Improve Your Mirror Image
Mirror, mirror on the wall . . . Eleanor Flegg reflects on what's best for your hall
IN ancient times it was fervently believed that your reflection was an image of your soul. So if you broke a mirror while looking into it, your soul was also smashed.
That's one of the popular explanations behind that seven-years-bad-luck superstition. Another is that eighteenth-century mirrors were way too expensive to break.
Until quite recently, there were parts of Ireland where the mirror was covered when someone died in the house – to prevent the soul from getting trapped in the mirror. Spooky.
And magical mirrors are staples of storytelling from Snow White to Alice through the Looking Glass through Harry Potter (remember the Mirror of Erised?) through to the mirror prison of Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel, Coraline.
"Mirrors", says the book's young heroine, "are never to be trusted."
Funnily enough, a sense of mystery around mirrors has recently filtered through to interior design – which has in turn seen an explosion in new takes on the reflective.
"You have to be careful about where you hang a mirror," says the interior decorator Luigia Londi, "It's not just a matter of placing a bit of cardboard on the wall to get an idea of the size. Glass is a very powerful material and it can be deceiving."
Luigia Londi and her husband Marco Panfili, the owners of Collection by Panfili
Londi and her husband, Marco Panfili, are the owners of Collection by Panfili, an interior design outlet in Galway that sells mirrors made to their own designs in their Tuscany workshop (some people get the balance right!).
Fans of boutique hotels may have seen their work in the Sheraton in Athlone, the G Hotel in Galway, or the Twelve Hotel in Barna. They also do plenty of domestic work. "We provide a full home consultation service," Londi explains, "but most people just send us photographs of their rooms along with the dimensions, and we recommend the most appropriate mirror for that space."
Although their smaller (70 x 90cm) mirrors start around €100, most of their clients spend between €350 and €500 on an overmantle. Delivery and hanging is free of charge if you live in Galway, with a sliding scale of charges up to €100 for homes in Dublin.
A mirror from Dunnes Stores
The traditional arched overmantle, placed square above the fireplace, is still Ireland's mirror of choice. But we've all seen instances of a small mirror dwarfed within a heavily moulded frame, or a gigantic mirror that seems to topple from the wall above the fireplace.
"Choose a mirror that is narrower than the mantelpiece but wider than the heart of the fireplace," Londi recommends. In general, the centre of a mirror should be placed at eye level, like a picture frame. It is also important to consider the proportion of the frame to the glass inside it. "If you like a chunky frame, make sure that your room is big enough. You have to give a mirror room to breathe – otherwise it doesn't do justice to itself or anything around it," she says.
One way of maximising the reflective qualities of glass is to choose a "cushion mirror", where the central piece of glass is slightly raised and framed by a border of glass sides, angled away from the centre.
A mirror from Collection by Panfili
The hallway is also a popular place for mirrors, where they bring light and a sense of depth in what is often a dark and narrow space. This is good juju.
Mirrors have been called "the aspirin of feng shui" and placing one at the bottom of the stairs is meant to invite health, wealth and happiness. Bring it on!
There are also more immediate benefits. "It's good to have a mirror by the door so you can do a quick check before leaving the house," Londi says, "but another advantage is that you can have a bit more scope with the choice of mirror. There's often less furniture in the hall so there's not so much to compete with."
Arnotts SOUL Provence oval mirror
"Antique mirrors are great if you like looking at yourself in soft focus," says Gwen Kenny, interior designer of Divine Design. She recalls the story of a recent client, moving from a traditional styled house to a very contemporary one. Among the few pieces of furniture he brought with him were three huge mirrors in ornate gilded frames. "They looked amazing in the new house," she concludes. "Old mirrors work very well in minimal interiors."
If you've got room for antique mirror in your life, Kenny suggests a trip around the auction rooms. "I saw a fabulous gilded mirror in Adam's with a guide price of €100-€150. The mirror wasn't original, but it had been placed in an ornate antique picture frame."
She also feels that the high street has a lot to offer. The Rochelle Mirror (€150) from Dunnes Stores' Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic range is a substantial (80 x 54cm) piece with an ornate frame which, although actually moulded, appears heavily carved.
Just make sure that your mirror doesn't reflect the front door. According to feng shui wisdom, this pushes the good energy out of the house.
That's something to reflect on.