Friday, May 22, 2009

Time for Reflection : Mirrors

Here's an "intriguing"-and according to me-"debatable" quote. :-) Anyway, I thought of putting it out here to kick off this post on mirrors!

"Men look at themselves in mirrors. Women look for themselves" -
Elissa Melamed

Above: This oversize Entablature mirror from Restoration Hardware is what inspired us to do this post. (Image Courtesy: Restoration Hardware)

Some History: Mirrors come in all sizes and shapes and have been a fascination for mankind in some form or fashion as early as 6000 B.C. Early mirrors were made of polished metal or stone. The history of the modern glass mirror coated with mercury, as we know it today can be tracked to more recent times- around the 16th-18th centuries. You can read an exhaustive history on it on Wikipedia. (So we wont deep dive into it here). As many of you, we too have been curious and thrilled by mirrors and more so the work around the mirrors, and materials, and shapes, and sizes which have become equally important (if not more)- than rather just the reflective surface alone!

Materials: Wood is the most common material used in mirror frames, and metal comes in second. In recent times though, composite, driftwood, shells and pretty much anything you can wrap around a shiny surface has been used to frame mirrors.

Our Collection:
Below are some of the mirrors we have acquired in our personal collection over a period of time. And finally we thought we had enough pieces to start a post atleast. ;-) So here goes..

Below: This hand painted Chinese mirror is one of our favorites. It features delicate floral patterns and butterflies in a muted palette, set in a frame that's carved in a stepped manner. This one was quite a challenge mounting as it was close to a 100lbs. (More tips on hanging heavy mirrors below)

Below: It's important to envision the big picture, and to do careful consideration of positioning before committing to mounting large mirrors on walls, because it's not easy to undo, and move around like you can with smaller ones. The night-shot below doesn't do much justice to the details, but you can see how this mirror fits in overall.

Below: This is a much smaller mirror (about 1.5 ft apart at the longest ends of the oval). The mirror features plaster detail on the wood-work. Many mirrors (as well as frames) in the 1800-1900's featured plaster work molding on a wooden base, such as this one. I found this tucked away in an antique shop in Niles district. (We probably will do a separate post on Niles one of these days)

Below: This one's a French Ormolu mirror (metal), awaiting restoration. (est-1800's). This one probably held a beveled mirror which was missing by the time we got it. It's one of our projects awaiting restoration, and we are planning to have the rear-side upholstered, and use as a vanity mirror. So now we've already covered 3 totally different materials in mirror making (wood, plaster, and metal..and they all look beautiful in their own way!)

Mirrors & Space:
Mirrors are a great tools for doubling or multiplying space. Though used in such grandeur such as the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, where these is no dearth of space, many of today's decor applications of mirrors come from the need to create an illusion of "increased space", and works very effectively in hallways, nooks, small rooms,basements and anywhere you really need to visually open up the space but cannot physically do it.

Some points to consider when installing a mirror:

Eyeballing the location: Though its a good idea to measure out the exact location for positioning a mirror on a wall, it's a science as well as art in getting it to the most aesthetically pleasing location. There ARE certain sweet-spots and for lighter mirrors, its a good idea to have some one hold it for you, so you can step back and take a look at the "big picture" before you start drilling. (Note: This may be difficult/not feasible for larger mirrors). Interestingly, the mathematical center of a wall is often NOT the ideal position, rather it maybe a little more to the left, or right, or up or down. It depends on where the "visual focus" of the room lies (which very often is different from the 'measured center'), and this depends on the other elements in the room- including furniture, windows, shape and size of wall, etc. For example, in one of our projects, we centered the mirror against the dining table not at the mathematical center of the wall (which was about 2 feet off). See below.

Use your Illusion*: What does the mirror reflect in its intended position? This is an interesting point, and one we often tend to omit (till the mirror actually goes up on the wall). The spot may be perfect, but remember the mirror may reflect something that is totally out of place with the setting (like the back of your television with all the wires, etc., for an example). So before you start 'digging for oil', make sure the reflection matches the overall picture you are trying to build. Otherwise it will really end up as a failed exercise.

Weight: Will the drywall hold it? Some mirrors like the hand-painted one we have featured here are over 100lbs and can be quite a challenge to install correctly (and safely). Use plastic or metal anchors. (You will find some very valuable tips here). Note that screws in the U.S. have weight ratings- 100lbs, 150lbs, 200lbs, etc. (It's safer to use ones that comfortably exceed the weight of the mirror.)
If you have a brick wall, be sure to use strong and deep nails that go beyond the plaster so that it will not crack and come off with time.

