Sunday, September 5, 2010

Favorite Collections: Antique Mirrors

I've spent many years collecting antiques, and many of my friends, especially those who are 60's plus, passionately collect a specific arena of antiques.  There are die-hard collectors who have PATHS through their house, with so many boxes of depression glass, figurines, staffordshire (one had over 350 dogs alone!).  They don't necessarily have all junk, some have hundreds of thousands invested.

A lesson learned in 30 years is that I am attracted to antiques that contribute to the ambiance of my home, and I become frustrated when I become OCD over a particular genre.  I had over 400 pieces of American Brilliant Cut Glass.    I finally realized I don't like cabinets loaded with "things", I prefer to create vignettes around the house.  So I  called Jason at Woody Auction, and he picked it up and sold it.  I'll blog about ABCG later.

The best advice ever given to me was:  educate yourself about a particular field,  collect 5 to 7 items in that field, and move on.  Everyone says buy the best you can afford, in the best condition, with no or minimal restoration.  I have to say, while I preach that too, I don't follow it.  Educate yourself, and if you see an item in poor condition, for 10 cents on the dollar, go ahead and buy it.  Place it in your house, and decide if you want to continue to collect.   Everyone tells you to buy from reputable dealers, but often they will pass up a piece in poor condition because it doesn't meet their criteria.    If you're willing to pay $79 for a table at Ikea, who cares if that cute french table has a cracked and reglued leg/ or top?  I'd rather have the $79 french table!

Tthe next time you're visiting your favorite dealer, tell them you to call you if they find a beat up period piece of furniture. Those dealers have the contacts and have the ability to look out for things for you.  PLUS, they will also tell you that there's been a major repair, where others may not....

It is easy to decorate with antiques and be successful--the pieces are interesting, have some patina, and even the most modern room needs an antique object in it to give it some depth.   It is NOT easy to decorate and pull together a room if you are not a decorator or designer.  For those of us who collect antiques, people always love our homes.   The reaction is very gratifying--friends love all my treasures as much as my husband and I do!  Even though I've helped friends out, I think my success lies in using antiques.  I don't consider myself to be a good decorator, I just have an eye for antiques.

Antique Mirrors
I've always liked mirrors.  Living in the Northwest,  daylight is an issue.  We only have 60 sunny days a year, and mirrors reflect light in the home.   I find little mirrors very interesting.   There are 3 mirrors in my dining room.  They are all different.  The mirrors on each side of the breakfront are lovely. The one on the left is a tabernacle mirror, with a reverse-painted scene.

These reverse painted mirrors are hard to find in good condition. This one is too sweet for words!
The shield shaped mirror may be the oldest mirror I have.  I tend to have a weakness for anything with an eagle on it.   This mirror is interesting, the chain that you see on the front is actually the original chain that this should have been hung with.  If you are wondering what a 200 year old mirror should look like--check this one out!

The eagle below is FROM a mirror.  See, I can't resist!

The third mirror is a typical large Victorian mirror.   You can sometimes find them with console type tables.  This one is sweet because of the grapes carved in the frame.  I have it in the dining room so guests sitting with their back to the view can see the view in the large mirror.
Dining room, reflecting view
The view is great, don't you think!  A great sumer day with sailboats on the Columbia River.

I was in a model home and liked the two mirrors that were used in this dining room to reflect light and make the room seem larger.  Of course I don't like the frames, but it really was pleasing to view from the entry way.

 I would love to have a pair of mirrors from Restoration Hardware instead.  They are massive and wonderful!

However, I have my share of tiny and wonderful.  The great part about tiny is that you can move them without breaking your back.

The above reverse painted mirror was an accidental purchase.  I was just checking out an online auction through liveauctioneers, and thought I'd "test" the bidding process.  I clicked "bid" on the starting price--and got it.  It was from Skinner, and I think I got it for around $150 including shipping!

There are many mirrors with gilded frames. Here are a couple of my favorites:

 The one below I plan on taking to our country house to hang on the limestone fireplace.  It is quite small, I'd guess only about 26" tall.   This mirror gets the award for being so "over the top" with it's carved roses.  It's appropriate to be moved--we just planted over 100 roses there...

I totally love this mirror!    I suspect that the mirror may have been monkeyed with, but there isn't too much damage to the gesso and carved wood roses.  The reason I think something has been done to it is the crest is a bit of a different color.  It matches the carving, but has someone refinished the rest of it?
 There mirror above is in the guest room.  I have some great Schumacher wallpaper that I put up in 1986.  I hate to "update" this room--I still love the wallpaper.  It from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art collection, a copy of a vintage velvet ribbon, as I recall.

This mirror has wonderful original wooden candelabra, I love the way they twist with you being able to view the jasper medallion through the center one.  It is quite a neoclassic theme.  Usually when I think of attached candelabra, I think of bullseye or convex mirrors.  I have a reproduction mirror, no candelabra though.  I got tired of waiting for an antique, and I thought it would be fun to get an extremely large mirror to reflect the entire room back at you.

I need to be a good blogger and dig out the inspiration photo for this one..

