What's wrong with bigger mirrors?

marvelousmarvinNovember 29, 2012

I noticed that a designer trick will be to pop a full length mirror against the side of a wall because it will visually lengthen the room and bring in additional light to brighten the room if the mirror is opposite the window.

Yet, if mirrors are so great, how came bigger mirrors, the ones that covered an entire wall, and those unframed, single sheet mirrors in the bathroom are considered outdated these days?

Is there an underlying design reason as to what was wrong with those bigger types of mirrors, or were they simply the victim to the cyclical nature of fashion?

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I think part of it is context and part of it is fashion. There are some nice examples of mirrored walls on Houzz. Unfortunately for those of us with more modest budgets and homes, mirrored walls paired with average rooms, views and furniture don't really work.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 6:02AM
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Scale is the design issue. It seems counter intuitive that a small space in which you wish to make seem larger would work worse with a large mirror, but it's most often the case. The larger mirrors are used more as a design crutch than an actual design element, and they are the wrong scale, or placed incorrectly, to do the job that the homeowner wishes to be done. Too often, the view that the mirror reflects isn't what is primarily thought of in it's placement. Like one of those large bathroom mirrors. Who needs to see more of the toilet and tub? That doesn't make the room "seem bigger" at all. It just reflects stuff that would be better off not reflected.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 7:50AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I didn't care what the 'fashion' for bath mirrors was. I had a large mirror from the old house and put it in my guest bath which does add a lot of light to an interior space....it does make it feel more spacious. Eventually, though I will frame it as I don't like it unframed.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 8:11AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Also, for hanging wall mirrors, hang them from wires that are attached below the center point of the mirror. This will cause the mirror to hang with a slightly downward tilt, reflecting the rest of the room. If hung from above center point like a picture, it will cause it to tilt upward slightly, reflecting only the ceiling.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 8:13AM
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As a big fan of mirrors as an effective way to manipulate space, I would echo Greendesign's comment about scale.

Unframed mirrors, like the ones common to bathrooms, are most often hung either with clear plastic mirror clips, or with adhesive plus plain metal tracks at the bottom, which never looks like anything more than builder basic.

You have to think about what the purpose of a mirror is. If you want your bath to feel like a well-appointed room, and there are two of you who need to do hair and shave and put on makeup (not all three, usually...), and you are different heights, then you need a mirror over the sink, or a pair of mirrors over two sinks, that are proportional to the space, tall enough to allow both of you to see your whole selves framed in the glass, and finished with some sort of picture frame molding (anything from steel to enamel to wood...whatever suits your scheme) to accomplish all those things.

If you have a dead corner in a room, or a window on only one side of a feature like a fireplace, or the need to reflect light and add shine and sparkle without bling, then a well-proportioned mirror can fill the bill. It should be large enough to make sense as an opening in the wall, which is what it appears to be.

I also like custom-cut mirrors as a kitchen backsplash, when the wall feels like a dead end. They add depth and shine, and they are the easiest possible thing to keep clean.

And I have seen full walls of mirror used very effectively in tiny but elegant city apartments...most attractively when they are installed behind a sofa and its end tables and lamps, broken into three segments with beveling, and mitigated with a big picture hung in front of them over the sofa. They double the sense of space, which can make an enormous difference in how the place lives, and how lively it appears.

And finally (aren't you glad...), I agree with Annie about attaching the wires just below the midpoint of the frame when hanging a mirror high over a fireplace, but you only want a very slight tilt. Otherwise, it can make people uneasy about its security on the wall. A subtle but important detail.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 8:46AM
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In living spaces, I hang my mirrors to reflect something nice. I don't need a huge mirror to capture a vignette although I have a very old one I hung horizontally in my dining room to reflect the chandelier and the view from outdoors.
For the bathroom, I prefer the large sheet of mirror for practical purposes. I can see my outfit and adjust things that are out of place. It reflects the light well for makeup application and tweezing. Framed or unframed is simply personal preference and style. There are a ton of Houzz modern bathroom designs with large, unframed mirrors so it's not out of style.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 8:51AM
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Bathrooms aside....

