Mirror Image

Mirrors may give us an honest, unadorned look at ourselves, but in décor, they can sometimes be used to deceive. They make a small room look larger, a narrow one deeper, or a dark one brighter.

“Sometimes a room needs a little spark or depth, and a mirror can do that,” says Dan Clancy, an interior designer at Perlmutter-Freiwald in Franklin. “We’re doing the Rugby Grille [in Birmingham’s Townsend Hotel], and we’re going to put a mirror over the fireplace, because that additional mystery and depth are necessary when there’s a lot of dark wood paneling.”

Mirrors also can be employed in unexpected ways for dramatic effect. During a recent job in Florida, Clancy lined the back of a cabinet, which was full of art glass, with mirrors. “It was like a miracle,” he says. “It showed the glass in the round, and it was incredible what the mirrors did.”

Looking glasses can be especially striking in the dining room, a place where Clancy says he often hangs them. “With candlelight, and all that reflection, they help to create mood,” he says.

An antique mirror with a carved frame and inset perhaps with mercury glass lends a classic air of sophistication, but well-made reproductions can be equally arresting.

Carvers’ Guild, a Massachusetts company that offers more than 300 mirror designs, created this handmade autumnal Newport Harvest Wreath Mirror (carversguild.com), done in the Florentine style. The frame is carved with fruits, nuts, and vegetables laced with acanthus leaves. It’s an exact reproduction of the clerestory window surrounds in the dining room of The Breakers Mansion, built in the 1890s for Cornelius Vanderbilt in Newport, R.I.

However, like everything in interior design, going overboard can lead to disaster.

“Mirrors can be overused,” Clancy notes. “They’re vulgar when they’re not needed.”


Image courtesy of Carvers’ Guild