of Murals

landscape mural_ by Fromental, Shimla, Phoenix

Murals captivate us. Their ability to charm and enthrall is why so many restaurants, hotels, and boutiques boast bright and vibrant murals—luring in patrons for a quick selfie and inviting them to stay awhile. From street art with a message to quaint nursery scenes, murals have a defining role in the interior design world. A home’s energy can be transformed entirely with just a few brushstrokes setting the scene. In this Interior Design Glossary entry, my team of Austin interior designers and I review the history and explain the benefits of murals and how you can add them to your home. 

What are Murals? 

Murals turn a plain wall into a work of art. As a completely customizable design feature, the possibilities are endless. Murals can be painted on interior or exterior walls. They can be large or small, modern or traditional, bright or moody. They can tell the story of a family or take us to faraway lands. Murals can be commissioned and hand-painted by an artist, or they can be applied with scenic wallpapers. In any case, murals should consider the home’s architecture and work with it for a unifying effect. 

“Décor Chinois,” the same paper Edith Wharton had in her Park Avenue apartment, graces “Beauport,” the historic Sleeper-McCann House in Massachusetts

Mural Ideas for Your Home 

With so many mural options available, it is important to be familiar with the possibilities. My team of Austin interior designers and I have compiled a list of some of our favorite mural ideas. 

Panoramic Scenes 

Panoramic scenes are a favorite of mine! Scenic murals wrap the room entirely, creating a 360-degree display. They are charming, old-school, and elegant, making them a great addition to period home dining rooms or studies. 

Zuber Paper/Design by Emily Lee Design

Graffiti or Street Art

Graffiti and street art murals offer a stark contrast to pastoral panoramics, embracing urban decay and placing the message front and center. Street art-inspired murals are perfect for industrial lofts or contemporary homes. 

Anderson Guerra
Photo by Anderson Guerra

Family History 

Since murals are completely customizable, why not incorporate your family story into the design? Personally, I have been dreaming of designing a mural that captures my family’s history, portrayed in an 18th-century style. Highly personalized murals are an excellent investment for family homes that will continue to be passed down for generations—your grandchildren can even expand on the design! 

Trompe-l’œil

Trompe-l’œil is a faux finish technique that uses forced perspective to create three-dimensional designs that mimic architectural features and depth. French for “fool the eye,” trompe-l’œil-style murals can make a room feel larger—possibly creating the illusion of an entire adjoining space! 

Modern Mural/Designed by Florence Lopez for Natacha Senechal/Sourced from Remodelista

Photorealistic 

Photorealistic murals mimic the real world, creating captivating imagery that brings the New York City skyline or a forest right into your room. Since photorealistic murals are so striking, they lend themselves to rooms with streamlined and simple furnishings.   

Photo by Jensen R.

Abstract 

Abstract murals are a great way to add color, movement, and energy to a room. Depending on the style, abstract murals can fit both modern and traditional spaces. 

Rustic Mural at Fernandez & Wells/Photos by Helen Cathcart/Sourced from Remodelista

 

A Brief History of Murals

The history of murals dates back to 30,000 B.C., when early humans began personalizing their residences with cave paintings. Since then, murals have experienced enduring popularity in interior design. Murals grace Egyptian tombs, the ruins of Pompeii, and Renaissance churches. They can be seen in Art Deco designs of the Roaring 20s, suburban homes of the 90s, and gracing the feeds of Instagram today. When it comes down to it, self-expression is one design trend that will never go out of style—and murals are the perfect way to express yourself. 

Low-Angle Shot of a Mural Painting on the Ceiling
Church Mural/Photo by David Henry

Zuber’s Role in Popularizing Murals

Residential murals, especially scenic wallpaper murals, are intrinsically tied to Zuber & Cie, the oldest existing wallpaper manufacturer in history. Scenic wallpapers feature a panoramic scene rather than a repeating pattern, resembling a mural more than traditional wallpaper.

Scenic Wallpaper by Zuber

Zuber & Cie was founded by Jean Zuber in 1787 in Rixheim, France, and it continues to print wallpapers with its original woodblock and paint method. King Louis Philippe awarded Jean Zuber the Legion of Honor in 1834, and Jackie Kennedy installed Zuber’s “Vues de l’Amérique du Nord” (Views of North America) in the White House. In addition, the company has archived over 130,000 prints, preserving hundreds of years worth of panoramic mural designs. Renowned Zuber & Cie wallpapers are regarded with prestige. Cave dwellers may have invented murals, but Zuber made them a luxury. 

Scenic Wallpaper By Zuber
Scenic Wallpaper by Zuber

 

Benefits of Murals

Beauty is only one of the many benefits of murals. Here are some of the reasons why my Austin interior design team and I love to use them. 

Create a Focal Point 

Murals create a focal point and draw attention to an otherwise empty wall or bland room. A mural can ground a space and serve as a backdrop for seating areas (or selfies). 

Tell a Story 

Murals can tell your family story or share a message more so than any other design element. Want to make an impactful design? Say something with a mural wall!  

Mural By Fromental, Märchen in Krinkled White
Wallcovering by Fromental

Personalize a Home

Personalization is one of the year’s biggest trends in home design, and murals are a great way to convey your personal style. When commissioning a custom mural, you can choose the theme, subject, colors, size, and pretty much anything else. 

Abstract Mural By Amity Worrel
Abstract Mural/Design by Amity Worrel

Start a Conversation  

Murals are excellent conversation pieces, which is why they are perfect for living and dining spaces. You will never have to worry about dinner party conversation lulls with a vibrant mural covering your dining room!

Zuber Paper By Mario Buata Design
Zuber Paper/Design by Mario Buata

Why Are Murals Trending Again? 

While murals are experiencing a surge of popularity, I would argue that they have been on trend for thousands of years. However, the 2020s have shown a greater affinity for personalization and maximalist style than the 2010s—allowing more space for murals. After spending so much time at home during the pandemic, homeowners realized they didn’t want to live in a white box. Murals provide a way to add color and emotion. I anticipate the mural trend will stick around for thousands of years to come because it is simply part of human nature to express ourselves through our homes.  

Should You Add a Mural to Your Home?

Murals are entirely customizable and can accommodate any style of home. If you want to reflect your personal style, add character, or represent a cause, you should consider adding a mural to your space. When it comes to murals, I’d say the sky’s the limit. But, you can even create a mural of the sky. 

Mural By Fromental
Wallcovering by Fromental

Amity Worrel

Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.