Grisaille Scenic Murals

Timely & Timeless

In the world of mural wallpapers, grisaille has been a longstanding favorite. It’s unique, single-toned look makes it easily adaptable to both modern and traditional spaces, as well as an easy fit for almost any color scheme. 

What is grisaille?

Grisaille is a particular painting technique whose name comes from the French gris, or gray. For those who have trouble with the French pronunciation, try griz-EYE for a rough approximation. The technique involves working entirely in shades of gray, or some other neutral color, and has many different applications.

Centuries ago, grisaille was developed out of necessity, as colorful pigments were quite rare. Artists found that an impressive illusion of depth could be created from a single tone in different shades. Early masters often used it to imitate the look of carved sculptures. The technique was also used as an underpainting, a sort of base layer that colors could be added to, creating an intense glow on the highlights and deep, lustrous shadows. Or if a full color painting was too expensive, grisaille was favored as a cheaper alternative.

Painting, Stage Design, Antique Views in Garden, 18th century; Previously owned by Giovanni Piancastelli (Italian, 1845–1926); Italy; brush and oil on canvas; H x W: 21.1 × 15.8 cm (8 5/16 × 6 1/4 in.); Museum purchase through gift of various donors and from Eleanor G. Hewitt Fund; 1938-88-198
Painting, Stage Design, Antique Views in Garden, 18th century; Previously owned by Giovanni Piancastelli (Italian, 1845–1926); Italy; brush and oil on canvas; H x W: 21.1 × 15.8 cm (8 5/16 × 6 1/4 in.); Museum purchase through gift of various donors and from Eleanor G. Hewitt Fund; 1938-88-198

Grisaille Wallpapers

The grisaille technique eventually eschewed its connotations of practicality and became an art form in its own right. The style came to be used in all kinds of decorative wallcoverings.

Ornament - Figural, William III, 1881–82; England; block-printed; 128 x 58 cm (50 3/8 x 22 13/16 in.); 1982-11-7
Ornament - Figural, William III, 1881–82; England; block-printed; 128 x 58 cm (50 3/8 x 22 13/16 in.); 1982-11-7
Sidewall (probably USA), 1840–60; block-printed; 83 x 61.5 cm (32 11/16 x 24 3/16 in.); Gift of Jones and Erwin, Inc.; 1970-26-24
Sidewall (probably USA), 1840–60; block-printed; 83 x 61.5 cm (32 11/16 x 24 3/16 in.); Gift of Jones and Erwin, Inc.; 1970-26-24
Ornament - Figural, Cromwell, 1881–82; England; block-printed; 136 x 57 cm (53 9/16 x 22 7/16 in.); 1982-11-6
Ornament - Figural, Cromwell, 1881–82; England; block-printed; 136 x 57 cm (53 9/16 x 22 7/16 in.); 1982-11-6

Using Grisaille in Your Home

As grisaille comes back into fashion, designers are finding incredibly elegant uses for it. Here’s a look at some of the ways they’ve used our own grisaille designs:

Grisaille really shines in clean, bright, modern space. Allison Grace Design used our Calmsden Grisaille to give the walls of this dining room more texture and depth.

Here, Theo and Isabella Group applied Calmsden Grisaille as a frieze, adding a more subtle decoration to this colorful space.

Barringtons Grisaille, featured in this nursery by Onyx Interiors, softens the room’s minimalist design.

Barringtons Grisaille Room

Here’s Barringtons Grisaille again in a more tradition, neo-classical stairway.

Have other ideas?

We have a great selection of grisaille and grisaille-inspired colorways to work with.