The selfie might be the latest way our society expresses its narcissism, but before Kim Kardashian and the rest of us snapped copious portraits with our iPhones, we had an easier way to indulge in self-obsession: mirrors. The Chinese used polished bronze 4,000 years ago. Some 8,000 years ago, in what is now Turkey, obsidian was the reflector of choice. Before that, Narcissus simply gazed into still waters.
Whatever the material, mirrors have been there to confirm (or deny) – again and again and again – how pretty we are.
For the most part, though, mirrors were an extraordinary indulgence. Versailles was a symbol of regal wealth not just because it was dripping in gilt, but also because it had a Hall of Mirrors (the Baroque equivalent of bling). But it wasn't until the industrial revolution that mirrors started becoming an everyday item.
Now of course they are everywhere – in our bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms and front halls – but that doesn't mean mirrors have stopped evolving. Innovative designers are still thinking of creative ways to help us look at ourselves and the world around us. Sometimes in a playful way: with warped or colourful glass that's more fun house than pore gazing. And sometimes in a way that's just plain sparkling. Here are six of the shiniest.
Gaze into it
Toronto’s Deborah Moss and her late husband, Edward Lam, designed the Grove Mirror. The reflective top – available in blue, bronze or black – is contoured to echo the sinuous line of the solid, spalted maple stump. It’s then flush mounted into the grain, creating a sublime effect similar to a pond in the woods. Price upon request. Through avenue-road.com.
Stare at it
Tokujin Yoshioka’s mirrored table, designed for Lombardy brand Glas Italia, has a serene lightness, not just because the surface is reflective from all angles, but also because the edges are prismatic, which refracts light and makes the whole thing appear to float. Price upon request. Through informinteriors.com.
West Elm’s faceted side table is as versatile as it is vain. The antique finishing on the glass is rusticated for traditional, Old World spaces. The sharp angular lines would fit well in a more modern space. $239. Through westelm.com.
Live in it
The Lake Cottage, designed by Toronto architecture firm UUfie for a site in Ontario’s Kawartha lakes region, was inspired by tree houses, where nature is integral to the structure. Although the structure is not physically supported by branches, the large front terrace is lined with reflective panels to incorporate the surrounding forest on the building’s façade. For more information, contact uufie.com.
Sit on it
The Chippensteel seat, by Polish studio Zieta, was made by fusing thin sheets of steel together, then inflating the assemblage like a giant metallic balloon. The high gloss, stainless finish – available only with a limited run of 50 chairs – has a reflective effect, though the dimples at the edges warp the mirroring. $2,875 (€1,900). Through zieta.pl.
London designer Lee Borthwick custom creates wall tapestries that will appeal equally to eco lovers and egoists. Dozens of tiny, laser-cut mirrors combine to create unusual, fragmented reflections. They are mounted on segments of ash and hazel branches that were thinned from the trees of a National Trust property in the southeast of England. Made-to-order. From $643 (£425) for 40 cm x 40cm. Through leeborthwick.co.uk.
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