The Consummate Guide to Decorating With Mirrors

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Want to add amazing depth to your surroundings without studying for a contractor’s license and knocking out walls? Decorating with mirrors is about more than just practicing your selfie poses or making sure that your style is on point before tackling the daily commute.

As some of the most under-utilized elements in interior design, decorative mirrors can imbue your spaces with a unique dynamism that will make you rethink your surroundings. Here’s how to take advantage of these functional fixtures like a true style artist.

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Playing With Light and Space

To understand the roles that floor and wall mirrors play in home decor, it’s helpful to examine basic human perception. Consider what happens when you gaze into a vanity mirror or similar reflective surface: Although you know that it’s just an illusion of space, your eyes instantly fall for the pretense.

To the human mind, mirrors unlock the gateway to expansive depths that always float tantalizingly just beyond reach. You can leverage this concept to the fullest with a few simple tricks:

  • Add a decorative mirror to a cramped foyer to open up the space.
  • Place mirrors across from windows and outer walls to spread natural light around the room as the sun charts its way across the sky.
  • Use mirrors to make hallways and other intermediary spaces more visually engaging.

From building a sense of space to boosting illumination, reflective fixtures have an inherent power to brighten up your mood. Unlike painted accent walls and other features, however, they let decorators achieve such wonders with a minimum amount of effort. They’re ideal for changing spaces without throwing existing arrangements off balance.

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The Venetian Mirror: An Intersection of History and Modernism

The history of mirror making goes back millennia. Only recently, however, did humans develop the artistry and technology to graduate from polished stone to smooth glass. In the Middle Ages, artisans in Venice, Italy, pushed the envelope further than ever before, resulting in larger glass surfaces that were more stable and durable.

The earliest Venetian mirrors were insanely expensive and limited in size. As such technologies reigned supreme in the ensuing centuries, nobles got the most for their money by purchasing gold leaf mirrors that made up for their diminutive nature with ornate borders and frames.

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Plain-Jane alternatives would eventually supplant many finely wrought, handcrafted mirrors. Now, these styles are coming back as designers rediscover their raw aesthetic appeal. Features like Renaissance and Baroque filigrees, scroll-work and beaten leaf may hearken back to the magnificent settings of past eras, but they’re surprisingly at home in modern digs.

Going Beyond Mere Functionality: What’s in a Frame?

The reemergence of Venetian and gold leaf mirrors as interior decor elements is partially due to their easy versatility. For instance, even if you festoon your walls with sizable mirrors, you usually don’t have to move mountains to accommodate them.

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Follow these two rules for frame success:

1. Use distinctive mirror frames to create arresting visual layouts.

  • Many mirror frames could stand alone as art pieces. Leverage these fancy fixtures to inject controlled irregularity into flat, even surroundings to make them more interesting,
  • Reinforce the patterns in other fixtures and upholstery with clean designs that repeat similar shapes and colors;
  • Create interesting viewpoints that take in entire rooms, and break up spaces between cabinets and other heavy furniture with low-key mirror elements that put visual dead zones to work.

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2. Build around mirror frames to create unifying themes.

  • Decorative mirrors shouldn’t be afterthoughts. Make yours the focal point of a decor scheme by establishing them as centerpieces and working outward.
  • Creating mirror-centric interior schemes is a smart way to ensure that your home decor doesn’t clash. For instance, you might offset a complex Venetian mirror from other fixtures to avoid visual clutter. In more cramped layouts, you’ll want to use smaller wall mirrors with more geometric frame elements.
  • Skinny end tables, lamps, plants and other interior design standbys make perfect complements to mirror nooks. In larger spaces, you can combine these elements with mirrors to break rooms into functional subdivisions without having to impose solid barriers using furniture.

Make Decorative Mirrors Part of Your Home Decor

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There’s no universal standard of interior design, especially with something as versatile as wall mirrors. Thanks to their power to take on the aesthetics of their surroundings, Venetian, modern and gold leaf mirrors lend themselves to easy expression. Adding the touch of humanity that comes from a hand-carved Italian mirror lets anyone bridge the gap between functionality and high-class appeal.

How do you plan on integrating a mirror into your surroundings? Share your ideas in the comments, or stay tuned for further inspirations.

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