By Karen Parr-Moody
Glamorous mirrors bring chic sparkle to any room, which is why so many decorators fill homes with them, whether they are practical or not.
One such decorator, the popular Miles Redd of New York City, recently came to Middle Tennessee for the 2012 Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville. He spoke to a packed audience of fashionable guests, listing inspirations that ranged from English country houses to 1950s fashion photography.
One of the guests posed the question, “Why are you so enchanted by mirrors?”
He jokingly replied, “You mean why am I a magpie?”
It seems the fashionable Redd he has yet to meet a mirror he didn’t love. He created a wonder of wonders in his New York townhouse when he imported, in its entirety, a David Adler mirrored bathroom that was originally created in 1931 for a Chicago mansion.
Redd has also used every form of mirror, from grand Venetian versions to the classic bull’s-eye style (seen in one of his finished rooms in the photo, above right). He has even created mirrored backsplashes and countertops. He loves mirrors because they reflect light, give rooms some sparkle and create the illusion of more space.
Taking a page out of Redd’s book, shoppers at GasLamp will find a world of mirrors just waiting to reflect some beauty in their homes.
The story of the mirror dates to those fabled glassmakers of to 16th-century Venice. They created a technique in which glass was lined with a thin metal sheet of amalgam and tin. So, in reality, their “mirrors” were highly polished pieces of metal. The modern mirror owes its creation to a German chemist, Justus von Liebig. In 1835 he invented a chemical process by which he coated a glass surface with metallic silver.
A mirror currently favored by decorators, including Redd, is the classic convex bull’s-eye, as seen in GasLamp’s foyer (photo, left; $125; Booth B-138). Its creation dates to Europe of the 17th and 18th centuries. In England, it was referred to as Regency style and in France it was called Empire style. But in America, this mirror was an outgrowth of both styles and was called American Federal style. These mirrors differed from the European styles mostly due to an emphasis on patriotic symbols.For example, note that this mirror has 13 ball shapes on its frame. These are symbolic representations of the 13 original American colonies. Some mirrors had this symbolism represented by feathers or stars.
In the photo, right, is yet another bull’s-eye mirror done in the American Federal style ($149, Booth B-2011). While it dates to March 5, 1937, it obviously has a modern update in that it has been finished in a flat purple latex paint. While it will give any room a graphic punch, it still hearkens to America’s early roots with its classic form. It is crested by what was considered our country’s symbol, the American eagle (although older European mirrors were often topped with eagles, as well, that were styled in various poses).
For the decorator going for all-out glamour, the baroque number at left fits the bill ($115; Booth B-106). Its carved crest is made decadent by the presence of floral sprays and fabulous scrolls. And upping the glamour ante is an etched detail of vines and flowers at the top of the mirror. This ornate beauty would add sparkle to any dining room or hallway. One could even improve a powder room by adding it to the décor.
During the Civil War, various companies made wall sconces, such as the one in the photo, right, which is one of a pair ($215; Booth B-106). These were first designed to hold wax candles but were later reworked for electricity following the invention of the first practical incandescent light bulbin 1879. This double-arm sconce has beveled mirrors, a dolphin motif at the top and intricate brass work throughout. The pair would certainly bring elegance to a home’s front door if placed in a front entryway or foyer.
There is no pierced and scrolled perimeter with this simple Gothic mirror, left, but rather solid, unadorned wood ($275; S-544). This mirror is actually the refurbishment of a church window done in the Gothic style, with the symbolism of the compartments representing the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Art fans will remember a window of this exact style that was featured in the famous American painting “American Gothic” by Grant Wood.
Adding a mirror to a room is a bargain when one accounts for the style mileage they provide. Whether simple or ornate, a mirror can easily transforms a space from drab to dazzling.