Through the looking glass: Mirrors might be your secret weapon for decorating

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In this recent kitchen remodel, designer Alana Woerpel couldn’t move the location of the plumbing (and thus the sink), so she used a mirror to simulate a window. “It opened up the room by reflecting the view of the patio through the opposing picture window,” she says. Photo: Andrea Hubbell In this recent kitchen remodel, designer Alana Woerpel couldn’t move the location of the plumbing (and thus the sink), so she used a mirror to simulate a window. “It opened up the room by reflecting the view of the patio through the opposing picture window,” she says. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

There’s a mythical element to mirrors, says interior designer Alana Woerpel, that’s very intriguing. “Some cultures believe that mirrors hold powers over our souls. Hence, a vampire without a soul has no reflection,” she says. “The queen in Snow White had a magic mirror. Alice fell into an alternate world beyond the looking glass. It’s fun to imagine that the mirror on my wall might hold a little bit of magic, too.”

Indeed it does—decorating magic, that is. Mirrors can help make spaces bigger, bounce light around the room and fulfill a need for art on the wall.

“Mirrors are easily one of the handiest tools in decorating,” Woerpel says. “A large and beautiful old mirror is usually less expensive than original art of similar size—and can fill a vast empty wall gorgeously and economically.”

The Alana’s, Ltd. owner prefers mirrors with interesting frames and antiqued glass (“You can get a hint of the reality without the sharp details,” she says), but notes that you don’t have to spend a lot to get an impactful result. Thrift stores are a good place to look for inexpensive options, and online retailers like Restoration Hardware and Ballard Designs are helpful resources, too. And Woerpel says, for specific needs, there’s always custom. Recently, she had a mirror cut to hang over the sink in her son’s bathroom.

“I installed a stainless steel barn door-style track up at the ceiling and screwed the rollers to the top of the mirror’s frame,” she says. “The mirror matches the size of the window and can slide back and forth, functioning to block the window for privacy or moving aside to let in the daylight.”

Woerpel says the best place for a mirror is, well, almost any place.

“Without doubt mirrors are at their best when they are reflecting a gorgeous outdoor landscape,” she says. “But they can be magic in small spaces as well, expanding a room instantly.”

Tips for reflection

Round or sunburst-shaped mirrors work well above mantels or beds.

Convex mirrors are a playful way to distort the reflection. In some cases a small circular or convex mirror can feel like a peep-hole into another world.

Mirrors can help bounce light around a room, but don’t worry about placing them directly opposite the source of light; it will change from day to night in any room that gets natural sun. The light that bounces off a mirror depends greatly upon the age of the glass.

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