Mirrors are not only for practical use--they add a focal point, architectural interest and drama to any room. But how to decide on the size, style and finish? Here are a few tips to make your decision easier:
MIRROR TYPES There are four main types of mirrors: Wood, composite resin, Venetian and metal. Wood frames are sturdy, but can be expensive if heavily carved. For that reason, composite resin is now very popular. Provided that the manufacturer changes the moulds frequently, composite resin frames have a high level of fine detailing. A well-made composite resin frame accepts a wide variety of finishes, from wood tones to high-gloss paints. Composite resin is also lighter than wood, and thus easier to hang. Venetian mirrors should be of screwed construction. Their wood backing expands and contracts with changes in humidity over the years. If the glass is glued to the wood, it can develop stress cracks or even pop off. An added benefit of screwed construction is that pieces can be replaced if they become damaged. Metal frames are available in a wide range of finishes and styles, from sleek stainless steel to weathered copper. They provide a unique decorative touch in variety of settings and add a nice constrast in rooms where there are many wood furnishings.
STYLE Do you want your mirror to blend with your decor, or do you prefer a contrast? A traditional mirror in a contemporary room or a contemporary mirror in a traditional room adds an eclectic touch that can liven up the design. If you prefer a more unified theme, choose a style that relates to the furnishings you already have. Look at the shape of the furnishings in the room. If they are mainly rectangles, a rectangular mirror frame is a good choice. If your furniture is curvy, an oval or round mirror will echo the curves.
SIZE We suggest that a mirror be approximately two-thirds the width of the object it hangs above. For example, if your fireplace mantle is 60 inches wide, the mirror hanging above it should be in the 45-50 inch range. Of course, mirror size is also influenced by the lighting or decorative objects around it. If you plan to use sconces, lamps or other light sources, leave enough "breathing room" so they don't crowd the mirror. Because it can be difficult to visualize the amount of actual space a mirror will occupy, we suggest using blue painter's masking tape to rough out the shape and size of different frames on your wall. It won't damage the wall finish, and will give you a clearer idea of how the mirror will look in proportion to the rest of your design. We also suggest that you choose the mirror BEFORE wiring for lighting. It gives you a greater range of options in frame size and style.
FINISH Again the question of finish relates to your decision to contrast or coordinate the frame with other furinishings or finishes. For example, in a bath you'll probably prefer to coordinate the frame finish with the fixtures. However, it doesn't have to be matchy-matchy--a mixed finish frame in silver and gold adds a kick to all-stainless fixtures. In a room with many wood-tone furnishings, adding a mirror frame in silver, gold or a painted finish adds visual interest. And clear-glass Venetian mirrors work almost anywhere. Finishes can also be changed. If you've found the perfect mirror, but it's only available in the wrong finish, pay a visit to your local craft or hardware store. Michael's Crafts, AC Moore, and many other stores carry a wide variety of finishes that can be applied with a rag, brush or fingers to change the finish to suit your needs.
INSTALLATION Are your walls sheetrock (drywall) or plaster? If they are sheetrock, we prefer an E-Z Toggle to a picture-frame hanging kit. An E-Z Toggle is a two-piece screw set. Mark the point on your wall where the mirror wire will go. Screw the E-Z Toggle base into the wall. When you insert the screw, small arms in the Toggle base will pop out and grab the back of the sheetrock. Leave the screw head sticking out just far enough to grab the wire on the back of the mirror. For plaster walls, use a molly screw. For marble, tile or other materials, it's worth the expenditure to hire a professional. A handyman or contractor is also strongly recommended when hanging a large mirror anywhere, to ensure that everything is properly anchored. Leaning mirrors are very popular, but need to be anchored in some way to the wall. Ask your hardware store salesperson for advice, or investigate child-proofing kits meant to anchor bookshelves to a wall. Just as the tethers prevent a bookcase from falling on a climbing toddler, they keep a leaning mirror upright.
In addition to their functional purposes, mirrors add light, glamour and interest to your decor. Let your imagination go--adding the right mirror can complete a room or totally change its mood, at a far lower cost than changing the sofa!