9 ways mirrors can be used to craft magical optical illusions

Mirror, mirror, on the wall… how can we create the illusion of more space in a gloomy area or poky room?

Their functional role in our bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes is pretty well understood, but mirrors are so much more than that, interior designer Emma Russo explains.

From drawing in light to adding dimension, glamour or an added point of interest in the home, Emma shows us how to use mirrors to build a stylishly illusory effect.

1. Open up a bedroom

If positioning and type is carefully considered, a framed mirror can open up space in a bedroom by reflecting light and perspective from an adjacent window. Choose a spot that’s going to reflect the most desirable view from the outdoors, to bring that vista into your bedroom from another angle.

“A large mirror that runs floor to ceiling and is hung flat against the wall can give the perception of an entry to another room, again increasing perception of space, and doubles as a mirror to check your outfit before you race out the door,” Emma explains.

A white frame against the white wall gives the illusion of space in artist Lara Scolari’s bedroom. Picture: Tamara Graham

TIP: Frameless mirrors, or framed mirrors painted the same colour as the wall, are best for adding depth, as there’s no contrasting colour to break up the illusion.

2. Try quirky shapes

Yes – we’re using the mirror as a tool here (to add depth, light and brightness) – but that doesn’t mean we need to be dealing in boring old rectangular slabs.

Mirrors in quirky, playful shapes are a great way to add a bit of personality to your space, while still manipulating the plays of light to make it seem bigger.

Welcome in a touch of joy with Honore fruity brass mirrors from Bastille and Sons. Picture: The Sisters Agency

3. Mimic a window

Low on windows in a cramped area? A mirror adorning an empty wall can have almost the same effect as another window – strategically placed near an existing window it can also offer a view outdoors.

Mimic a window with a strategically-placed mirror. Picture: Erinna Giblin

4. Get strategic with placement

“Avoid placing mirrors in locations that will reflect direct glare from either a natural or artificial light source,” Emma advises. “Place mirrors so that they show off the room’s best features and hide the room’s not so pleasant ones.”

TIP: If you have small children with sticky little hands, avoid placing mirrors at low heights.

Mirror placement is all about choosing the view YOU want to see. Picture: Three Birds Renovations

5. Splash it back

Mirrored splash backs can work really well in a kitchen, particularly when there’s something adjacent to the splash you want to see: “For example, a great view, or perhaps even a dining table or kids’ play area – for the multi-tasking parent,” Emma says.

This Top End home brings the outdoors in with a mirrored splash back in the kitchen. Picture: Raine & Horne

6. Incorporate into decor

Mirrors are without a doubt a go to for interior designers looking to craft an optical illusion, but by the very nature of their shiny reflective surface they’re also great for adding a touch of sleek, shimmery glam into a home’s decor.

Reflective glass in lighting, little curios such as jewellery boxes and even mosaic tiles can add a real point of interest, while subtly manipulating plays of light bouncing around a room.

“Incorporating mirrors into furniture pieces such as bed headboards and drawer units can be an eclectic way to use this element in your home,” Emma says.

7. Add strip lighting

For a purely functional mirror, such as in the bathroom, ambient strip lighting can really frame and draw attention to a mirror’s reflections. This can help when applying makeup, for example, but also set a particular mood for the space.

8. Bring in the light

No house is completely open plan, so for those areas that corner inwards and create a darkened nook for furniture, consider using mirrors to draw in the light above and combat the gloom

9. Stylishly build the illusion

If you’re going to use the mirror as a tool – you may as well do it with style. So pick styles that you love, whether it’s an Art Deco, vintage pin-up, or an aged French rustic look.

“Mirrors can provide an opportunity to add a sense of opulence to a space, as well as bring in a bit of interest through use of a different texture,” Emma says.

“Incorporating mirrors doesn’t have to be restricted to your typical glass mirror either; consider experimenting with smoked mirrors, aged mirrors, and bronze mirrors.”

Originally published as 9 ways mirrors can be used to craft magical optical illusions by Alice Bradley. Author at realestate.com.au.

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