Using mirrors to improve an interior space
Nowadays there are a wide range of mirror styles available. They can be relatively cheap to acquire, and there are many methods to install them. Apart from their practical use, mirrors can enhance a room and add a decorative element in both domestic and commercial spaces.
In this guide, we look at ways mirrors can improve interior spaces. We also briefly look at what you should consider when choosing mirrors, installation options, measuring and site surveys.
Above: Mirror squares used to create a feature wall, measuring and installation by Prism Glass
Improving an interior space with mirrors
Mirrors can improve small, dark and dull rooms. Here are a few ways improvements can be made:
Make a room look bigger
If you have a room that is small or feels cramped, you could try installing mirrors to create a sense of space. A larger mirror will work better, a tall mirror (floor to ceiling) can add depth. However, it's best to avoid using too many mirrors in one room. When planning the location of the mirror, think about where you want to place the mirror and what part of the room you want to reflect.
Bring the outdoors indoors
Another way to use mirrors is to place them opposite a window, especially if there is a beautiful garden or outside views that your mirror can reflect. This will help open up a space that has few windows and bring in more natural sunlight indoors.
Add more light to a dull space
If you feel your room or area looks dark and cold, mirrors could help brighten up a room up. Not only can mirrors be used to reflect natural light from an external window, but they can also be placed near other light sources to brighten up a room. Avoid placing mirrors too close to a strong bright light source such as exposed light bulbs or positioning them in a way that could be glaring.
Above: Mirrors squares to cover a wall, measuring and installation by Prism Glass
Add a decorative feature
Mirrors can be used to create a decorative element in an interior space as a stand-alone or as a collection of mirrors. Mirror walls can also be effective, for example, using antique style mirrors squares to cover a wall, or using large mirrors as panelling (these can be framed or unframed).
Choosing the right mirror options
When planning a space, consider the room design as a whole to make sure the mirror style you choose will work with the design. Mirror styles and options vary; they can work in beautiful and ornate spaces as well as clean and contemporary areas. Also, think of any practical and safety requirements. It's worth shopping around and checking with specialists to see what mirror options could be best suited to your design needs and budget. Here are a few things you may want to consider:
Colours and styles
The most common mirrors are also referred to as mirrored glass or silvered mirrors - these are standard mirrors in traditional silver. Mirrors are also available in other tinted colours, the more common being bronze, grey and gold. Grey mirrors are sometimes referred to as smoked mirrors, as they have a darker reflection.
There are many antique mirror styles too, these are made to look old and aged. Antique mirrors can also be tinted. This style can be useful when creating feature walls, splash-backs or panelling. You may also want to consider low iron mirror options, although these will likely be more expensive. Low iron means there is less iron in the glass, reducing the green tint (particularly visible when looking at the edge of a glass panel).
Above: Antique style mirrors used to decorate a staircase, installation and measuring by Prism Glass
Edges, bevels and corners
Most mirrors are typically supplied with polished edges. However, you should always confirm this with your supplier, as clean-cut glass will be very sharp and have small cracks on the sides. These edges are dangerous if the mirror is not polished and the edges are left exposed.
You can also request to have a bevelled finish; this will provide an angle or slant towards the glass edges. Generally, you can decide how wide you want the bevel edge to be. This can give a mirror panel an interesting framed edge look. You can also specify rounded corners; your supplier may provide you with some radial size options. These additional finishes will increase costs and likely impact delivery turn around times.
Safety and protection
Most mirrors are made using a reflective metal compound, usually containing aluminium. Processes do vary. For example, a liquid metal compound can be sprayed, or it can be heated and bonded in a vacuum to one side of a clear glass surface. This surface is sealed and coated to protect it.
Mainly float glass is used to make mirrors; this means specific mirror sizes can be cut out from larger sheets. Float glass when broken will shatter into large, sharp edge shards. For added protection, you could request a foil backing, a safety backing or a combination of both. Foil backing helps protect a mirror from moisture (making it ideal for bathrooms), salt and sometimes the adhesive use to fix it to a wall. Safety backing gives a mirror additional strength if it's broken. This helps prevent potentially dangerous shards from falling, ideal for areas such as gyms, dance studios and changing rooms.
There are other options, including toughened mirror glass. Toughened glass is stronger than float glass, and when broken, it breaks into small chunks or bits of glass, as opposed large sharp shards of glass (for more information see: What is the difference between Float Glass, Toughened Glass and Laminate Glass?). It also has a higher heat threshold making it ideal as a splash-back. We recommend talking to your supplier about any safety requirements and concerns you may have.
Mirror installation options
There are many mirror installation options; for this guide, we look at the three most popular options:
Fixing a mirror using mirror adhesive is usually the most cost-effective and straightforward option. No drilling or frames or fixings are required, although the mirror usually is supported in position while the mirror adhesive dries.
Above: Mirror fixed to wall using mirror adhesive within a frame, installation by Prism Glass
There is a wide range of mirror fixings available; these require drilling into the wall where the mirror will be installed and depending on the fixings holes may be required in the mirror. Screws, plugs and fixings used may depend on the wall type and; size and weight of the mirror.
Mirrors can be fixed using J-shaped channels. These channels are used at the bottom and the top of the mirror. The top channel has a deeper pocket to allow the mirror to slide in during installation. Alternatively, J-clips or mirror edge clips can be used at the top of the panel. This option requires drilling and maybe better suited for long runs of mirror glass.
Measuring and site surveys
Once you have an idea of what you want, you should view physical samples. Viewing printed or screen images of mirrors, frames and finishes (especially if non-standard) will not be as accurate as the real thing. If possible, you may even want to take some samples to the site to ensure it's right for your space. Also keep in mind some mirror options and finishes may have longer lead and supply times, always check with your supplier before ordering.
Measuring mirrors can be complicated, especially when notches and cutouts are needed (this can be due to plug points, light switches, etc.), or when the walls are not straight and angled, or slanted edges are required. An experienced surveyor should be used. It's also essential the site access areas, and walkways are checked for safety reasons before delivery, principally if large-size panels are to be handled.
Above: Gold tinted mirror with a cutout for a plug point, measuring and install by Prism Glass.
We, at Prism Glass Ltd., have measured, supplied and installed many mirrors for large residential projects, blocks and complexes, as well as commercial spaces. If you need assistance with a mirror project or if you need help with any other type glass of installation projects, please contact us for a free quote. For a full list of our services, please see our services page or visit our projects page to see our work.
About the author:
Paulo Ferreira is a guest writer. He has extensive experience in project management, marketing and design. He worked for Prism Glass for nearly two years, managing glass installation projects and day to day operations.