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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall … Please Expand My Space

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

As a realtor, I’m always conscious of creating the look of greater, more open space with my listings and in my own home. The most accommodating vehicle to accomplish this is through the strategic placement of mirrors.

When the wicked queen wanted verification of who was the fairest of all, she turned to her trusty mirror and, when it betrayed her, Snow White got the business.

Mirrors have always been about vanity, from the time Narcissus gazed into a still pond that reflected his beauty.

But in meeting the demands of homebuyers today, mirrors may be more important than ever as an affordable illusion of greater space.

As far back as 6,000 BC, mirrors were made simply by polishing stone, such as obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glass. Polished copper was used as early as 4,000 BC in Mesopotamia and Egypt and bronze mirrors were made in China from 2000 BC. Metal-coated glass mirrors are said to have been invented in modern day Lebanon in the first century AD, the same time that glass with a gold leaf backing was being made in Rome.

The mirror that most closely resembles what we use today, glass coated with a tin-mercury amalgam, was invented in Venice, the capital of mirror making for many centuries.

Until the mid-19th century, mirrors were a luxury item afforded only by the wealthy. With the invention in 1835 of the silvered-glass mirror by Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, mirrors became more affordable when the process was adapted for mass manufacturing.

Through the centuries, mirrors have held all sorts of curiosities and suspicions. For instance, in our country’s early days, particularly in the South, mirrors were covered in a house where a corpse was waked. The belief was that the soul of the dead would become trapped in a mirror left uncovered.

Mirrors falling from walls or cracking mysteriously were said to be haunted.  And feng shui believers have all sorts of fun placing mirrors to achieve good energy flow. As examples, they should never be placed directly across from the main entrance, and should be used sparingly in bedrooms if you expect to sleep.

For accessorizing, mirrors really come to play. When my wife and I operated an antiques shop, we would hunt for old frames and stick a mirror into them to get two to three times the price than for the frame alone.

While the most popular placement of decorative wall mirrors in the home is over a fireplace, one of my favorite decorating tricks is to create shelving with a mirrored back. This is particularly effective for displays of crystal, both cut and in natural shapes that look like sculpture. And, by placing live plants on the shelves, the greenery and flowers are doubled by their reflection in the mirror.

Let’s consider mirrors used on a larger scale. Since many of us as we age downsize our homes, we can make up the difference with the use of wall mirrors – or at least give that illusion. If a wall of mirrors is placed opposite the source of light, it appears that there’s twice the space and twice the brightness. Just look at what it did for Louis XIV’s Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

In checking with a local glass and mirror supplier, I learned that a typical eight-foot by 10-foot mirrored wall would cost between $1,400 and $1,600 to install. When asked if there were varying qualities of mirror, the supplier said that any mirrored wall would have essentially the same product, with a quarter-inch of glass. The variance in price is in the finishing edges. For polished edges. the price would be on the lower end while beveled edges are higher.

If we consider tricks for the illusion of larger space, what better device than mirrors?

Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is also a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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