I onced moved into an old home with elegant moldings, etc that had had a big frameless mirror attached directly to the fireplace wall sometime in the 70s or 80s. It didn't look good.

That taught me that the frame is even more important on a mirror than it is on art. It's a way to get some architecture into a room without paying a carpenter.

And a big mirror costs less than a big piece of art and a big lamp. I feel, too, that it's safer. I can choose a big mirror with far less agony than I can a big lamp. It's like a window. I can do windows.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 9:37AM
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I think the points about correct application and the idea that it is best that the mirror reflect something nice rather than doubling the clutter, etc. are important points.

But really I think that most people object to it because they have to reject things their parents did, and they are trend driven despite the lip service they give to being otherwise.

These two bathroom mirrors are pretty much correct in application. The powder room mirror actually blurs boundaries and there is not really an "edge" to the mirror in either case. The edges are architectural, and the mirror runs to the architectural edge:

Yet any number of people have recommended that these mirrors be removed and replaced with a cheap mirror from Home Goods, or worse, framed DIY with door casing from Home Depot as an update. I beg to differ.

In these bathrooms the counters and fixtures need to be updated because they are 43 years old and worn out, it's not the mirrors that are the problem. Put a marble counter and an undermount sink in these bathrooms, and change the wallpaper in the full bath, and I think that would make the best change.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 10:22AM
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beachlily z9a

My husband is 6'3" tall and I'm short--5'2". His biggest gritch about hotels is that they use short mirrors. He would have a hissie if I suggested taking out the unframed large bath mirror to replace it with a framed mirror. The frame only gets in his way. Peace in the household also has to be considered!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 10:43AM
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Re the bathroom mirrors - Pal some people just don't like those big unframed bathroom mirrors. I'm one of them. I don't know why - I just don't. I made the mistake when we built our house and had one put in our master bath - over a double sink vanity. Changed out for two mirrors - one over each sink. I feel like the bathroom looks much better now. I feel it's more updated.

We just changed mirrors over our fireplace and I cannot believe the difference. I had a rectangular mirror hanging width wise. It looked fine, but last year we rented a cottage on a vacation and I loved the mirror above the fireplace. It was turned lengthwise. We have cathedral ceilings and although the wall our fireplace on - the ceiling angles down on that wall - it is still a high ceiling and alot of space. I keep noticing how much better the new (and taller) mirror looks! We also went with a dark color instead of the antique gold tone that was in there and that is also an improvement.

I love mirrors!!


    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 11:19AM
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Sure, but Not liking something is different than saying there is something "wrong" with something. There are correct and incorrect ways to apply lots of ideas full wall mirrors included.

But a lot of people who don't like something (especially when it is reinforced by not being trendy) try to tell other people it is "wrong", or bad or ugly and try to get them not to like it, too. There is a difference there.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 11:37AM
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We went with a big unframed mirror in our master behind the vanity. It's mounted so there are no visible clips or tracks, and sits above a half wall of tile that is a major design element in the room. To have framed the mirror above the tile would have been that "one thing too much" for my room, in my opinion.

