Butler County Times Gazette
  • Through the Front Door: Mirror, mirror on the wall

  • Placing a mirror can be tricky
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  • Well good morning shining faces of Butler County!
    Today, let’s chat about how and where to use a mirror. I see that face you are making, and I can hear you saying “What is she talking about?” You just hang a mirror where you want. What is the big deal, right? Well, my lovelies, it is a big deal. As I explained long ago, I have reasons for just about everything and placing a mirror can be tricky. Let’s look at how we typically use mirrors in halls, above fireplaces, dining rooms and kitchens—and how we can improve that usage.
    A Hall of Mirrors
    As you’ve no doubt heard, mirrors are the cat’s meow when it comes to visually expanding a space. However, not every space offers a worthy reflection and not every narrow or confining space can be helped by a mirror. For example, a mirror in a rather narrow hallway might seem like a logical solution to increase the feeling of space. But in some situations, the mirror is merely reflecting a blank wall or bits and pieces of art on the opposite wall. From that vantage point, the technique did not work very well.
    To lighten up a narrow dark hallway, you need to get aggressive. Try a wall of smaller mirrors or multiple large mirrors. The trick is to make it look purposeful and expansive. You might even do an arrangement on both sides of the hall with only mirrors, bouncing light from wall to wall. In the last 10 years, enormous mirrors have become increasingly easy to find. Try a series of these down the hall to expand the feeling of space. Just make sure the frame does not protrude too far into the walkway, which could create a passage problem.
    For an effective hall of mirrors, you need lighting down the hall to play off the mirrors. You can do this with a couple of small evenly spaced chandeliers or a sequence of recessed can lighting. If you opt for chandeliers, make sure a good portion of the chandeliers are reflected in the mirrors on both sides so the effect is productive (although not so low that you’ll bump your head, of course). If you have 8' ceilings, you may need to place the mirrors tighter to the ceiling line. Or accept the fact that this might not be the solution for your lighting needs and that recessed lighting is the best option.
    A Fabulous Fireplace
    One of the most common mistakes people make is hanging a mirror above a fireplace mantel. Now hear me out. If indeed the mirror reflects an opposing window and you get what is referred to as “borrowed light,” well then, well done smarty pants! Or, if a magnificent chandelier accomplishes double duty with the mirror placement, well done once again. But if the mirror reflects a ceiling fan or just the ceiling, take it down and consider a piece of art instead. Not only is not reflecting anything pretty, but it’s likely too high for you to see your own reflection.
    Page 2 of 3 - Remember, mirrors really only benefit your interior by reflecting something magnificent. If you insist on placing a mirror above the fireplace for the elegant shimmer, angle it down from the top to reflect something favorable. (This type of installation is best done by a professional.)
    Delightful Dining
    A mirror above a serving piece or hunt board can add so much to the dining room, especially if a chandelier is fully exposed in the framework of the mirror. Low lighting adds a double dose of ambience.
    When selecting mirrors, think about the effect you’re creating. An antiqued mirror dials down the gleaming reflection and adds a dose of history. A clean, smooth-edged mirror framed in tuxedo black is the perfect addition to a modern dining room, whereas a black-forest inspired frame lends a heavy European influence!
    Create another appetizing mirrored effect with mirror-backed sconces, whether lit with true candlelight or hard-wired electric sconces. Place them on either side of a well-chosen piece of art; a good starting point for sconce placement is about one-third of the way down from the top of the art. These sconces add such drama to the dining experience, bouncing the light about the room. You might consider the same approach above a fireplace mantel or even over a bed.
    Note that there is one concern with placing mirrors in the dining room. I, for one, dislike looking up and seeing my reflection during a meal. Low light can make us look ghastly without a little bit of lip color! You will understand the danger if you have ever seen the Jerry Seinfeld episode "Two Face" Girlfriend where Jerry's date looked appalling in low light? So test drive all of the chairs at the table and be aware of the pitfalls for women. Generally, men don’t care—or even think about such things—so seat them in the chairs facing the mirror.
    Mirrors in Kitchens
    In recent years, designers have started using mirrors for a kitchen backsplash. While this is fitting for a very sleek, edgy, contemporary kitchen, it requires careful placement. A mirror behind the stove or cooktop is probably not the best use of this idea as oil splatters are unsightly! In the prep area, however, you can visually increase the width of the room, especially in a galley-type kitchen. One word of caution is to be very selective about the items that live on your counters. Make sure the back is as desirable as the front of the object as both will be visible. And be sure and use mirrored outlet covers! Select high-polished chrome hardware and the room takes on an almost Tiffany-type jewelry aspect! Stunning!
    Hanging and Framing
    When used to their best potential, mirrors make for a wonderful design accessory. Remember to hang them at the same level as you would hang a piece of art: 50" to 60" from the center point off the finished floor. Adjust the placement as needed for the height of people living in your home. If you plan to lean a large wall against a wall for impact, use some common sense and secure them to the wall. You can still create a tilted effect while protecting young children.
    Page 3 of 3 - Framing mirrors can be such a great way to introduce a particular style or color to the interior. Unlike with art, where the frame can become a distraction, with mirrors you can indulge in over-the-top frames. For example, select a smaller beveled mirror and increase the size of the piece with an engorged frame so that it almost becomes a wall sculpture. (Cutting the edges of a mirror at an angle creates the bevel. A beveled mirror might even have a series of beveled edges. The edge will look like it cuts toward the wall and be anywhere from 1/2" to 1 1/2" depending on the size of the mirror.)
    I hope these few guidelines help with selecting and placing mirrors in your home. Remember you can always email me a question, maybe mirrors, maybe something else: jan@jcolvininteriors.com
    I will be here next week to reflect on something else. Oh, I just could not resist!
    I’ll leave you today with words from the famous interior designer and Pulitzer Prize–winning American novelist Edith Wharton:
    “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
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