Another interesting mirror is a reproduction that Barbara Barry did for Baker Furniture.  It is a very deep frame, but I didn't like the $1600 price tag.  Also, the one I saw in person had the frame a very dark ebony.  This looks walnut to me.   I recognized this as a reproduction of an antique.   They tend to show up on Ebay, and you can pick them up for around $150. if you keep an eye out.  Of course you would need to cut a mirror for it.  I picked one up about 4 years ago, and it's still sitting in my "project" closet.
The next mirror,also a reproduction, is in my powder room.  I had planned on keeping an antique cabinet in the remodel, but the old cabinet had the marble glued to the top and it literally didn't survive the attempts to use it.   Unfortunately it was short notice and I had one day to hunt for a new cabinet.  It was tough and I had to settle for the cabinet below--we didn't have Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, or Restoration Hardware back then.  I did manage to pick a nice grey blue wall color, which looks fresh today.  I'm not thrilled with the candlesticks, but there you have it.  Sometimes it takes me years to get something right.

I have another reproduction mirror, this one from my Baker triple dresser.   I've always liked the mirror, but I really love the fabulous antique Imari urns that I have on the antique French brackets.

The reproduction French mirror was picked by my daughter, she had the foresight to go with this wonderful painted finish which is fabulous in her living room.

The mirror is huge and makes a great statement in the room.  She's in college, so she has a few cast off items.  Not bad for a poor college student!  It beats my first living room with cardboard boxes and tablecloths on them.  She just got a large wicker basket for all of her blankets (Restoration Hardware, she reads Joni at Cote de Texas).  I think she has about as many blankets as I have mirrors....

The above Biedermeier mirror was at Clark Graves in Saint Louis.  I debated about it, and by the time I made up my mind that I had a spot for it, it was gone.  Sigh.  It is different from the rest in the collection.

Here's my favorite formal dining room.  I love the green walls with the mahogany breakfront.  The mirror reflects the beautiful drapes made out of a chintz by Mario Buatta.  I had decided I wanted some more years later after I made these.  I called Mario's office in NY, thinking that I would have a staff person answer the phone.  HE ANSWERED THE PHONE!!!  Anyway, he was very gracious, and I was sooo delighted to talk to him!

Back to the mirror:  I picked this massive mirror up at an estate sale.  It was a mess.  I've actually antiqued the gilding, because someone else had done the same and ruined the old finish.  The wood on the back of the frame weighted a ton, and was in pieces in a box.  I managed to get it for $50.  It looks fabulous with the Williamsburg sideboard by Baker.  I am not a purist, I will buy reproductions.  Antique isn't always better when you're looking for function.  My husband has a pet peeve of stuck antique drawers.....  I love the oval mirror over the oval bowfront sideboard.

I don't limit mirror collecting to wall mirrors.  Keep an eye out on Ebay, there are many wonderful hand mirrors out there.  The repousse work is incredible.  Check out my fabulous linen too.  I love this piece!

  Plateaus are a great way to reflect light into a piece of glass.  This is my favorite plateau (sitting on a fabulous 19th century handmade figural Italian Pt. de Venise lace cloth.

I just picked up this mirror for my dressing table in the other house.  It's very charming and petite.  I would guess it is half the size of any other shaving mirrors I owned.  There's nothing like old mirrors to soften the wrinkles when you pass the big 5-0.

I have a pair of these mirrors.  I think they will look great on each side of our bed over the nightstands.  They are circa 1830's, featured in an old "The Magazine Antiques".  I need to find some fabulous lamps.  I will take my time this time!

My last purchase was this mirror above.  I thought it looked really great in the antique shop.   I was planning on putting it over a Georgian chest, but the scale was all wrong. Now I'm not happy, because I can't find a home for it.  I especially like the little tassel carved and painted below center.  The carving is quite heavy and ornate.  What do you think of this mirror?

My dear friend Beverly had this antique mirror in her house.  It is a courting mirror, and she was so delighted to finally add it to her collection. Isn't it adorable!  My husband didn't like it so I didn't bid on this at her estate sale.  Wow, am I sorry I didn't just go for it!!

I hope you've enjoyed my parade of mirrors.  I went over the 5-7 item limit, but I will plead my case, I have alot of square footage to deal with.What do you think about using antique mirrors?


  1. Wow you do have a lot of mirrors! My favorite part was "There's nothing like old mirrors to soften the wrinkles when you pass the big 5-0". Haha! There's also nothing quite like botox. (Now I'm not saying you should get that).

  2. I love your post! I have a bullseye mirror that I treasure, would love to have a couple of those Restoration Hardware mirrors too but probably won't happen. I love you last mirror with the carved tassel, what a great find. You didn't say how big it is? I have placed smaller mirrors on chests slightly behind a lamp with smalls in front of it. The mirror helps to cast more light and shows off the smalls better. Thanks for stopping by! Debra,

  3. I'm an old mirror lover too! We've been told we don't own a mirror that you can actually see into, which is fine by me! I adore your new dressing table mirror. I'm always drawn to those, just don't have a single place to put one!


  4. I have a 1805 tyler and hibbach mirror its large in size and is from chicago i have been trying to find the right byer

  5. I posess a beauty antique venetian mirror as a herritage from my grandfather and lately decided to try to find someone who would by it on a real prise. Could you help me where and how to find the right buyer? Or would someone interested on buying it? I would thank any help on this subject. I would also send photos to whom is interested. My e-mail adress: Yours sincerery

  6. I don't think you have too many mirrors at all. They are all different and beautiful and each has its place. My family thinks I'm crazy because I love mirrors, too, but they reflect light so beautifully.

  7. very interesting post.this is my first time visit here.i found so mmany interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion..thanks for the post! Best Hand Mirrors Review