Taking a Shine to Mirrors

By Karen Parr-Moody


Before my dear grandmother passed away, she said she wanted me to have an Eastlake pier mirror that was in her formal living room. As a child I thought it was a glamorous piece; on the white marble shelf were a few whatnots, adding to the illusion.


Now that I know a bit about Eastlake and mirrors, I realize that this piece would have been perfect for buttoning one’s coat and checking that one’s skirts were hanging properly during the Victorian Era. And, like all mirrors, it does more: Mirrors reflect light, give rooms some sparkle and create the illusion of more space.


Mirrors were once simply highly polished pieces of metal. The modern mirror was born in 1835 when a German chemist, Justus von Liebig, invented a chemical process by which he coated a glass surface with metallic silver.


Today, mirrors’ uses go far beyond practical. A mirror such as the powder blue version in the photo, above right, is a great example of a dramatic mirror ($87; Booth B-150). With the ornate scrolling and the pastel tone, it would fit into a variety of decors, from transitional to shabby chic to cottage style. The best thing about this pretty shade is that it is soothing.   


During the Civil War, various companies made wall sconces, such as the ones in the photo, left ($595; Booth T-101). These were first designed to hold wax candles, but many were later reworked for electricity following the invention of the first practical incandescent light bulb in 1879. These double-arm sconces have beveled mirrors, a dolphin motif at the top and intricate brass work throughout. They would certainly bring elegance to a home’s front door if placed in a front entryway or foyer.


There is a special kind of glamour about Asian motifs, and when combined with a mirror, it just gets amped up. In the photo, right, is a Chinese silver leaf mirror from the 1950s, early 1960s that is charmingly painted with original scenes on it ($300; S-104). 


For the decorator who wants to mix some whimsy with glamour, the  number at left fits the bill ($115; Booth B-106). It is made decadent by the presence of acanthus leaves and fabulous scrolls. Tempering the glamour with whimsy, there is an angelic face at the top of the mirror and a rather menacing face at the bottom. This ornate beauty would add sparkle to any room, but I think it would be a fun piece in a bedroom.


This sweet dresser mirror in the photo, right, is a Victorian era find ($65; T-286). The gilding and pink enamel simply make it perfect for a vanity dresser in a woman’s bedroom.


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. And shoppers at GasLamp and GasLamp Too are sure to find a world of mirrors just waiting to reflect some beauty into their homes.






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