Grand Illusions

Historic Decorative Interior Painting in North Carolina

By Laura A. W. Phillips

Grand Illusions

Approx. 140 pp., 11 x 8.5, 60 color plates., 50 halftones, bibl., list of painters

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8652-6491-5
    Published: January 2019

Buy this Book

This title is not eligible for UNC Press promotional pricing.

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Distributed for the North Carolina Office of Archives and History

Awards & distinctions

2019 Notable Government Document (State and Local Selection), Government Documents Round Table, American Library Association

With Grand Illusions, Laura Phillips brings to readers her findings after decades of study of decorative interior painting. The chief focus is on the walls of North Carolina residences in the nineteenth century with nods to examples in nonresidential and out-of-state structures. Types studied include wood-grained painting; marbled, stone-blocked, and smoked painting; stenciled painting; and trompe-l’oeil and scenic paintings. The volume includes an extended essay on the topic accompanied by a photographic catalog of the properties and examples.

About the Author

Laura A. W. Phillips, architectural historian in Winston-Salem, is the author of Legacy of Faith: Rural Methodist Churches in North Carolina (2010), Transylvania: The Architectural History of a Mountain County (1998), and Simple Treasures: The Architectural Legacy of Surry County (1987), as well as local studies of architecture in Hickory, Reidsville, and Cashiers.
For more information about Laura A. W. Phillips, visit the Author Page.


“The field of southern decorative arts studies has experienced tremendous advances in scholarship over the past fifty years. One area, however, that has long awaited its proper place in the spotlight is that of the South’s remarkable legacy of historic decorative interior painting. Drawing upon thirty years of study of North Carolina’s colorful decorative interiors, Laura Phillips invites us to step across the thresholds of the past into the vivid, surprising, and imaginative spaces that adorned this state’s historic structures. This important publication not only delights the eye but also provides much needed documentation of the rich variety of decorative styles and techniques employed, the people involved, and the social significance of this fanciful world of Grand Illusions.”--Sally Gant, Director of Education Emerita, The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts