Typically thought of as windows for the self-absorbed, mirrors are great design and decorating tools for any room of the house. Used strategically, they can provide the illusion that a small space is larger than it is.
There are many famous examples to use as inspiration. In 1908, the Austrian architect Adolf Loos designed the famous American Bar in Vienna, placing mirrors above the bar and between the top of the wall panels and the beamed ceiling. This made the tiny club appear as if it was a series of many rooms.
One of the most famous uses of mirrors in an interior is the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, built by Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. Mies van der Rohe used highly polished steel columns in the German Pavilion, built for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, and the columns virtually disappear inside the space. I have used a similar detail in both high-rise commercial and residential projects, adhering mirrored panels to columns to help them become less intrusive.
In the early 20th century, mirrored backsplashes were popular in kitchens. While they will easily show fingerprints and food splashes, they offer many benefits if you're a clean cook. They reflect light from above, brightening countertops, and make worktops appear twice as deep.
A mirrored backsplash also allows cooks to see what is happening behind them. However, consider that bellies and backsides tend to be reflected at countertop level. An alternative is small mirrored tiles, which are available in traditional silver, coloured and textured finishes.
Large mirrors installed on walls opposite a window reflect the view outside and provide the appearance of an additional window in a room. Mirrored panels above a chair rail or wainscot double the length of the room.
Full-height mirrored walls can make an interior appear dated, since they are associated with the 1970s and 1980s.
Large, framed mirrors can be used as a decorating detail or to brighten dark areas of a home. Framed in small-scale, painted moulding, a large mirror on a door makes it appear like an early 20th-century Parisian French door and is an inexpensive way to dress up an interior.
Mirrors also make great art. Available flat, convex (where objects appear larger in the centre), concave (objects appear smaller in the centre), magnifying or with a special finish, they can be grouped together in a range of sizes and frame styles or interspersed with framed artwork to reflect light and provide unique detail on any wall.
Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah.