Refurbished Vintage Mirror

I’ve always liked the look of an older beveled mirror. It is almost like a window into the past. The vintage plaster work really sets them apart. Slightly degraded silvering also gives them a nice feel. Do you want to make hallway feel like a haunted house? Find one with a lot of silvering missing. It’s a little creepy to look at your own reflection in one.
I was looking for an interesting look for our half-bath. Apparently powder-room is the proper vernacular. I always thought of a powder-room as where the charges were stored for naval guns. I guess there is more than one meaning.
Every spring York Haven Elementary has a fund-raiser by renting out parking spaces for yard sales. I always find something interesting. I saw this mirror for $10. The owner really wanted to get rid of it and when I eyeballed it she quickly offered it to me for $5. For $5, I thought it was worth it. Honestly I just wanted the glass. It is not easy to find thick beveled glass.
At this point my thought was that I know how to make a new frame and if I didn’t like the look of the mirror I could figure out how to re-silver it. The only silvering that was degrading was around the bevel. The decorative plaster was in good shape, just very dirty. The bad news is that it was obvious this was stored in a damp place. The back was in bad shape. The eyehooks fell out of the frame when I tested the wire. I was not able to salvage the outer frame. For $5 I really can’t complain.
I took apart the frame into its three pieces. The inner frame just needed to be cleaned up. Most of the old paint just flaked off. I didn’t need to use a chemical stripper. The plaster was cleaned with a toothbrush. I made a new outer frame from new window casing. I picked up the thickest I could find because this older glass is very heavy and needed the support.
Painting was an easy decision. We were not going to leave the powder room white. I wanted the mirror to be a noticeable piece in the room and not just an accent. I figured if the mirror frame was stark white it would be more prominent in the room. Besides if I just have a white base coat it would be no problem painting it another color if I get tired of the white.
I used a spray gun and white latex paint on the inner and outer frames. I wasn’t going for perfection. I left some small runs to keep an older look. Even though they only had one coat of paint I wanted the look of many coats over the decades. For the plaster I just took a very dry brush and highlighted the details with the same white latex. I wanted the older black and gold paint in the crevices to give it depth.
For the outer frame I made sure it was stronger than I needed. I overbuild sometimes. In addition to gluing I added L-brackets for additional support. When I disassembled the frames, there were easily 50 finishing nails holding them together. Just in case I ever remove the mirror I wanted to make it a bit easier to remove it. I used copper pipe hanger I had and fashioned brackets out of them.
All in all we are very happy with it. Maybe if we change the wall color I may want to change the frame color. I like the slight degradation of the silvering. I feel no need to re-silver the glass.
Next spring I will be hitting up the yard sales and see if I can find more. I have two other bathrooms that have the standard builder-grade mirrors.


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