Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

Bathroom mirrors are the epitome of function, but throughout a home, a strategically placed mirror can amplify the light and depth of a space. Here, the experts reflect on how and why a looking glass can transform your space.

"The spaces feels bigger, it feels more open, it reflects light," says Liz Sanz, who works in sales at GlassWorks, a glass installer near Chicago that's worked with clients like Michael Jordan and Oprah.

Before placing a mirror in your home, it's a good idea to understand their functions, says Andreas Charalambous, principal of FORMA Design, based in Washington D.C.

Designers say that a mirror can be used as a decorative object or as a background player - both of which can improve the look of the room.

When mirrors are used as a background design element, they "give you the illusion that maybe the space continues beyond," Charalambous says. "It helps expand the visual access [of a room]."

This type of installation works well for small or dark spaces. For example, a small bathroom doubles in size with a counter-to-ceiling mirror, which replicates the room to make it appear larger.

"You can do it floor-to-ceiling; we've done it in a bedroom on the sides of the bed," Charalambous says. "You feel like the bed is free-floating in the room and the space beyond. It's all about tricking the eye to make the space feel bigger and brighter."

Mirrors that create the illusion of space can be practical, too. When designing a tiny modern urban studio for a couple in San Francisco, Susan Diana Harris recommended a wall of mirrored storage space to double the appearance of the studio. "You have twice as much natural light, you have less furniture in there and tons of storage," says Harris, principal of Susan Diana Harris Interior Design, based in San Francisco.

If you're not ready for a wall of mirrors, consider using them as a kitchen backsplash instead. "It definitely opens up the whole room," Sanz says. "When you're using a tile or piece of marble, you're stuck dead in your tracks. There's no reflection, there's no light."

On the other hand, if the mirror is being used as an object, Charalambous suggests using it in a dramatic fashion, which often means that it's large or tall or placed at a surprising angle.

"If we are going to use a mirror as an object, typically it's oversized," he says. "It's big enough to make a statement...in the entry or foyer. We used it in a basement, for example, where the light was coming in from the patio."

Alissa Pulcrano, principal at Bright Designlab in Portland, Oregon, used her client's collection of vintage mirrors to create an art project on the wall. They installed mirrors of various shapes and sizes. "They wanted to create a textural, whimsical juxtaposition to the white, modern, soaring space," Pulcrano says. "It bridges the gap and brings home the modern/vintage balance."

Antique mirrors can still have a place in contemporary homes, Sanz says. A one-inch or smaller bevel on a mirror offers a more traditional look, but the trend is currently towards larger edgework, which provides a more up-to-date piece.

Sanz says for a recent contemporary bathroom project, the clients opted out of putting in a counter-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall mirror. "We did a long rectangular mirror and put a one-and-a-half inch bevel on it," she says. "It was just enough to give it a little flair, but because the bevel was so large it gave it a contemporary feel."

While there's no formula for how much is too much mirrored surfaces, Harris has some good advice: "As soon as [the mirror] feels like a piece of furniture, then you really have to take account for what else is in the room."


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