How to use mirrors to stunning effect at home

It’s all an illusion. Mirrors are a design element with both practical and decorative purposes. Not only are they beautiful objects, they also enhance the sensation of space by reflecting light and bouncing it back instantly – lighting up shady spots that don’t get much sun, harnessing any daylight possible, and visually extending the area by tricking the eye.

Placing mirrors where we least expect them, such as on a table top, creates a magical effect. Fitted to shelving, kitchen and bathroom splashbacks, they add depth to the room – and like a beautiful painting or photograph, mirrors make a perfect focal point. They’re invaluable in enhancing views and also in deflecting views away from things we prefer to keep out of sight. They hide storage and cover architectural nuances such as beams, of which there are many in Hong Kong homes.

Two or three symmetrically placed full-length mirrors on a wall or facing each other on adjacent walls bounce light around the room, creating a magnified effect and reflecting into infinity. Mirrors positioned between windows trick the eye into thinking there’s another window there – a term known as a “pier mirror”. When placed to either side of a window, they frame a view; when clad to a window recess, they bring extra light and interesting reflections. Added to the sides of doorways, they increase the feeling of spaciousness. Layering mirrors or hanging smaller mirrors on top of larger mirrors further exaggerates and enhances reflection. Mirrors can be used as a picture gallery, with a mix of sizes, shapes and designs over a wall.

Anything placed close to a mirror appears to have twice the mass. A floral arrangement takes on more sumptuousness, and light from lamps and candles placed in front of mirrors are reflected and ramp up the ambience. Antique finishes and tinted mirrors give a softer, more flattering reflection, while dark grey and black mirrors provide a contemporary feel, and coloured mirrors add a pop of colour to more minimal and industrial spaces.

Mirror walls are by far the most effective and impressive way to magically enlarge your space with spectacular effect, reflecting the room and making it look twice as large. This is invaluable in entry halls and stairways, and in bathrooms which tend to be on the smaller side in Hong Kong. And mirrors are just as valuable outside to visually enlarge space on balconies, terraces and rooftops, as well as in hiding ugly areas. They can also reflect a borrowed view, with the sky, trees and plantings from neighbouring gardens.

Here, we round up some extraordinary picks:

Brooklyn-based Bower Studios has a superb collection of trompe l’oeil mirrors with designs that look like porthole windows and arched doorways. Actor Seth Rogen has recently collaborated with Bower on a 3D mirror; the effect comes from curved pieces of mirror with hand-painted gradations that resemble a beach ball.

Modern artists have turned their hand to mirroring, too. Sydney-based artist Jonny Niesche’s abstract artworks have a translucent and reflective surface that plays with spatial illusion. And the Oracle sconce, the result of a collaboration between artist Julia Dault and artist-designer Christopher Stuart, is a stunner. Its soft glow contrasts with the mirror polish and pearlescent finish, just as the circle’s curve contrasts the rigid angles of the enclosing square.

Design duo Sabine Marcelis and Brit van Nerven’s Hue mirrors have been designed to warp people’s perception of space by adding a layer of non-uniform gradients of colour in an ombré effect.

Jimmie Martin’s wonderfully eclectic and whimsical mirrors are hand-painted with an original artwork, often a graffiti-like rendering of contemporary icons or phrases.

The Campana Brothers’ laser-cut, hand-finished colourful acrylic Miraggio mirrors make a fabulous focal point for any room.

Or for a complete perceptual experience, consider a Mirror Room à la Yayoi Kusama, which will create the ultimate participatory experience for your visitors. Let the magic overtake you.

This article originally appeared in our November 2018 issue. 

Photography: All courtesy images