Antique Mirrors in Interior Design

Mirrors have been used in interior design since the 17th century, but before then our ancestors used pools of waters to look at their reflection, thus creating the concept of the mirror. An object of vanity but often now used purely to enhance the light and space within a room. We explore some of the Antique Mirrors styles in this article.

Across the globe, people were finding ways to make mirrored surfaces out of all kinds of materials. Various records and studies show that the naturally occurring volcanic rock, obsidian were polished and used as mirrors in Turkey. Iraq and Egypt favoured polished copper to gaze at themselves, and South America used polished stone. Their Chinese and Indian counterparts favoured polished jade or bronze.

Mirrors weren't made in England until the 17th Century. In 1625, Sir Robert Mansell's glass house blew glass cylinders, split them open and laid them flat. You'll find early mirrors are small, because the process was so complex. It just wasn't possible to create larger glass pieces. Early antique mirrors may also have a warped appearance, slightly distorting the image seen in the glass. In 1835 a German chemist names Justus von Liebig developed a method for making the silvered glass mirror. He applied a thin layer of metallic silver to one side of a clear pane of glass, and the mass production of mirrors was now possible. Modern day mirrors are aluminium backed.

Antique mirrors and pictures

Mirrors have been subject to a few superstitions throughout the years - during medieval times, people believed that they were portals to other worlds and that the devil could be watching. They were often covered up at night. It's also believed that looking in mirrors too much leads to arrogance and gives power to evil spirits. It is an old Jewish custom that you should turn all mirrors or cover them in a house of mourning, to prevent a loved one's soul being trapped in the mirror when they have died.

Antique mirrors may have an amount of foxing, distressing or age spots on the glass. In our humble opinion, these age related marks are part and parcel of owning an antique mirror, and can only add to the charm of the piece. Of course, heavily foxed mirrors aren't always practical if you need to see clearly in them, but they are incredibly lovely pieces of art in their own right.

Antique cheval mirrors

Freestanding mirror, also known as an antique cheval mirror

Antique girandole mirrors

Antique Girandole mirror

Antique dressing table mirrors

Antique dressing table mirror

Antique cheval mirrors

Originally known as a dressing mirror, antique cheval mirrors were made for use in dressing rooms and bedrooms. These full length mirrors attached to a sturdy base, known as the cheval or horse, and made it possible to adjust or tilt  the mirror to view your appearance from head to toe. Made originally in the 1700s, they reached their peak in popularity during the 18th century. Antique cheval mirrors can range from being quite plain and simple, to being heavily carved with beautiful decorations. They make practical but elegant bedroom mirrors.

Antique girandole mirrors

A Girandole is an ornamental branched candlestick or chandelier often comprising several lights. Mirrors were made with girandoles attached, and the candlelight added to the amount of light being reflected back into a room. They often flanked a fireplace if they were made using convex glass. Beautifully ornate and gilded, they are certainly exuberant and luxurious in their appearance and add a real sense of grandeur to any space.

Antique dressing table mirrors

Swing mirrors, or toilet mirrors are similar to cheval mirrors with the tilting design, just on a smaller scale. A small mirror sitting in a frame on feet or plinth bases, they are the right size to be used on dressing tables, or placed on top of a chest of drawers. Some designs feature small drawers to store jewellery and  valuables. Antique dressing tables were a more common feature throughout the 18th Century and 19th Century and therefore there are many design dating from these eras.

Antique overmantle mirrors

Creating a statement above fireplaces, antique overmantle mirrors create a wealth of light and space reflecting back in to a room. Overmantle mirrors have been around in many different eras, and therefore are available in a wide variety of different shapes and styles. Gold gilded overmantle mirrors make wonderful statement pieces and add an air of luxury to a room. White painted wall mirrors are often used now in interior design as the French furniture styles have grown in popularity, and these sometimes contain gilding to accentuate curves and carvings..

Antique hand mirrors

A real object of vanity, but one that looks gorgeous on an antique dressing table. Extremely desirable in the Victorian era, no Victorian bedroom was complete without a small handheld mirror to carry out personal grooming. They are commonly part of a dressing table or vanity sets, which comprised a handheld mirror, a comb and a hairbrush. You can often find these mirrors set in wood, silver, brass and porcelain. They make thoughtful vintage gifts.

Antique frameless bevelled edge mirrors

You can get bevelled edge mirrors framed or frameless. Frameless bevelled edge mirrors are popular for use in current interior design as they offer an antique or vintage interior style. The beautiful edging frames the mirror, without it actually being placed in a frame. Nowadays, bevel edges are created using a machine, but antique bevel edge mirrors were usually created by hand using a pumice stone to create the slant.

antique mirrors

Whichever type of mirror you are looking for, they are an easy way to open up a room, by reflecting light back into it. Functional and stylish, they can be used to enhance a style, or to complement an eclectic decor where many interior styles are used. Many interior designers use groups of mirrors to create a gallery effect - this works especially well in hallways or on staircases to draw the eye upwards. Large mirrors can create a sense of depth in a small room, especially when placed opposite a window. Let your imagination and creativity run wild when using mirrors in your interior spaces. 

If you've purchased a mirror from us, we'd love to see them - send us an email for a chance to be featured on our Facebook page!

Kernow Furniture - online store based in Cornwall for vintage, retro & antique furniture, gifts & home accessories and quirky gifts.

We specialise in good quality 19th and 20th century furniture & have 100s of items for your home and garden in stock now. We regularly stock Ercol, G Plan, Ladderax, mid century, arts & crafts, antique pine, mahogany, solid oak, good quality vintage & antique furniture. We love vintage chairs!

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