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Mirrors: Bending Light and Bending Space

As innocuous as they are nowadays, mirrors have long been a source of fascination. From reflecting pools to looking glasses that lead us to strange worlds of whimsical opposites, mirrors are everywhere. Maybe it’s the magic they make with light or their power to throw our own images back at us, but mirrors are inextricably tied up with our mythos. You’d be hard pressed to find a household that doesn’t have at least one. Beyond their practical uses, there are plenty of ways to incorporate mirrors into your decor. With a little thought and creativity, mirrors can do much more than just identify the fairest of them all.

A Common Image 

Putting aside decorating choices for a moment, I really recommend investing in a simple but high-quality mirror. Cheaper mirrors can easily become warped, and the ones that come built into houses (in bathrooms, for instance) are often not anywhere with decent light. I spent a semester in college fighting three other people for a narrow strip of glass with almost funhouse proportions, hung in a bathroom with lighting that made me look like a horror movie extra. Never again. A nice mirror is definitely worth the money and wall space.

Reflective Expression 

Of course, once you know you’ve got a decent place to check your hair, you can start thinking about the other applications of mirrors–such as their value as art. There are a vast number of home accents that double as mirrors, or at least incorporate some kind of reflective surface. Like this starburst up above, they can become quite ornate. You wouldn’t want too many of these, but as the centerpiece to a living room or front entrance, it would work great. Whether your taste is baroque or utilitarian, you’ll be able to find something that works.

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Patterns in Light

There are lots of ornate mirror frames out there, but you don’t necessarily need fancy art pieces in order to do something cool with mirrors! A few small mirrors, or several of different sizes, can be used to very stylish effect just about anywhere. It’s a very do-it-yourself approach to decor, for somewhere you don’t want one huge piece to dominate. My favorite go-to place for this is on a staircases or in a hallway, so guests catch tiny glimpses of themselves as they move through the house.

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Objects are Closer than they Appear 

Objects in front of mirrors is a tried and true illusion. (By Tucker and Marks)
Objects in front of mirrors is a tried and true illusion. (By Tucker and Marks)

Beyond being great accents in and of themselves, mirrors are by their very nature a huge weapon in your interior design arsenal–they open up space. A well-placed mirror can make a room seem twice as big, enlivening cramped spaces and brightening up dark ones. Just make sure you’re strategic about where you place them–your guests probably don’t want to spend their whole evening staring at a reflection of themselves from the couch.

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A Trick of the Light 

Use mirrors to create an otherworldly space. (By Alysson Ross Markley)
Use mirrors to create an otherworldly space. (By Alysson Ross Markley)

There is really no limit to how you can incorporate mirrors into your decor. Like a nineteenth century stage magician, you can use them for all sorts of visual tricks. Up above is one of my favorites–a looking glass in the garden opening up a hidden, slightly eerie space. These “secret doors” are especially effective in small, enclosed gardens. A well-placed mirror can also widen halls, or seem to make objects float; a sink with a mirrored base will look like it’s defying gravity.

Mirrors are a great investment, hands down. They’re easy to find, easy to hang, and require very little maintenance beyond a little windex now and again. Instead of cluttering up a room they open it, and the number of tricks they can perform is only limited to your imagination.

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