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Why Mirrors Will Always Be Impactful in Design, Part 1

by Kelli Kehler

There are very few all-encompassing design solves I can think of that can be applied to any style, any home, and any space. And the one element I keep coming back to is the tried-and-true mirror.

Whether artful or strategic, mirrors work wonders to draw attention to a space with their reflective faces, and they move mountains to make any room feel more open and dimensional than it really is. Running the gamut of every style, color, shape and size under the sun, these design tools can suit (or intentionally contradict) any aesthetic. And, dare I suggest, they’re considerably more timeless and versatile than a piece of art, as a mirror’s face is essentially a blank canvas.

What can I say — here at Design*Sponge, we just can’t get enough of mirrors. So much so, in fact, I’ve broken this post into a two-parter. There are simply too many stunning mirror moments not to share. —Kelli

Now that is a mirror. In this Chicago, IL Victorian cottage, an ornate baroque mirror takes on a new look with a coat of white paint. The white slightly downplays the commanding presence of the detailed design, helping the mirror to define and ground the space without overdoing it.
The intersection of strategy and beauty: this breathtakingly beautiful oversized mirror both elevates the design of the space and opens it up tenfold. Its expansive surface works to bounce light back into the room.
The deep blue painted walls paired with the warm brass of this vintage mirror makes for an achingly gorgeous tonal combination, pulled off expertly by Jersey Ice Cream Co.
"The mirror is a gilt Louis Philippe à fronton Wall Mirror XIXth century (à fronton means 'crested,' or literally 'with the forehead' in French). I love using the mirror to announce 'le menu du jour',” says prop and fashion stylist Rosy Strazzeri-Fridman.
"This nook makes me smile every time I walk into the door. I found the mirror on sale at Anthropologie and spray painted it teal," says Naomi Stein. The teal hue of the quirky mirror carries the eye to the Nina Campbell wallpaper, allowing it to really pop.
If quirky and colorful isn't your thing, these sleek, streamlined circular mirrors bring balance and a minimal vibe to the bathroom of this midwestern home.
In the Netherlands, styles mingle with this unique vintage mirror situated against a matte black wall, reflecting a modern light fixture and the eclectic room beyond.
Using massive mirrors as a headboard makes this Spanish Beach house feel airy and large, and all it took to complete the project were "two mirrors from a terrible 80s furniture piece," notes homeowner Federico Gimenez.
A collection of vintage mirrors -- picked up over time on sourcing trips for the shop of Michele and Ryan Tansey -- turns this staircase into a striking gallery.
An art piece in itself, this multifaceted number in a small Texas bungalow brings forth texture and depth.
Take a close look here in the home of our friend Jodie Patterson (and her family): to the left of the tall brass floor lamp is a giant, ceiling-height mirror. Encased in gorgeous original molding, this mammoth mirror seems to somehow blend into the space despite its size -- instead it works to amplify the room, giving it a grand, open feel.
These precious antique mirrors in the home of textile designer Brook Perdigon illustrate the fun variety of shapes in which mirrors can be found.
"It's sweet, but also kind of weird, which describes my style pretty well," Tracy Kennard says of her scalloped vintage mirror. Styled with all objects thrifted and found, this vignette echoes the era of the mirror it elevates.
A collection of special vintage mirrors is instrumental in utilizing the ample wall space at Asrai Garden in Chicago, IL. Here mounted on a black wall, we see the power mirrors hold in brightening a space by effectively bouncing light around.
In a modern and minimal home in Nashville, TN, this spherical mirror grounds and makes purposeful a once-blank wall. It sets the tone for an organizational utilitarian drop-zone for bags, shoes and other items.
Designer Orlando Soria took a potentially awkward fireplace and made it a beautiful focal point in his living room by accentuating it with the mother of all circular mirrors.
A flea market mirror complements grey wooden tongue-and-groove paneling in this Bristol, England home, delivering an all-too-important affirmation.

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  • This is so true. My parents had a gigantic, modern beveled mirror in the living room of their 1960 house. It made it look bigger and brighter. We have some antique mirrors, and we recently bought a pair of historic apartments, and we bought the 6-foot-tall heavily decorated mirrors that were above the fireplaces (probably for several generations) along with them. They add light, they go with every color, they add shine.

  • I have a mirror question: can a large living/dining room take more than one mirror? I’m not talking about a grouping, but rather placing mirrors on different walls. What do you think? Too busy? Too awkward?

    • Emily

      Definitely! I think using mirrors to bounce light off of each other is a seriously smart move, especially in a space that needs some extra light :)


  • This mirror is amazing, first of all. I never used to give mirrors too much thought but I guess they really do open up a room :) This one is adorned perfectly!

    xx, mel

  • I completely agree with your comment about mirrors being timeless in home decor! We have quite a collection of large mirrors throughout our home – some with very industrial frames, others with art deco lines, and others with antique frames. I especially love hanging the mirrors in a way that they reflect off of each other. For example, when standing in the main entryway of our home, you can glance to your left and see a mirror that shows the reflection of our pool in the back of the house. The mirrors positioned like this offer different views of different areas of our house, depending on where you are standing. I also love finding large vintage picture frames, and I convert them into mirrors – doing this allows you to experiment with a variety of frames.

  • Could it also be that mirrors are popular because people love looking at themselves?

    Not trying to be snotty, I just often wonder if that is part of their appeal.