The Magic of Mirrors

A good friend recently asked me to help her style an awkward wall in her Dining Room. Though the wall was the natural focal point when you entered the room, it appeared off-center because a staircase cut into it and prevented us from centering a piece of art. We stared at it, brainstormed a bit, and then stared some more, before it finally came to me – mirrors. Ahhh, mirrors… the solution decorators turn to time and time again.

Photo: A collection of mirrors clustered together bounces light around and serves as an attractive alternative to artwork.

Mirrors are virtual magicians if ever you feel stumped by a space or cramped by a budget. They’re economical as they typically cost less than artwork and have the power to reflect the beauty you already own, be it an original painting or a lovingly tended back garden. They have long been used to bounce light around; early colonists especially loved convex mirrors for their ability to multiply the rays of light from candles and lanterns. But they possess a host of other powers, from balancing offset windows to adding architectural interest to blank-box rooms.

Anytime I’m faced with a room that has a doorway or window on only one side of the main focal wall (the wall you look directly at when entering or passing by the room), I try to balance it with something of similar height at the other end of the wall. This may be in the form of a painted screen, large potted tree, a tall bookcase, or – you guessed it – a mirror. If the mirror isn’t reflecting anything particularly noteworthy, I love to use one with an antiqued finish. The smoky, aged appearance still provides balance to the doorway or window, adds a touch of patina to the space, and draws attention to itself rather than to whatever it’s reflecting.

Mirrors also have the ability to make a room feel more expansive than it really is, especially when placed across from an entryway. For this reason, I recommend hanging one at the end of a short hallway or across from a doorway in small bedroom or study. I also like to employ mirrors – especially antiqued ones – as backsplashes in narrow galley kitchens. If you enter a room and feel like it’s missing a window, try hanging a mirror, as it has a similar effect by allowing the eye to “keep going.”

Certain styles of mirrors can anchor a room and provide a sense of gravitas or architecture to a space that otherwise lacks it. I am partial to the tall arched mirrors that are broken into smaller panes by iron or wood muntins. Ballard Designs carries several versions of this style, including the Grand Palais Arch Mirror and the Grand Chateau Mirror. Both are looks I return to again and again when trying to add some architectural oomph to a cookie-cutter condominium or blank-slate new build.

Elaborately carved and antiqued mirrors have much the same effect, and Anthropologie offers a nice assortment of both. Placing matching mirrors on either side of a piece of artwork or arching a collection of three to five small mirrors over a favorite piece of artwork will bulk up even the smallest of paintings and enable it to take center stage in a room.

If a large mirror either doesn’t quite suit your wall space or your budget, consider a collection of several more modestly-sized ones. If your wall will allow for a large mirror, but your pocketbook won’t, try finding a smaller size of which you can afford to purchase several. Three medium-size mirrors can look lovely when hung vertically next to one another, and you can often find very reasonably priced ones at big box stores like Target or Home Depot. Stick to odd numbers, like three or five, when grouping items in this matter. A multitude of small identical mirrors displayed very tightly together in a grid pattern can read as a single large mirror and are often more affordable than purchasing one the size of their total square footage. If your wall space has an angle cut into it from an eave or stairway, try clustering together a variety of mismatched mirrors for a gallery look that will still reflect light and add a little sparkle to your room.

Whatever your style or budget, every room can benefit from a beautiful mirror!

Kitty Burruss is an interior designer, visit her blog at www.WestchesterDecorator.blogspot.com.

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