Decorating Tips: The Art of the Mirror

I walked into the master bedroom and was stunned,” said Joseph, a designer and remodeling contractor, after answering a call for help from a couple in their mid-seventies. He recalls,

“I have seen a lot of mirrored ceilings, mostly in dining rooms, but this was different. It was a deep, rectangular frame with spot lights, mounted on the ceiling in pink formica laminate over wood. It had a mirror inside it that fully reflected the king sized bed. The spotlights had a dimmer switch. That and the long mirrored closet wall made it very clear to me that the former owner of the condominium was athletic.”

Joseph said that his clients wanted the “pink framed mirrored monstrosity off the ceiling.” They felt the mirrored wall was forgivable because it brought natural light into the room and gave it a grand appearance, even though the bedroom was large.

“It seemed unnecessary to me that the whole structure should come down. We took down the mirror inside it and painted out the pink formica with semi gloss white paint. We draped the outer part of the structure from the ceiling in fluted fabric with an elegant floral design that flowed from the ceiling to the floor behind the bed. We covered the inside part where the mirror had been, in a soft white fabric that fanned out from a central point like a sunburst. The room was transformed from a 1970s bachelor pad into an elegant and modest master bedroom- even with the mirrored wall.”

Mirrors have a psychological association with magic.

The “looking glass” appears to offer us a doorway into another dimension. Much like the technique of trompe l’oeil in fine art, it insists on an illusion that fools the eye.

If mirror is used well in décor, it isn’t recognizable as mirror at first. It is only after taking in the entire room that one realizes that part of the room’s dimensionality is an illusion.

People delight in being pleasantly surprised. Mirror can add an element of surprise to a room, and even though the initial surprise wears off, the illusion is almost believable enough to be taken for granted.

Let there be light.”

One of the most obvious benefits to a décor with a large mirrored area is that it brings more light into the room. Windows, skylights and electrical lights are doubled in a mirror, so ambient light from any source will be enhanced in an office or living environment.

Areas of some rooms might seem to end abruptly or look closed off.

Joseph, the designer, has used mirrors to “open up” areas of a room that look as if they need to be expanded. He said,

“Some galley kitchens or kitchenettes that are open to other rooms seem tight and closed. One way to expand those tighter areas is to mirror the walls underneath the cabinets and behind the sink. It’s a tip that many people are wary of, but I have found that it works every time to open up a small kitchen.”

Is damage more likely to occur to a mirror in a work area like a kitchen?

Joseph comments, “Not really. I don’t remember ever having a problem with damage to a mirror in a kitchen work area. Even the cover plates for the plugs and switches are mirrored. There are different ways to install mirror, but mostly, a channel is put up for the mirror to slide into and a thin clear plastic edging is applied to the outside edges of the mirror. I always have the professional mirror and glass installers do those jobs.”

“I did one job for an American ambassador to a European Country who had a getaway bungalow in New England, recalls Joseph. The house was built in the early 1970s. It had a second story living area with a fireplace which faced the stairway going down to the first floor. The area around the stairway was an open nook. It had no interesting features, but had a strong presence in the room. I mirrored the two walls that made up the nook which reflected the living room seating in front of the Hearth. It was fabulous!”

Art and mirrors are not always well matched lovers.

Your art will love your mirror. How could it not enjoy its own reflection, doubling your visual pleasure as well.

But beware! Your mirror may not love your art in return.

Mirrors create the reverse image of everything, including your artwork. If an oil painting’s composition or structure is not well balanced in line or light effect, particularly a portrait, it will show up in the mirror. What you didn’t notice in the painting might be abundantly evident in its reflection. This is why many artists carry small mirrors in their paint and brush kits.

Can I do it myself?

You can do anything yourself…if you have the time to learn, and the money to cover the possibility of mistakes.

It is important to remember that mirrors are glass. Glass shatters and cuts. In large sizes, it is heavy and cumbersome. It needs to be properly cut to fit into wall areas because, although a room may look square, it can be amazingly off. Wood moldings can make up for some mistakes, but sometimes it looks like a mistake is obviously being covered up.

In more moderate sizes and in areas which aren’t so particular, mirrors can be fairly easy to put up, but first consult your ‘How-to’ book, ask questions at Lowe’s or Home Depot, where glass and mirror is often custom cut, or consult a professional glass and mirror person.

Necessity is the mother of creativity:

Gary lived in an apartment in New York City. He brought home a 4’ x 2 ½’ mirror for a brick wall in his living room. He left it leaning against the wall on a small, thin fabric area rug which was on a glossy finished floor.

The mirror moved and the rug slipped on the floor, causing it to crash into pieces on its back. Gary came up with a creative solution which he recounts,

“At first I was horrified when I first heard the crash! But when I went over to see what to do with the broken glass, I realized that it had broken in a very interesting way. Just the right quadrant of the mirror smashed into pieces which were sent out from the corner onto the floor. The pieces were similarly shaped but graduated from largest to the smallest. It was a graceful composition of breaks, and yet the majority of the mirror was still intact.”

Gary went to work. He bought some thick plexi-glass that was larger than the mirror that had broken and used an epoxy paste to apply the mirror to the plexi-glass in the exact same shape as when it broke.

The project was meant to go one way, but Gary’s bold creativity gave him a mirror that looked as if it was magically fragmenting into the air from one corner after he bolted it to the brick wall.


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