The mirror is a loaded symbol — To hear the arts and literature tell it, mirrors can in turn signify objective truth, vulnerability, distortion, vanity, intimacy. Because of this, the simple act of decorating with mirrors can bring up overwhelming, existential questions of how you see yourself. Yes, it is that deep.
But breathe easy: When it comes to interior design, our relationship to any given mirror hinges on its placement and use. A mirror in the bathroom is functionally different from a bedroom mirror, one to facilitate face-washing and tooth-brushing, the other to sort out your outfit or provide an exhibitionist thrill. Knowing what mirror works and where is a powerful tool in your home.
Placed with intention, mirrors create space, add depth and breathe movement into your home. A vintage mirror does all of this while drawing your attention to details only history could create. Here’s our guide to finding the right vintage mirror for each room.
A vintage mirror is a piece of visual history, conjuring a timeless air in your present. Some of the earliest mirrors date back more than 6000 years to Turkey and ancient Egypt; historical accounts and excavations have unearthed a fondness for glass in decor during the time of the Roman Empire as well. On a practical note, a vintage mirror’s age can be used to juxtapose contemporary decor, at once comforting and striking.
Whether antique or vintage, an older mirror’s age can dictate its price, upkeep, and aesthetic impact. When browsing online or in a real life vintage shop, there are some things to look out for to make sure your vintage mirror is true vintage, quality, and right for your room.
Many vintage mirrors have wood frames, which can undergo extensive aging and wear-and-tear through the years. If a wooden frame is flawless, chances are it’s been changed or refurbished since it was made.
Real vintage mirrors, especially those 20 to 40 years old, will have fine scratches and naturally darkened patches. This kind of patina is part of a vintage object’s charm, and perfectly imperfect details are trending this year.
Before you buy a vintage mirror, you should be conscious of how the manufacturing process has changed over the last several decades.
In previous generations, the glass-making process was not perfected, which resulted in bubbly glass, waviness and more thickness than we see today. One common feature among vintage mirrors is a fine discoloration of the glass; this is caused by oxidation of the metal sheet beneath the reflective surface. A natural process, oxidation can also lead to fine scratches and micro imperfections that you’d only notice up close and personal.
In some cases of wear, vintage mirrors lose their primary utility. However, these imperfections can actually enhance a mirror’s impact if you then approach the piece as a work of art.
Whether floor-length or hanging, mirrors can have drastically different effects on a room despite seemingly serving the same function. One amazing feature of vintage mirrors is that they come at every price point: You don’t have to spend $5,000 to get the same glamorous effect that you would for other types of furniture.
When choosing a mirror, the most important factor to consider is the room that will contain it — its scale, its mood, its use. It wouldn’t make sense to take up a third of your studio apartment’s entrance with a full-size mirror, just like it would be strange to see a spacious living room with a single, petite circular glass —unadorned and abandoned— hanging over the six-person sectional.
Focusing on the features of each room can help you determine the best type of mirror to compliment your existing decor.
The hallway is a transitory space, so the mirror you choose should encompass that fluidity. Movement is best achieved in narrow spaces with wall-hanging mirrors.
In narrow spots like these, avoid clunky or elaborate frames, which may be too overt compared to the surrounding area.
If you have a wider hall to work with, the addition of a wood or metal framed mirror could add much-needed depth and help ground the space, especially if you pair it with a runner or accent rug.
The living room can serve different functions depending on the household. For some, it is more passive than the bedroom or office, but in many apartments, it doubles for work and play.
A mirror can be hung above the sofa, and if you go this route, aim for one that is at least three-quarters the length of the seating. This can help you establish visual hierarchy without overwhelming the decor. However, if you want your mirror to make a statement, then you might opt to choose one as long as the sofa itself.
Leaning a mirror on your mantle, shelving, or a console table adds a point of interest and can emphasize that wall’s height.
A freestanding or leaning mirror stands out well in the bedroom, as this is where you tend to spend the most time getting dressed. Mirrors in the bedroom can add much-needed light and balance, so opt to place yours in a position where it will have the greatest reflective impact.
A common mistake when hanging a bedroom mirror is placing it above the bed itself. While this may please your eyes upon entering, its utility ceases the moment you lie down.
The bedroom can also be the perfect place to house a vintage vanity mirror; with a traditional oval shape and embossed edges, these make strong accent pieces on top of dressers, desks or your makeup vanity.
A vintage mirror can add elegance and character to a contemporary bathroom, especially if it’s incorporated into modern architecture.
The silvering of glass, known as foxing, in antique mirrors can add surprising charm to a space. If you intend to create a sense of refinement, the Rococo style frame of many vintage mirrors for sale can bring the touch of sophistication you seek without feeling overdone.
Dining rooms can be highly flexible, especially in our increasingly #wfh culture. If yours is currently doubling as an office, school, or meeting spot, then your decor should naturally adapt to these circumstances.
Mirrors make the perfect neutral backdrop for design because they can be done in any number of ways. Hanging, they offer perspective and shape; leaning, they beckon us to pause and reflect.
Floor-length mirrors can either be freestanding, hanging or leaning, and the style you choose will depend on the space you have to work with and overall purpose of your arrangement.
In the dining area, mirrors can be a nice alternative to wall art when mounted above a mini bar or sideboard. In a traditional space, you can create an updated look by choosing a modern, geometric mirror with metallic accents.