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Decorative wall mirrors can create magic indeed

For most people, mirrors are indispensable grooming aids, but they can also be decorating tools to create accents, transform space and dematerialize mass. They can also be used to establish mood, to provide more security and even to help babies develop faster.

Mirrors have been around since ancient times. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans made small hand-held mirrors of polished metal. Glass mirrors were rare until the Venetians perfected the art of casting sheet glass and silvering it. They jealously guarded their technology so that they could maintain a monopoly on the mirror trade.In 1670, the French persuaded a number of Venetian glass craftsmen to set up glass factories in France. French interior designers embraced the mirror, and used it in a number of innovative ways to enhance a design scheme. Even though the mirrors were used on a grand scale in Baroque and Rococo palaces, the techniques developed are useful for smaller rooms today.

For example, it is possible to create the illusion of infinite space by placing mirrors on facing walls. The mirrors reflect their opposite images, projecting a feeling of extreme depth. This effect, called glaces repetition, can be effective in opening up a small room and making it seem larger. Another way to open up a small room is by hanging a mirror slightly above eye level so it reflects space. The traditional and most practical place for this type of mirror is above the fireplace.

Mirrors can also be used to dematerialize mass. Hung on a wall or solid object, they make it seem smaller or less dense. Many department stores achieve this effect by encasing free-standing walls or columns with mirrors. In the home this technique can be used to make the walls between windows seem less massive. The mirror, called a pier mirror, is mounted between two windows; it creates the illusion of a third window between the two others.

If a mirror is placed opposite or adjacent to a window, it reflects light back into the room to increase the ambient brightness. Placing a mirror behind a light fixture can double the amount of light thrown into the room. Mirrors can also be used effectively in a nursery. Studies have shown that babies will crawl toward a mirror to see their reflection. This helps them develop motor skills and a greater sense of self-awareness.

To most people a mirror is simply a sheet of silver-coated glass. While this is essentially true, there are different types of mirrors. Clear mirrors are the most common. These are available in four standard thicknesses: 3/32 inch, 1/8 inch, 3/16 inch and 1/4 inch. The 1/4-inch thickness is used for most applications, while thinner mirrors are used in furniture applications.

Some mirrors are designed for aesthetic appeal as well as function. These include tinted and antique mirrors, and mirrors with surface decoration. Tinted mirrors have colored glass and are available in a variety of colors, including green, blue, pink, gray and gold. In addition to having tinted glass, antique mirrors have a reflective surface that has been purposely distressed to give the piece an aged look.

Surface treatments include sandblasting, cutting, painting, slumping and glue chipping. Sandblasting is used to etch a matte or frosted pattern onto the surface of the glass. Cutting with high-pressure air and abrasive wheels produces a pattern that is multilayered and faceted.

No matter what style mirror you choose, it still must be hung properly. Most people hang framed mirrors like a picture, with a single hook and stranded wire, but mirrors are heavier than pictures, so they need additional support. Attach two steel strap hangers to either side of the mirror frame. These can then be attached to the walls with screws or heavy duty picture-hangers.

Use mirror mounting clips (available at home centers and glass shops) to attach frameless mirrors to a wall. Mirror clips are padded to protect the glass and slotted so they can be adjusted. First draw a horizontal line about 3/4 inch higher than the final position of the bottom edge of the mirror. Mark off the position for the clips on this line. The clips should support the mirror about four inches from the corners. Drill a hole at each mark. If you hit a wall stud, you can screw the clip directly into it; otherwise insert anchor sleeves in the holes, then screw the clips in place.

Measure the length of the mirror. Transfer this measurement to the wall starting from the bottom clips. Mount the top clips along this line. Use the adjustment slots to position the mirror. Push the clips up and place the mirror in the bottom clips. When the mirror is in place, push the clips down to secure it.