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How To Transform Your Home With A Well

Jun 12, 2023

By Jermaine Gallacher

There are no fewer than 15 mirrors in my tiny one-bedroom flat in south London. In fact, I just caught sight of myself in one of them looking a little like the ghost of Queen Elizabeth – the first Elizabeth, I hasten to add – and I shrieked.

By Jermaine Gallacher

Some might read that and call me vain, while others would say it means I know a thing or two about interior design. Both, I think, would have a point. A mirror should be more than the surface we pass by for a fleeting moment once or twice a day to check ourselves out or take a selfie. They are, in fact, the seasoned decorator's greatest conspiracy, transforming small, light-starved spaces into seemingly bright and glamorous rooms. Frankly, the trickery of a mirror knows no bounds – and with the new year upon us, and plenty of dark winter months looming ahead – what better time could there be to add a few more of these vignettes of intrigue to your own walls?

They say that looks can be deceiving, but in this case, that's exactly what we’re after. When it comes to decorating with mirrors, it's all about this sleight of hand. Placing a mirror opposite a window to invite in more natural light? Sure, it's the oldest trick in the book – in fact, you’ve probably read about it in every interior design book ever written. But even if it does sound glaringly obvious, believe me, it really works.

And personally, I think it works best when you mount a piece of glass in an alcove, or insert it into a piece of wall-mounted furniture, like a cardboard door panel or dresser shelf. I did exactly this in my hallway bookcase, which faces my bedroom window, opting for classic, mirror-backed glass before having it cut to fit precisely in between the two tallest shelves. Mirrored glass can be cut to any size, shape, and finish at any good glazers – I find builder's merchant glazers are the best, the least expensive, and always willing to haggle – and the end result throws a ton of light back into what would otherwise be a dark, dingy basement hallway.

If it's a real eyeful you’re after with mirrors, though, bedrooms are the ideal place to get creative – in more ways than one. Yes, some people really do it with mirrors. I draw the line at mirrored ceilings and headboards, as nobody needs to see that much. But a well-hung (so to speak) collection of mirrors on a bedroom wall can punctuate the space, adding a touch of mysterious possibility to any beneath-the-sheets encounter.

By Alice Cary

By Emma Spedding

By Emma Spedding

If you want to use multiple mirrors in the bedroom, try to stick to an overarching rule. All the mirrors should have wooden frames, for example, or they should all be round. As a rule of thumb, I detest rules – but in this instance, I feel sticking to one will save your bedroom from looking like a twee brothel. Always keep the reflections in mind: hang them facing a favourite painting, perhaps, to catch a glimpse as you walk by, or even opposite another mirror to create a fantastic trompe-l’œil effect. Bedrooms are also the perfect spot to introduce a cheeky piece of more modest mirrored furniture, like a tiny console or bedside table. (Sticking a piece of mirror on something you already have will do the trick: I once had an entirely mirrored armchair next to my bed, which was a lot of fun.)

Sitting rooms are more of a public affair, and so – in my humble opinion – require a slightly more refined approach. Although refined needn't mean broke or being a bore, heaven forbid. If anything, the sitting room should be the space in which you can show off your eye for an unexpected mirror frame: think about it as a sculptural work of art that can become a focal point in and of itself. For that, I’ve picked up plenty of gems over the years at flea markets and second-hand shops – here, always look out for the weird and wonderful. Try and look out for dealers who actually specialise in frames and mirrors, and remember to always check the backs of frames for any damage, rot, or woodworm. (I have to say I’m especially partial to a so-bad-it's-good ’90s sunburst.)

If you’re still struggling to find something you like – well, why not make your own? I once made a frame entirely out of cardboard, inspired by the "tramp" American folk art woodworking tradition. I cut the rectangle frame out then built up the frame with hand-cut triangles in varying sizes, painted it orange, and stuck it to a beautiful Art Deco bevelled edge mirror. To be quite honest, it's probably ended up being the most refined thing in my front room.

By Jermaine Gallacher

And my final piece of advice when it comes to mirrors? Remember to always think about scale. There's nothing worse than an overbearing, arrogant mirror screaming out for attention. Save that for the reflection.

By Hayley Maitland