When you start looking at home décor inspiration, one of the first things that's going to show up is mirrors. These can make great focal points, as well as help to expand small spaces.
But how do mirrors work all these miracles, and how can you use them to make your space seem bigger and brighter? Read on to get some tips on the physics of mirrors and how to use them in your home decorating.
How Do Mirrors Work?
We know that mirrors reflect things, but many of us take for granted how that process works. Before we dive into that, let’s take a quick poll: raise your hand if you think a mirror is made of glass.
If you have your hand up right now, you’re in good company with almost everyone else, but you're mistaken. The glass that forms a mirror is actually just a protective covering for the thin sheet of extremely smooth metal under it.
When light from a source hits an object (say, a red ball) the object absorbs all but a few wavelengths of visible light. The light that gets reflected back is what our eyes see, and what gives that object its color. So the red ball reflects back red light, and that’s what we see.
Mirrors reflect back all the light that hits them. The reason they can do this is the metal underneath the glass is so smooth that there aren’t any nooks or crannies for the light to get caught in. So light hits you (or whatever else is in the mirror), bounces back off the mirror’s surface, and hits your eyes, allowing you to see your reflection.
The reason mirrors are reflective and, say, paper isn’t, has to do with that smoothness, which allows light to reflect straight back into your eyes. It’s similar to the difference between throwing 15 tennis balls at a smooth wall versus a craggy one. With the smooth wall, they would all bounce straight back at you, whereas with the craggy wall, they would ricochet off in all directions.
Because mirrors reflect all light, they’re a great way to increase light in a dark space. If you have just one window, you only have light coming in from one source. But if you add mirrors, suddenly you have two light sources: the light coming in from the window and the light reflecting off the mirror.
Hang mirrors in spaces where you need to see a little better. This can work well in kitchens, where there may not be much light, but you need high levels of visibility. It can also be a good idea in basements as a way to open up the space and make it feel less cave-like.
If you have a room that’s very plain, such as you might find in an apartment, hanging mirrors is a great way to dress things up without having to buy a million decorating pieces. Let’s say you hang a tapestry on one wall of the apartment. Instead of having to buy a second tapestry to hang, you can put up a mirror and get a complementary texture on the opposite wall.
Mirrors are also a great way to bring greenery in from the outside. If you’re no good with house plants but you have a beautiful yard, take advantage of that. Hang mirrors across from windows looking out on the most beautiful part of your yard and bring that green indoors.
Set off Furniture
When you’re working in a small space, you may have to cram some furniture into corners. This can make the room feel cramped and almost accidental. But mirrors can make things look much more intentional and open.
Place a large mirror behind a piece of furniture in a corner. The mirror will reflect back the room in front of the piece, making it appear that there’s much more space behind the furniture than there actually is. It can also show off the back of the piece, which is an advantage if it’s made of a great material or has an interesting pattern.
Balance a Bold Wall
Putting a bold color or a brightly patterned wallpaper in a small room can be a design risk. Yes, it can be a great statement piece and focal point, but it can also overwhelm the room and make things look smaller. Mirrors can be a great way to counter that.
A wall of mirrors placed across from your accent wall will double the impact of that bold pattern, it’s true. But at the same time, it'll double the visual space you have in the room. So now instead of having one wall bearing down on the rest of the space, you’ll have a large, well-lit space with a double accent wall.
Create a Focal Point
Aside from the cool things they can do with making a space feel bigger and more well-lit, mirrors are also design elements. They can be a great way to create a focal point that naturally leads the eye to other areas of the room. They work especially well over mantels and in other such areas.
If you’re wanting to set a mirror as a focal point, choose one that has a large, bold frame like the ones this mirror company sells. This will draw the eye to the mirror itself rather than what's reflected in it.
Expand Your Space
Mirrors are a great way to double your space, lighting, and décor without having to knock down any walls or buy doubles of anything. They can set off accent walls and help you create a more natural feel in your home. Don’t be afraid to experiment with mirror placement and ask the question, "How do mirrors work well in my home?"
If you’d like to get more home styling inspiration, check out the rest of our website. We have articles about lifestyle and travel, as well as giveaways to help you make your life even more beautiful. Check out our bank of articles for the home today to get some décor inspiration.