Many of the framed mirrors I see in stores look cheap to me, but then again, so do unframed mirrors that are just slapped up there because they are cheap. If you select something that works well within the context of the rest of the room, you'll be less likely to hate it when the trend changes.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 11:38AM
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I really dislike unframed mirrors in bathrooms. They just look unfinished. To me they are just a missed op. to do something prettier. That said I think its personal choice if its in someone elses home then I don,t have to live with it so as long as it makes them happy thats all that really counts. I keep buying dark houses sitting under old growth timber so I love to hang mirrors threw out to reflect light . I personaly like a mirror that looks good in on its own regardless of the surface its reflecting. I first pic. posted above I don,t know if I like it or not maybe if the room was painted really dark and plain colored like a deep navy blue so when you walked in the thing you would notice would be the light refected in the mirror. That way the light fixture would be making the statement not the mirror in that case I think that mirror would possibly work as is in that space other wise it just strikes me as crowded. The second picture gives me hebe gebes because I don,t want to see that much of myself coming out of the tube. I,m not 20 anymore;) I also see missed ops with space usage with it. If it was raised a little higher off the counter you could put a shelf under it for pretty bottles and such. I am getting cranky in my old age as well both those mirrors hung that close to the water source would be a constant cleaning challenge with my dh and two kids in the house splattering things everytime they wash thier hands. I have to eat my words a little here. When house hunting I did run into a house that had a full mirrored wall facing french doors that had a stunning up close view of old growth timber. If left you with the impression that you were sitting in the woods with the in your face view on two sides. In that case a unframe wall of mirrors really worked

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:24PM
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Palimpsest, I think you are absolutely right about an unframed mirror running wall to wall and installed correctly. I was talking about the ones that are stuck on without much regard for the mounting technique or the spaces around their edges.

Your first photo is a perfect example of a good way to do that - good quality mirror, wall to wall to ceiling, and resting at the top of the backsplash without that metal track cluttering up the whole business.

And the application sas95 described is another good example of doing it well.

So I should have qualified my remark about unframed mirrors.
Lots of things that can be handled beautifully are so often done unattractively that it's too easy to generalize. Guilty as charged!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:47PM
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Re: cleaning. If I have to clean all of the surfaces anyway, be it mirror, backsplash, or wallboard - I'd choose the mirror or backsplash. Whatever is behind the sink is going to get icky.

It really is about personal preference.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:58PM
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Alex9 I cann,t agree with that regarding cleaning normally I would but in this case no. When we bought this house it only had one bathroom so it made since to hang a really large mirror that could work for a 4 year old and a 6.2 man. Since then we have added another bathroom. The new bathroom gets used more but the mirror is hung higher over the sink(dh hung it without asking)that mirror only has to be cleaned once weekly and stays nice looking all the time. Yes I,m sure there are water splatters on the wall but I don,t have to worry about quest walking in there and seeing them because they just don,t show on paint like they do on a mirror. And no my husband is not trainable I,ve tried;) The mirror hung low has too be cleaned 10 or more times per day or I would be looking at splatters every single time I walk in there. I,ve taught the kids everytime you use the bathroom wash your hands, everytime you go outside wash your hands. Splatters come with that habit.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 1:23PM
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My husband is 6'4", I am 5'2". The house we just built has a double vanity in the master. There was absolutely no way, in the space we had, to do separate framed mirrors with side mounted sconces. I did not want overhead lighting to cast shadows down when doing makeup, etc. I decided to do one big mirror with a 1.5" bevel all the way around and my sconces mounted through the glass. It looks lovely, and gives us so much more reflection area. My ID congratulated me on a great solution to that design problem!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 1:34PM
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My problem is toothpaste. I see it on every darn thing. I can relate to the child/husband factor. I have 3 and 1, and none of them are neat.

I'm also lazier than you and don't clean it up more than once a day, if that. New towels and wipe down the surfaces and counter that is always wet for some reason.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 1:40PM
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I've considered updating my bathroom mirrors (similar to Annie's, except they go right down to the backsplash). But they're very practical and I like all the light they reflect in the room. My husband's 6' and I'm 5'2", so the height works for both of us.

In our lakehouse we have separate pedestal sinks with a tilting PB mirror over each. That works in terms of the height difference, and I love the classic cottage look. However, I miss the all over view I get when I want to check my clothes, hair, makeup and jewelry.

