Architectural Use of Mirrors
Paintings of grand European residential interiors in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries depict rooms with
mirrors built into the decorative structure. Important rooms were designed to incorporate architectural elements like doors,
windows, and fireplaces into an overall scheme, where all the elements conspired to create a whole.
Full-height windows, tall doors with decorative panels over them, columns or pilasters, and chimney breasts were the vertical
elements in the room. Horizontal elements like crown moldings, beamed or coffered ceilings, chair rails, and wainscot, were
used to connect the vertical elements.
Assuming that the room was rectilinear, the overall effect was to create a kind of grid, which, in turn, created a paneled
decorative structure for the room. The nature of the grid and panels may be particular to the exact moment and location-a
French room decorated in 1810 may look considerably different than an English room of 1750-but all the elements would have
been geometrically organized.
In many cases, some of the panels in the room would be mirrored. If the chimney breast is mirrored above the fireplace, it is
called an over mantel mirrors. If the space between the windows is mirrored, it is called a pier glass,
referring to the structural pier mirrors between the windows.
The most extravagant example of the architectural use of mirrors may be the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in France.
Though these examples may seem like they are from the distant past, far removed from our own houses, they are still active precedents
for decoration. It is still true that the first place we think of placing a mirrors is over the fireplace and the next is between two