Mirrors can add light, sense of space


November 04, 1990|By RITA ST. CLAIR

Q: Often in your columns you speak of the need to create "illusions" or "camouflage."

I'm wondering if you could explain precisely how to achieve those effects with mirrors, since I'm now faced with a redecorating task that seems to require a certain sleight of hand.

A: While I'm obviously not acquainted with your specific situation, I'm happy to discuss the use of mirrors in general. They're among the most useful tools available to interior designers.

Every field of endeavor has its own buzz terms. In just the same way that I'm often told that "location" or "camouflage" is the secret ingredient in many of the most attractive settings, architects talk about "honest" building designs and engineers are proud of the "smart" edifices they help to construct. But it's the job of interior designers to make these smart and honest buildings liveable, and that's often achieved through the creation of clever disguises.

The most important thing to remember about mirrors is that they change spatial perceptions. That can be a desired outcome or an unintended disaster, depending on how they are used.

To make a long and narrow room look wider, for instance, the wall to mirror is the long one. Mirroring a window wall, however, is more likely to produce confusion than a pleasing illusion. And if you wish to add daylight to a room, hang the mirror on the wall opposite the window.

Be sure that you know in advance what a mirror is going to reflect. Small apartments can often benefit from the proper deployment of mirrors, but because of space limitations it's also not uncommon for a mirror to reflect an unsightly view. Kitchens and bathrooms, for example, are not what one wishes to see when seated in an elegant living room.

One way to avoid this sort of problem is to use smaller, framed mirrors rather than the wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor variety. Besides being much easier to install, picture-sized mirrors can readily be moved a couple of inches if they do happen to pick up an unexpected and unwelcome reflection.

Here are a few more random suggestions for making the most of mirrors.

A series of tall, framed mirrors can certainly be a decorative asset and will enhance the spatial quality of a small room. But keep in mind that they will also give the room an appearance of added height.

If a setting is marred by an unsightly pilaster or some other projection that contains mechanical elements, consider mirroring its surface as a means of camouflaging the intrusive feature. Use only clear glass in these cases, however. A smoked or colored mirror will attract even more attention.

Decorative mirrors that can be etched or cut with a design have been used for centuries as space expanders and decorative additions. A convex or bull's-eye mirror (as shown in the photo) is particularly effective in both these regards. Round in shape, it works like a wide-angle camera lens. The resulting image is distorted but intriguing.

Convex mirrors are difficult to find in large sizes. They can occasionally be discovered in an antique shop, although somewhat smaller reproductions are now becoming available.

xTC Good luck with your camouflage operation. I hope these reflections prove helpful.

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