So, for the bathrooms at home I'm sticking with the big ones. It doesn't matter to me that they're not currently on trend.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 2:11PM
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Alex and madeyna, have you tried using microfiber cloths?
I keep two hung on the inside of the vanity doors in the bathrooms. I use one wrung out in warm water, and follow with the dry one, to clean the mirrors and faucets - it takes no time at all, and doesn't use up cleaner or paper towels.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 3:45PM
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Who do all the tall women marry since all the short women are with the 6 ft+ guys? I think at least 3 prior posters mentioned being low 5 ft with a 6 ft husband. Me too! I'm 5'4" and he's 6'4".

I have a bunch of mirrors on the landing of my stairs (4 steps, landing, turn to continue). Sometimes when I watch my feet come down the stairs I sing the old Monkee's tune "here she comes, walking down the stairs". They are ill placed, based on the statements from above about what they should reflect, but I like the look of each mirror and enjoy the mixture.

We used to have a small decorative mirror in my husband's office. I couldn't even see myself in the mirror because it was up so high for his height.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 4:02PM
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I,m not sure what its made of but I have a cloth made for cleaning glasses in each bathroom but I seem to be the only one that uses it. The kids manage to smear things even with that. I think its because they get the counter wet and swipe it across that then swipe the mirror with it. They say no but its the only thing I can come up with. I had to laugh at the tall man= short woman comment. My husband is 6.2 and I,m 5.2 my oldest daugter is my height and her husband is 6.4

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 4:53PM
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For the tall women out there, don't despair!

I'm 5'-6' and my husband is 6'-3".

But I have a young cousin who is 6'-1" in her stocking feet, and her husband is 6'-5" - and both of them big people, to boot. Their 7-year old daughter is my Godchild, and she is already head and shoulders taller than her peers. She's also bright as a new dime, and it's hard to remember how young she is.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 5:12PM
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If you have children a very large mirror hung low to the sink is NECESSARY. Form has to FOLLOW function. If it doesn't help you in your bathroom needs what is the point?! We moved in in 1999. There were framed mirrors in both baths. The seller felt they were like art and took them with. We had to demand their return at the closing. When we had time we replaced them with cast off full wall mirrors FOR THE KIDS. Now that they are all tall people we raised the vanities and hung the framed mirrors back where they began. Its my house I do what works! Who care what anyone else likes or does not like!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 5:16PM
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I do use microfiber. But, there is no "I" in team! The team doesn't bother to wipe up after themselves unless I'm standing there with that look and they usually grab the hand towels. My kids are young and instilling cleaning habits seems to be a challenge :) DH and the Sonicare have a twice daily battle, so I'd be cleaning the mirror whether it was large or small, lol!

I still wouldn't go in the kids' bathroom after every hand-washing/tooth-brushing to clean, though.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 7:41PM
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Our unframed mirror over the sinks has gotten splashed so much that it looks all corroded - like the sliver is gone along the bottom 2-3 inches in places. Can we cut those down (to get rid of the ugly parts) and frame them?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 8:18PM
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musicteacher - we bought a large mirror for our lakehouse bath and had it cut down. It was really cheap to have cut. I think we paid $10 for two cuts, one vertical and one horizontal.

amck - I'm with you. We have large, nice mirrors in our baths at home, and they're too practical to remove. After all, the whole reason I have a bathroom mirror is to see myself. I can stand in front of it and see down to my waist. I can't do that with two small framed mirrors. It also makes the rooms feel so much larger. I thought about changing it, then I decided to wait out that trend, and keep our nice landscape mirrors in the bathroom.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 8:18AM
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Another shortie with tall DH. This post has got me to thinking about our current set up in our masterbath. We moved into our 1971 ranch house and the previous owners left behind two framed mirrors for over each vanity. We removed them and painted the walls. When we hung them back up only then did we realize they were not identical. The "her's" mirror is smaller than the "his". We've lived with this for almost 12 years and I am finally going to replace them when the bath renovation starts. I'm so excited! I hope to do a large mirror framed but to look like separate mirrors. Hopefully like this one.

Traditional Bathroom design by Atlanta Interior Designer Brian Watford ID

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 1:47PM
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