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Mirror, Mirror, creating the illusion of additional space in your home


Published: 09/18/2012

by Kimberley Seldon

 In the search to expand the sense of space in an interior, mirrors are the designer's most powerful collaborators. Creating the illusion of additional space where none exists, amplifying available sunlight, and visually improving a room's structural proportions are a few of the tricks mirrors perform so well.

The conscientious placement of even the simplest mirror rewards the homeowner in duplicate. Here are some design tips to reflect on.

Architectural emphasis

When mirrors are relied on for architectural emphasis, the rewards can be staggering. Consider a space that many of us have in common -- the long, narrow hallway. Typically, the proportions are less than appealing in this bowling-alley-thoroughfare. Often, there is very little sunlight available and if your hallway just happens to be your entranceway (as it is in my house), it doesn't offer a very favourable first impression.

In this case there are several ways mirror can assist. One idea is to mirror the length of the hallway. This can be very effective, especially if the mirror is opposite some natural daylight. Doing this will immediately improve the room's narrow proportions (at least visually) and it will draw more sunlight into the space.

To amplify the illusion you are creating, manipulate your flooring where it meets the mirrored wall. For example, if you have tile flooring, use only half a tile adjacent to the mirrored wall and you will enjoy the illusion of a full tile thanks to its mirror image. Likewise, a chandelier or lantern suddenly becomes an attention-worthy pair.

Let's say you have a favourite pair of bookcases or decorative niches opposite your fireplace. Mirrors flanking the mantel will provide a duplicate image of bookcases neighbouring the fireplace. In this case, the mirrors generate symmetry, which contributes to a feeling of graciousness within an interior.

If you have two windows near to one another, it is always more gracious to link the two windows together through a single drapery treatment. By adding a mirror to the vertical strip between the windows, you increase the illusion that the windows are a continuous series, maximizing sunlight by day and adding sheen and sparkle by night.

When you are working with large sheets of mirrored glass, you will have to consider the placement of seams. In some cases, the mirror you have in mind will be so large it will not fit thorough a door or up the stairs. In that event you need to install the mirror in sections, thus creating seams or breaks.

Never place a seam dead centre in a wall. It is far better to create three seams -- two smaller side panels of mirror and one larger centre panel. Often this will work to your benefit by adding a pattern to the expanse of wall.

Mirrors as decorative accents

Since there are an immense variety of mirrors available, finding several to enhance your interior should be an easy and enjoyable task.

One of my favourite styles is the bull's-eye mirror or convex mirror. These were tremendously popular in the late 18th century and are prized for the wide and winsome view they provide of a room. Some say servants waiting at table favoured them in order to discreetly check on the progress of dinner. Convex or bull's-eye mirrors have a magical way of reflecting the activity in a room and are particularly effective near crystal chandeliers or candlelight.

Leaning a large mirror against a wall, rather than hanging it, is a romantic gesture that's grown in popularity in recent years. I've seen this used with great flair in virtually every style of home, in every room of the house (and even in the garden) and, in every country I've visited. If you would like to copy this idea, make sure you choose a mirror that is very large in scale. It should be nearly as tall as your ceiling to be effective. One word of caution: Because the mirrors tilt upward, make sure the ceiling is worthy of reflection.

On the opposite side of that, consider angling a mirror downward above a fireplace. This gives the room a unique perspective and puts the focus on the floor rather than the ceiling. This is a particular favourite in rooms with high ceilings. Hang the mirror as required, then add a wood block behind the frame at the top of the mirror, forcing it to angle downwards.

Thankfully, mirrors open up a world of unrealized space. That's something to reflect on when you're decorating.

Kimberley Seldon is a Toronto-based designer, writer and host of HGTV's Design for Living With Kimberley Seldon. For more information, visit


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