Tools: Tools that we have found very useful in mounting mirrors include a Stud finder to detect the strong points in a wall, Laser level to ensure level lines with other pictures, or reference points, Drill kit (very useful), Measuring Tape, Anchors/Molly.

Above: This one was featured on our post on our Dining room Salon wall. It's no antique but probably a commercial reproduction of an antique (though we really cant tell the difference when it sits on the wall). We love it for its fine lines, proportion and unique shape.

Below: This one came of a estate sale from a couple who had been collecting for over 60 years. It remains one of our favorite pieces.

A Special Note: Aranmula Kannadi (Mirror)
We wanted to include this as a tribute to the State we come from. The Aranmula Kannadi (Mirror) is made of metal that is polished to a high sheen. This process of metal mirror-making tradition survives ( from the 14th century ) at the small village of Aranmula, in the State of Kerala, in India. A unique composition is the most critical factor in giving it the ability to be polised to a mirror-like sheen (cast high-tin bronze mirror, 33% tin with highly polished surface.)
The British Museum in London has a 45 centimeter tall Aranmula metal mirror in its collection.

Below: The Aranmula Mirror featured below in conch shape design belongs to one of our friends.

Mirrors & Superstition: Probably one of the oldest superstitions worldwide-is still alive among millions of people today-the superstition that breaking a mirror brings 7 years of bad-luck. This one has been in vogue since the Roman days, when a mirror was believed to be a reflection of ones soul, and breaking it would have a connected impact. Our take on it? Well there's already enough bad stuff happening worldwide to people nowadays even without breaking mirrors. So don't worry about it. However, its probably better to handle these with care- more for your family's safety reasons especially with children around. :-)

Note: "Use your illusion" is a copyright of Guns'n'Roses


  1. Wow!!! Thats a detailed post on mirrors.. Thank you... for throwing so much light!! I'll be looking at myself differently in a mirror now!!

    I love your collection of mirros.. Seriously I must join you on a shopping trip.

    PS - On a different note.. I love the dining table.. and have always wanted a bench on one side.. My hubby darling disagrees. So will be sharing your pics with him tonight!!

  2. Loved the mirrors on your walls! I have to say the Aranmula kannadi is truly gorgeous! This is the first time I have heard of it. Being a metal mirror, no dangers of breaking! Thank you for sharing!

  3. hey trueblue...

    thanxx for stopping by,.....and thank u so much for admiring the your question on kundan stones..these are special stones used for ornating festive salwars, sarees etc., but i wanted to use them differently...and so tried it on this chair. many people questioned me as to whether it was comfortable to use this for sitting purposes. I must assure u that when i decided to do this...i first tried all the postures of using this chair and found out the right places to stick kundan... so if u r planning to do something ...go ahead. i have also used htem on cushion covers. if u stick and stitch them then u dont have to worry abt the washing part of it....i bought them from a local marwari or rajasthani bangle store in bangalore. I can provide the address of this guy if u want. i spent 100 Rs for the full kundan used here. it is available in all colours, all shapes and all sizes... u also find some lovely flower kundan.... i just adore them....

  4. Very well researched and written post:-)
    Thank u for nice comments on my blog

  5. Mirror, mirror on the wall,
    Does Stripes & Shadows enthral?

    It prompts reflection...

    P.S.: Now I am heading for the mirror to find myself!

  6. Very interesting post, mirrors do make a lot of difference...I am very fussy about finding the right mirror all the time.

  7. Hi Patricia,
    Thanks for the comments !
    Hope the bench-idea worked out for you .


  8. Aditi,

    Thanks again !
    And, yes. The Aranmula Kannadi is truly gorgeous. Glad you liked it.It comes framed in brass and silver. And because the reflective surface is made of metal it tarnishes fast ..When you buy the mirror they also give a special powder that you can use to polish t back to a sheen .

  9. Vasudha,
    Thanks for the info. I will check it up on my next trip to India .


  10. A great topic on mirrors. among them the Superstitions sounds very interesting. anybody still believing it seriously? :)

    Aranmula mirrors are the unique mirrors in the world, where the making of such a metal mirror is a closely guarded secret which is known to only one family in this entire world. passing the secret from generation to generation.



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