Friday, February 13, 2015

Mirror Mirror On The Wall...

Its all about the sparkle... And why shouldn't it be? Life is too short to inhabit perfunctory spaces with all the usefulness yet ugliness of a fluorescent light bulb! Give me warm and incandescent. Give me candles, give me mirrors. Give me sparkle!

I am currently having fun designing a pair of  pier glasses for the ballroom. A pier glass is a mirror which is hung or affixed to a pier – the wall space between two windows or two doors (called a pier as it supports the ceiling above). 

Above: An example of piers between two French doors very similar to our own.

Pier glasses are usually long and tall, fitted to the space, and are often framed or decorated to match the windows on either side...

It was a common decorating idea in 18th century houses. This was because they were used to reflect candle light (thus often there were matching tables or consoles on the pier below the mirror for candelabras). Thus, beautiful and functional.

- Slight aside, do you know that modern diamonds are cut differently from 18th century ones as 18th century ones were made to sparkle in natural light and candle light, whereas modern diamonds are cut to better sparkle in artificial light?

Above: Examples of pier glasses in the reconstructed music room of Norfolk House at the V&A.

Below: Pier glasses in a ballroom (? In Spain).

Designers in the 18th century would design the pier glasses to match the room along with the furniture...

We have chosen to design pier glasses with arched or curved tops, as the repetition of the curves along the top of the ballroom feels less stilted than having rectangular mirrors... 

Above: Curved top pier glasses.

Below: Rectangular pier glasses.

We are having the glasses made for us to fit the pier between the doors. We will then have the glasses affixed to the wall and affix gilded crystal sconces on either side. 

I found many examples of framing and ornamentation for the mirrors ranging from the insanely ornate baroque to the more modest Edwardian. After some comparison I decided to base my design on this mirror, which although not Georgian would pass for 18th century...

The closest runner-ups were these two... 

I am going to adapt the shield design at the centre top to a shell in order to tie the design to the consoles which will go below.

Here were some other mirrors which we compared in choosing the prototype:

 Chippendale / Adams Styled Pier Glasses...

More ornate French baroque styled pier glasses...
Victorian / Napoleon III Styled pier glasses... 

and more modern pier glasses...

Bringing the whole sparkling look together...
Above: A Chippendale designs for a pier glass.

Below: His designs for matching consoles.

We designed the space in the ballroom specifically to accommodate two pier glasses and consoles, so right from conception the architectural skeleton of the room was correct. We had these consoles made as copies from a photo I took in a antique shop. Our carvers have done a pretty good job of it…

Above: The original Georgian consoles in the Antique shop.

Below: The replicas that our carpenters have made.
Above: Interim photos for approval during the carving process.

Below: The finished gilded pieces.
Above and below you can see the shell motif in the ornamentation, which we shall use on the mirrors to tie the furniture together.

The end effect will be something like this:

Below: Other such consoles...

Sparkle came not just from the candelabras on the consoles and the chandeliers, but from additional candelabras which sat on stands known as torcheres or torchieres....
Above: Chippendale designs for torchieres.

Below: A lovely pair that came up for auction recently (not Chippendale).

more fantastic stands, this one converted for electric lights...

So this Valentine's weekend sit down and relax in the most comfortable chair in your favourite room. Dim the lights and rid yourself of any harsh fluorescent ugliness. Light a candle in front of a mirror, share a glass of bubbles with someone special and revel in your own effervescent sparkly life.


  1. you have some very talented carpenters!

    1. I agree! They are skilled here, but I wonder if they could copy that here; sadly I doubt it.

    2. Yes, we have been very lucky indeed. It did take some shopping around to begin with.

  2. Dear David,
    Well, that all looks lovely! I hope that we can find carpenters that good when we come to our own house building adventure!
    I do like the mirror you have chosen but I can see that it would have been a difficult choice because the runners up are also rather nice.
    Bye for now,

    1. Dear Kirk, how wonderful to hear from you! I look forward to more posts from you when you return to blogging.

      Yes, difficult choices, but in the end (as with so many things to do with the house) no matter how much we perseverate at the time, down the track I am sure we would be happy any of the several alternatives on offer.

      It's a bit like when we have planted hedging. We take so much effort to make sure that the trees are in line to the quarter inch, when in fact, in a few years time no one would ever know if they were out by an inch or two. Oh the OCD of this project!


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