Monday, September 28, 2009

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Want to know a secret? I love mirror. I love mirrored walls, mirrored doors, mirrored screens, mirrored furniture, and mirrors on a wall. (I don't, however, do mirrored ceilings.) Am I a narcissist? Do I like to admire my reflection? Well, no. OK, so maybe a little.

What I'm drawn to most is mirror that has something interesting going on. Think smoked or antiqued mirror or better yet verre églomisé. And mirror that has been incorporated into a room's architecture really pushes me over the edge- in a good way. What I find a shame is that so few artisans or designers are doing unique things with mirror today. (An exception is my friend
Ray Goins who is a master at verre églomisé, but that's a post for another day.) Back in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, mirror really was the height of sophistication, and the imaginations of furniture craftsmen, architects, and designers knew no bounds when it came to using it. Take, for example, this door:

Now, a door like this could not have been in the apartment of a milquetoast. Instead, it graced the New York apartment of screen legend Gloria Swanson circa 1928. I can't quite figure out where the door actually is or how it opened, but that's not the point. The mirrored panels were outlined in steel molding, and in the middle was an electric fountain backed with a bright gold niche. Yes, the fountain shows questionable taste, but hey, it was Gloria Swanson. And you have to admit it was pretty creative.

Above is an outdoor ballroom designed by Nancy McClelland, a very talented and prominent designer whose name has been somewhat forgotten through time. That rather rotund fountain, the shell above the door, and the stylized tree were all made from mirror mosaic. This is really pretty fantastic. Gaudy? A bit. Do I want it on my balcony? No. But can you just imagine how this outdoor ballroom looked at night with guests attired in dinner jackets and satin bias-cut gowns, champagne coupes in hand, dancing among the mirrored decorations? Now tell me, when have you seen anyone go to this much trouble lately to do something different?

OK, so this example above might be more to your taste. A bedroom in Paris c. 1936 in which the door and window frames, the radiator covers, and tables were covered in mirror. I'm not so crazy about the commodes (or are they the radiator covers?) with the strips of mirror on them, but that door...perfection. That was some glamorous architecture!

And finally, a dining room from 1941. The mirrored fluted pilasters framed panes of mirror. The diamond inset behind the clock was a nice touch.

If mirroring walls, doors, and radiator covers seems a bit complicated, you could always buy a mirrored screen like the one at top, available from
David Duncan Antiques. It's obviously not the type of mirror in which to preen, but it looks pretty smashing nonetheless.


  1. There's a building in Baltimore that's covered in mirrored mosaics. Amazing. Here.

  2. And this is why Peak of Chic is my favorite blog. Even on a cloudy Monday morning, your offerings of a mirrored door with an inset fountain, a mirrored OUTDOOR ballroom, and mirrored pilasters, make one pause and wish people were more adventurous, or at least more creative with their interiors. As the venerable Diana Vreeland said - " Why not?"

  3. Mirrored Screens make all rooms sing. Thanks for all of the bling.

  4. I am also a mirror-fan! In my house I have about 15 mirrors, going from the bathroom mirror till the little mirror on the wall sconce!

    Great post!


  5. Great post, I love the old photographs! Do you know a good source that stocks antiqued mirror 12x12 tiles?

    The Architectural Antique Review

  6. A door with a FOUNTAIN!?! How novel. I'm hugely in favor of mirrors too, as well as all things that sparkle and reflect light, although preferably through dust and wear.

    Have you seen Franz von Stuck's reception room ? He has an entire wall covered in battered, hazy tiled mirrors that reflect soft metallic's glorious.

  7. I love the sheen and shine of mirrors. I have them in every room and when I get a few other projects completed, I'll tackle the kitchen. It's not over large, longer than wide, with only one window and I intend to panel the room with sheet mirror. I have been saying this for years and all I get is the eyeball roll. Someday soon, windex will become my BFF!

  8. We love using mirrored planters for our orchids and World's Away make some really pretty ones.

  9. A friend of mine sent a link to your blog to me since my company does antique ornamental mirrors and she thought I'd enjoy reading it. What a beautiful post...and I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your blog as well. In case you'd like to take a peek at our mirrors, here's the link:
    BTW, I also thought the diamond inset was a nice touch. :)