Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

The Best Ways to Use Mirrors in Your Home

Suggestions from design pros on where to find mirrors and where to put them to get the most sparkle.

The Washington Post

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

A stylish sitting room with a round mirror hanging over the fireplace

izusek/Getty Images

Nothing beats a mirror for refreshing a space or adding sparkle, which is why mirrors of all shapes and sizes are a staple of decorating. They can be a focal point of a room, up the glamour factor, or be strategically placed to make a space feel larger, brighter or more modern. 

“I am always team mirror,” says New York-based designer Mikel Welch, who has appeared on the show “Trading Spaces.” “In an urban dwelling with smaller spaces, we are always into mirrors to give the optical illusion of making things look larger.”

Washington-area designer Marika Meyer agrees. “Changing out a mirror can be a fun way to mix up a space,” she says.

But many people — including first-time home buyers and those looking to upgrade from the cutesy piece they bought at T.J. Maxx in the early 2010s — aren’t sure where to start. Here are tips from Welch, Meyer and other design pros about where to look for mirrors, where to place them and how to maximize their effect.

Getting started

Focus on the shape and the frame when shopping. Popular frame materials include metal, wood, plaster and leather. Then find a retailer that fits your budget. The four designers we spoke with for this article suggested CB2, RH, Serena & Lily, Crate & Barrel, West Elm and Wayfair as good sources.

“A great budget-friendly mirror source is HomeGoods,” Meyer says. “I have a round one in our office that I bought there years ago for $20. World Market is another great option.”

New mirrors can be big-ticket, budget-busting items. Designers recommend flea markets, thrift shops and local auctions as sources for vintage mirrors. Keep an eye out for old frames with character that can easily be fitted at a local glass shop to create a statement piece.

Meyer picked up a frame for $10 at the Big Flea Market in Chantilly, Va., and spray-painted it white, then had a mirror cut to fit. “It hangs in my powder room and looks great against the metallic wallpaper,” she says. Go to frame shops, Meyer says, because they often have discarded frames they might be willing to give away.

Chicago designer Tom Stringer likes 1stDibs for vintage mirrors. He also recommends attending estate sales, where, he says, you can find high-quality pieces at good prices. “Chunky vintage picture frames are ideal for reuse as mirror frames,” he says.

Where to hang them

In terms of placement, Stringer says he likes to position mirrors where they will magnify the light in a room. “They bounce light into dark corners,” he says. “I often use them as illusionary windows.”

Designer Nick Olsen agrees. “It’s a cliche, but it’s true. The best selfie lighting in my Upstate New York house is the spot where I hung a mirror between two windows.” Put a mirror opposite a window, he says, to grab the light and make the room brighter and to create a greater sense of space.

Be mindful of how high you hang them. Meyer’s go-to formula is four to eight inches above the furniture or architectural feature below it. “I usually start at four inches and then move upward,” Meyer says. If your ceilings are particularly high, you can hang it higher. But the mirror should relate to what’s below it, she says. “I generally do not go further than eight inches off that surface, so we do not create an awkward naked gap between the mirror and the furniture or mantel.”

Over a fireplace. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, don’t just nail up any old mirror you have lying around. Nobody is looking into a mirror that high up, Meyer says; it’s a focal point of a major room. She suggests looking for “a frame that feels artful or a shape that is unique.” She likes the look of round mirrors over a fireplace, “since it breaks up all of the horizontal elements,” but says rectangles also can work. She’s not a fan of using square mirrors in this spot, because it’s a bit too close to replicating the opening of the firebox.

She particularly likes the shape and details of CB2’s 36-inch round Caraway bone inlay wall mirror ($399, cb2.com).

Entryways and hallways. Stringer says you need a mirror in the entryway.

Welch says people often neglect hallways — both upstairs and down — as well as entryways. “Naturally, people gravitate toward focal-point walls,” he says, but “I am a fan of looking at slender spaces that don’t get as much love.” He suggests placing a mirror above an entryway bench. He likes the look of Wayfair’s round beveled accent mirror by Kelly Clarkson Home ($137.99, wayfair.com). “It makes the entry look larger,” Welch says.

The dining room. Positioning mirrors opposite windows in a dining room will allow them to reflect natural light. A mirror centered over a credenza or buffet can also catch the glow from lighting fixtures and candles at a dinner party, adding to the ambiance.

Stringer says installing dining room mirrors harks back to classic French bistro banquette seating surrounded by walls of mirror panels. “If you are the person who gets stuck looking at the wall, you can still see what is going on in the room,” Stringer says. “You don’t feel like you got the bad seat.”

On a gallery wall. Mirrors in interesting frames or picture frames are great mix-ins for gallery walls. “Don’t be afraid to step outside of pictures,” Welch says. “Try using 70 percent artwork and 30 percent mirrors on the wall.” He advises mixing it up and not putting mirrors next to one another. Cut craft paper into the sizes of the art and mirrors, then tape them to the wall, he says. “This will allow you to play with various configurations before putting numerous holes on the wall.”

Olsen’s advice: Avoid installing a mirror in a chrome, nickel or plain black frame that looks more suited to a bathroom than a gallery-wall setting. “This is not the place for utilitarianism,” he says. “These don’t add any oomph to a gallery wall.”

Stringer likes to use frames that have a classic look. “I look for strong profiles in black, quality gold leaf (not gold paint), and simple frames in walnut and mahogany,” he says.

Beside the bed. Meyer’s bedroom in her 1940s house includes a smart designer trick. She bought an old frame, added a mirror to it and hung it behind the lamp next to her bed, which is near a window. “It adds light and fills out a negative space without adding too much detail,” she says.

Olsen likes the balance and glint of a pair of mirrors hung over nightstands with table lamps on them on either side of a bed. “At night, these mirrors bring an extra reflection into the room,” Olsen says. “The symmetry is also good for feng shui, I’m told.”

Jura Koncius covers interiors and lifestyle for the Washington Post. Her White House coverage has chronicled historical renovations and State Dinner style. She covers the decluttering movement from Marie Kondo to Swedish death cleaning. For 20 years, she has hosted a weekly home and design Q&A. She won the 2022 Washington Post Eugene Meyer Award.

How was it? Save stories you love and never lose them.

Logo for The Washington Post

This post originally appeared on The Washington Post and was published February 10, 2022. This article is republished here with permission.

Read The Washington Post’s Daily Briefing

Get The Post Most