Monday, April 12, 2010

Smoke and mirrors

photo Elle Décoration

It's all done with mirrors - or is it? It's all done with mirrors, maybe. These days, it would seem we are content to hang a mirror on the wall 
or in more adventurous moments, a grouping of mirrors.

True, it maybe an exceptional mirror like this one by Hubert le Gall. 
Any well placed mirror can add another dimension 
to an interior; I'm not belittling the lone mirror.  

Going through my treasured documents, I notice that there was an outburst of reflective creativity not so long ago. In its glory days in the 30s and 40s, mirrored glass was called into service in inventive ways to make up a more decisive part of a room's décor. I don't mean the all out display where the mirror is the entire flashing statement - no, not spectacular Versailles, nor full blown glitzy Hollywood style- but there was originality in the approach to the material that attempted to make its sparkle and beguiling presence interact more with a room. These are some of the examples I've found.

Drian's outstanding painted mirrors surrounded the dining room in the home of Couturier Molyneux.

photo Buffotot

 Narrow bands of mirrors curve out on either side of one large  panel creating facets to reflect the lighting hidden in stucco vases. The color seems to be out of balance in this room by Raval. Is it the photograph? I'd like to replace the not so vibrantly colored hyacynths with geometric ebony sculpture.

More painted effects this time from Félix Davin. I imagine that from the vantage point of the table that the
false oeil de boeuf would be completely filled in with a reflection of the real window facing it.

Beistegui's Venetian glass and Napoleon III frou frou scream out in refusal of Le Corbusier's minimalism.
Brightly lit during the day thanks to plate glass windows, the house must have really come alive at night.
We must remember that this building-top villa was provided with electricity only for spectacular manoeuvres: automatic doors, sliding walls, disappearing trees. Candlelight was the only lighting source to flicker in the surrounding glass, mirrors and crystal.

M.L. Sue achieved an enchanted grotto effect for this double dining room. A composition of mirrors
was cut and superposed to form a sculptural decoration.

Marc du Plantier decorated this apartment in the Ile-St-Louis. Une chambre, c'est bleu ! Seductively wavering blueVenetian glass, blue walls and a bluegreen lacquer writing table with
a polished parchment top create an extraordinary vibration.  Parchment and Indian red keep it lively.

Adnet designed an extremely mannered bedroom, doubly remarkable for using 
 white Staff to imitate curtains and blue tinted mirrors "backstage." Even the bed has a smooth polished surface with its fitted satin cover.

unmarked photos are from Plaisir de France, Atelier Sougez


  1. Love mirrors. I call them light magnets. In fact, le style I plan to cover my kitchen in sheet mirror and use chrome open shelving. Why scrub grout when you can windex?

  2. Sounds wonderful! I like your 'light magnets' too.

  3. "Les miroirs feraient bien de réfléchir un peu plus avant de renvoyer les images"

    Jean Cocteau

  4. i agree as well that mirrors are underappreciated! i did that in my basement kitchen, using mirrors between the counters and the cupboards to get more light in and open up the space.

    great post!

  5. TG: Cocteau - troublant! Je promets d’autres réflexions au sujet des miroirs bientôt.

    MlleP: Mirrors seem a good clean surface for kitchens where we want things to sparkle. Do I see bowls of fruit, flowers and pretty crockery + stainless steel appliances in front of your mirrors?

  6. "Beistegui's Venetian glass and Napoleon III frou frou scream out in refusal of Le Corbusier's minimalism" lol - they could NOT be more opposite! I really think walls paneled with mirrors are unfairly persecuted. They can give wonderful dimensions to rooms, but every time I see them come up on a design show, the first step is: remove the mirrors! Too bad.

  7. SF: Mirrors definitely have to be handled with care if they are not to become harsh and cold. Venetian glass has a softer appeal though. When handled well the room can become 3D watercolor.

  8. How interesting that Charles de Beistegui restricted himself to candles at his Paris appartment - and how characteristically theatrical. In a way he was the forerunner of the traditional lighting schemes we are recreating now at some National Trust houses.

  9. Emile, Thank you for reading so attentively. Your National Trust site has me planning a trip to England sometime this year!

  10. I adore mirrors, Thank you for sharing this very reflective survey. Did you see my Beistegui post. We have both looked at the same room with a twist.

  11. I find the Adnet bedroom extremely beautiful, mannered or not. It sets off all sorts of ideas and connections. Great post!

  12. I am dying over the Le Corbusier & E.T. apartment! I have seen only a few photos of this surrealistic space and would love to see more- do you have any recommendations? Where did the photograph you posted come from? Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  13. Adam: I believe you can see pictures in the Battersby book. My picture, as credited (I do always try to give credit!) comes from "Plaisir de France," a monthly publication which was incorporated into "Connaissance des Arts." The Corbusier appartment was decorated by Beistegui himself. His collaboration with E.Terry started at château de Groussay. I can forward you some others photos from P de F if you would like.

  14. Thank you! I have just ordered copies of both of the Battersby books- I can't wait. I would love to see more of the photos from P de F! And I thought that funny baroque-ish chair in the lower right corner was E.T.?
    perhaps it was just those few pieces of furniture and C de B did the rest himself? Thanks again! I have gotten such an education from your blog.


  15. What a nice thing to say! I know you will enjoy the Battersby books, but you may not see as many pictures as you would like. Send me your email if you don't get your fill!