Monday, April 25, 2011

Reflections on Corners

Corners of rooms can, at times, be tricky. Depending on the layout of the room and the furniture placement, one can end up with dead space in the corner. It's kind of like an awkward silence in a room.

It's an issue that I'm currently dealing with in my study. On one of the long walls, there is a sofa, and against the adjoining wall, there is a sliding glass door and enough wall space for a small chest. The result is that the corner looks empty and boxed in. Screens can be a great option for hiding desolate corners, but unfortunately there just isn't enough space for one in my study. I think that I found the answer to my particular problem. I plan to display a tall painting, one done by my sister, on an easel in the corner. Now the only glitch is finding a decent looking easel that goes with the rest of the room, but that's an issue for another post.

I suppose that because this design challenge has been on my mind lately, I've become attuned to how others have dealt with corners. And one of the more interesting solutions that I've seen is the use of mirror to obscure the corners altogether. The most common approach to mirror is to sheath entire walls in it. In the photo at top, designer Louis Tregre mirrored chimney breast and wall in squares of mirror and extended it to window. It worked well because it minimized the jogs of the chimney breast, niche, and support column, making the wall seem a bit more uniform.

I am absolutely smitten with this image of an apartment decorated by the late David Barrett. Barrett mirrored an awkward corner, then extended the reflective surface by placing a mirrored screen next to the mirrored corner. And if that wasn't enough, he used a mirrored cube table and a mirrored pedestal in this corner as well.

The late T. Gordon Little mirrored the support column in the corner of his Plaza Towers living room. To be honest, I don't think that the mirror really does an effective job at hiding the column (and perhaps that wasn't Little's objective), but I do like the way it looks. The mirror added some shimmer to what could have been a clunky corner.

A more restrained use of mirror is seen here in the London flat of Walter Lees. At first it seems a little odd to use two slivers of mirror to decorate a corner, but here, I think it worked. If Lees had not balanced out the mirror with drawings and sofas on either side, the mirrored corner might have seemed too forced and obvious.

Tregre and Barrett images from House Beautiful, January 1971. Little image from Southern Accents, Winter 1977.


  1. Mr Little may have indeed thought that mirroring the structural column would make it disappear. But he was also probably familiar with the practice of mirroring the thickness of walls at window openings to bring light into the room. Having a window on just one wall of a room is a deficiency that is eased with a clever use of mirror. (The Devoted Classicist is not convinced of the success of strips of mirror in a corner however).

  2. I love the covering of the support column in mirror-it gives the structure intentionality and purpose, rather than being an architectural encumbrance. Super post-I, too, have hung up regarding what to do with seemingly dead space.

  3. yes - corners! I have an awkward corner in my apartment that I put a 1-off dining chair I got that I loved at an auction and piled it high with books and a houseplant as it's up aginst a window. Always a problem. Love the mirror -you can never have too much (except directly facing you in a dining room - thats nerve-wracking!)

  4. Anonymous12:47 PM

    I hope you do a series on negative corners as I have a very difficult one in my living room. Because of the furniture placement the room is left looking a third less large than its real size. While mirrors would not solve my problem, I hope that in your quest to solve yours, you will devote another post to some design solutions. The only answer I seem to get from my designer is "it's fine, the eye needs a place to rest", REALLY?

  5. Anon- I'll start formulating my thoughts on a post. Eyes do need a place to rest, but not in an awkward corner. I really think that you have to put something in it. Only question is, what?