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What's Up Magazine

Style Through the Looking Glass

Jan 02, 2012 05:59PM ● By Anonymous
Voltaire placed it on the same plane as the discovery of “the true system of the universe.” In his time the mirror was a dazzling and expensive decorative item, one that only the aristocracy could afford.

Today, the mirror can still produce a sense of wonder, though it is now one of the most affordable of design choices. Additionally, some designs can be installed in a few hours. One can magically do some “illusionary remodeling” in the morning and entertain guests for lunch.

What is a mirror, exactly? The important aspect of a mirror is the reflective coating. Smooth metal can be a mirror. In ancient Rome and China occasionally gold sheets served as mirrors. Today most mirrors are typically glass with a silver backing. The glass stabilizes the silver. The glass can be tinted, etched or given texture to result in varied effects.

Often called “the chameleon of architecture” the mirror’s versatility allows us to solve a lot of design problems. Is that living room too dark and narrow? Are views a quest? How about that bathroom mirror...does it look dated? The answers to those problems lead us to product selection, placement, and detailing.


Magicians used mirrors for various cover-ups. Think the “talking head trick”; the head’s lower body was typically covered by a table with angled mirror insertions. Since the mirrors were viewed obliquely, the audience could not see its reflection, hence a sense of transparency was achieved. Learning from magicians, the obliquely viewed mirror, rather than one right in front of you, will be the most illusionary.


Not too pleased with the greenish tint of mirror? An exciting new development is the widespread use of “ultra clear” mirror or “Starphire.” It has no greenish tint meaning the glass has a low iron content. Anything reflected in it will have truer colors. This is a boon in boosting illusions, even in an all white room.

Various details can enhance those illusions as well. Forget frameless, surface mounted mirrors with those unattractive plastic clips! Take away those clips, recess the mirror in a niche (the French “encadrement” or enframement ) and it will appear as a “window” into a magical Alice “Through the looking Glass” world. Mirror recessed in bookcases, or mirror as a kitchen backsplash can be very illusionary. The mirrored kitchen backsplash keeps human reflections at bay, since the cabinets themselves block the view of the face.

A mirror door with muntins is very illusionary. Friends with a formal hallway paired such a door with an identical clear glass door. The mirrored door led into the kitchen, the clear glass door led into the dining room.

Framed mirrors will be more illusionary if they are not tilted, but properly mounted with two side hooks. Small inexpensive framed mirrors are often a delightful and easy addition to an assemblage, adding an unexpected illusionary punch to a wall.


If you are lucky enough to have a pretty view from a main window, placing mirror on the opposite wall will easily double the scene. And it is democratic...everyone has a view. But, what if you have a room which seems to have no view? It pays to look around the corner; you can often capture improved views by placing mirror on the wall perpendicular to the window. This can be quite effective in dormer windows.

Subtle Reflections

Sometimes we want a subtle expansion of space. Bronze, peach, even black mirrors have their place, but they require careful consideration. With a recent visit to the Merchandise Mart, it was clear that “antiqued” mirrors are here to stay. Hayward Design from Atlanta featured a stunning wall of proprietary grey antiqued mirrors that combine with their large scale, dramatic furnishings in complementary colors. Their mirrors can be purchased with frames as well. The Julia Gray Showroom creates English and French traditional furniture, much of which is covered in antiqued mirror with a subtle gold tint. They also have come out with art deco designs. One must understand though, these glamorous furnishings are for those who do not cover their bedside tables with papers and books....absolutely no clutter permitted.


Most people are amazed to learn that when they peer into the bathroom mirror in the morning, their reflection is one half the size of their actual face. This is because you are looking at a reflection that is as far back in illusionary space as you are in front of the mirror. In other words, if you are standing 2 feet in front of the mirror; your reflection is standing 2 feet away from the mirror. You are looking at a person that is 4 feet away. No wonder it is hard applying makeup or shaving. It would be helpful to have a narrow ledge for these tasks so that one does not have to lean over. Ultra clear mirror would be the finishing touch. Why not look as good as possible?