Last winter I was visiting my family in Naples, Florida, and we did a little shopping at the Anthropologie store, a place I love to visit to get product display ideas and other types of inspiration. I saw a few curious looking mirrors there that appeared to have vintage wallpaper peeking through the silvering and creating a very interesting effect. This reminded me a little bit of antique mirrors that were called "vanity mirrors", (as in "vain", not as in the furniture "vanity").
I actually have an old "vanity mirror" that has a damaged frame that I've been meaning to fix. One of those projects that lingers in the garage....
Let me explain: back in the Victorian era (1837-1901), over 100 years ago, it was considered in bad taste to check oneself in a parlor mirror, so they would hang "vanity" mirrors which would be a basic framed mirror with a decoration painted directly on the glass. This way, if you wanted to peek in a mirror to check your teeth for possible stuck spinach, you would appear to be admiring the lovely swans and flowers or what have you instead of checking your teeth for spinach.
Now these Anthropologie mirrors are just the opposite of Victorian vanity mirrors in terms of their construction, because the design from the wallpaper would be applied behind areas of silvering that has been rubbed away from the glass. The minute I saw these mirrors in Anthropologie, I knew I could recreate them at home, and in the process use some old mirrors I had hanging around that had damage or wear to the silvering and probably would be hard to sell "as is". Getting a mirror re-silvered is a real hassle, by the way, and usually isn't worth the expense unless we're talking about something very valuable.
These four mirrors have been given a Mitzi makeover with some of the vintage wallpaper that I have in my stash:
If you would like to try this project, you will have to sacrifice a mirror you have or find one at a flea market that is damaged, so you don't feel uncomfortable when you remove more of the silvering. Once you do this, there is no going back! So here are the basic steps:
Remove the mirror from the frame. In most instances, there will be a piece of cardboard protecting the back of the mirror. Set this aside as your base for the wallpaper. If there isn't a cardboard backing, cut a piece of poster board or foam core that will serve as a backing.
Now lay your mirror down outside and spray some Easy Off oven cleaner to a few areas of the silvered backing to create a random pattern. You might want to practice on newspaper to see how much spray comes out of your can so you can control the area covered when you spray your mirror. Sometimes the spray will cause immediate removal of the silvering, so you won't be able to "do-over". Be ready to accept the first pattern you spray.
Leave the Easy Off on your mirror for about five minutes, then put on your rubber gloves and remove the sprayed areas with paper towel. Try not to smear Easy Off all over in the process so you don't remove more silvering than you had planned. Rinse with water and dry. Keep in mind that each mirror is different, and some may have more stubborn silvering than others. I had to take some fine steel wool and remove some remaining silvering on one of my mirrors, and it worked pretty well.
Now take the cardboard backing and apply scrapbook paper, wallpaper, or just about anything else that has a pleasing pattern to selected areas. I used Mod Podge and a brayer to smooth down the vintage wallpaper to the cardboard. You won't have to cover the whole piece of cardboard, because the remaining mirror silvering will mask some area, and you can judge how much paper will actually be necessary by laying your glass mirror on top of the cardboard.
With this example, I pretty much covered all of the cardboard because I had scraps of wallpaper I thought I'd use up:
For a second option, you could apply the wallpaper directly to the glass with Mod Podge. I prefer the cardboard-backing method, because there might be a chance that I would someday want to change the pattern and this way the paper wouldn't be permanently stuck to the glass.
Now all you have to do is reassemble your mirror. This is actually a pretty easy project, so I hope you can give it a go! We'll consider these our new version of Victorian vanity mirrors, and maybe we can use them in the same manner. After all, we still have to check our teeth for stuck spinach from time to time, don't we?