People have been decorating their homes with framed mirrors for centuries, crafting a long history of form, design, and construction each associated with a particular period. This has created a legacy of different classic styles, from the intricate carved hardwoods of the Baroque Period to the simple elegance of the Victorian, for modern consumers to choose from.
We recommend working with an interior designer to choose a mirror from the period that best complements or juxtaposes your existing furniture. Remember to allow the form of the mirror to inform its primary function and thus determine its best location. Long, narrow mirrors, for example, are ideal for checking appearance. They’re best employed in bathrooms, bedrooms, or entry halls — for a final quick look before heading out the door. Oversized mirrors, mounted on the wall above furniture or over mantles create the illusion of spaciousness in any room, while also increasing the amount of light.
One final consideration is maintenance. True, antique mirrors are typically delicate and difficult to care for without the help of a specialist. Glass technology has advanced considerably in the last few centuries, and we generally recommend choosing a reproduction of your favourite classic frame using modern methods and materials that are easier to care for.
Here are a few classic mirror periods to familiarize yourself with:
The Gothic. Ending in the early 17th century (1600s), the gothic is known for pointed arch shape, linen folds, elaborate carvings, and dark oak.
Baroque refers to the preferred fashions of the 17th and 18th centuries (Early 1600s-1700s). It is characterized by an oval shape (rather than rectangular), ornate, heavily carved frame details (especially foliage, cherubs, and garlands), and gilding in gold and silver. This style is exemplified in the Palace of Versailles.
Rococo began in the early 18th century and finished soon after in the mid 18th century (1700s). Mirrors in the rococo style are rectangular, typically made of walnut or mahogany, feature gilding and bronzing, and are high ornate (especially featuring shell motifs).
Neo Classical began in the mid-18th century and continued through the mid-19th century (1700s-1800s). The Neo Classical returned to the oval shape of the baroque, but included a flat base. It also borrowed the gilded gold or silver from baroque tradition. Neo Classical style was informed heavily by the original classical period (ancient greece and rome), and included design features rooted in the iconography of classical architecture. The carving was more restrained than in previous periods and featured fluted columns, swags, urns, medallions, leaves, branches and pediments.
Empire and Federal (these periods are also referred to as Victorian and Regency) styles were both popular in the 19th century (1800s). This was the first time that North American styles diverged from European aesthetics. The Empire style was French in origin, where as Federal style originated in America. Oval and round mirrors continued to reign, but oversize rectangular mirrors were also common. Interest in classical motifs also continued, but the favoured motifs changed (leaves, eagles, and griffons). Convex (doming mirrors) became a design icon of this century.
The Contemporary Era refers to the 20th and 21st centuries (1900s-today), and is generally accepted to have begun after World War II. Obviously, the contemporary spans many decades of design trends and styles. Today’s sleek, chic designs range from complex geometric pattern to frameless, minimalist style. It often included integrated technology, such as LED lighting and smart mirrors.
At House of Mirrors and Glass, you’ll find Alberta’s largest showroom of framed mirrors and glass products. We have beautiful antique mirrors as well as examples of framed mirrors reproducing the style of almost every era. Come by House of Mirrors and Glass today to find the perfect classic mirror for your home.