Every space I create usually has a mix of high and low elements, things that I saved on so I could splurge elsewhere. We saved a ton in the kitchen by doing much of the work ourselves and using all in-stock tile, but there was one place I was determined to splurge: the backsplash. I’ve seen mirrored backsplashes done behind bars, but I’d never really seen it done in a kitchen. I love the reflectiveness and interest antique mirror adds to any space, so I thought “why not add that to a kitchen?”
THE WHY: Other than the pure beauty of it, I also knew it could help our rather tiny kitchen. This room is one of the smallest in the house at about 10×10. The hallway going through and the big bay window make it feel larger, but the workspace itself is not big. I had thought about opening it up a bit, but taking down walls would mean loosing a formal dining room which I like having or loosing the only substantial wall in the wood-paneled room no longer making it feel like a wood-paneled room. Plus, I like that our kitchen is open to other spaces but closed off enough to hide the messes. So how to open up the space without actually opening it up? Mirrors.
When I mentioned I was doing this I certainly got a lot of mixed reviews about it on the blog, and most of them were completely valid points. The thing with a reflective surface is it doubles everything. So if you’re the type who keeps lots of decor, appliances, snacks on your counter then this is probably not the approach for you. Your clutter will be multiplied. But I prefer a really clean counter. We took steps to ensure there weren’t appliances on the counters, and I typically only have a set of canisters and some cutting boards setting out.
People also questioned how dirty the mirror would get, but I haven’t found this to be an issue. The antiquing hides most of the water spots around the sink and a squirt of window cleaner a few times a week is only a few seconds of my time for a fresh start. Cleaning the solid surface verses something with grout lines is much easier too.
One tip I received from a reader that I am forever grateful for is to not mirror behind the range. I had planned to take the mirror all the way over, but it was brought to my attention that you’d be stuck staring at yourself the entire time you stood at the stove. Not such a great view at 8am, huh? I ended up stopping the mirror at the end of the upper cabinets, and it’s the perfect amount. It’s not at a height where I am constantly catching my reflection, but it makes the kitchen appear larger and the kids love it because they can wipe their faces in front of the sink and see if they actually got it all.
It also helps with the passthrough window. The passthrough was another element I debated on for months before deciding to keep it. I understand that it is known as a dated feature, but it’s so functional. I love that I can see the door to the kids’ playroom from it, and it does help make the kitchen feel more open. Closing it up would have also been tricky with refinishing the paneled wall on the other side. Taking the glass above the window creates a wall of reflectiveness that makes a softer transition as you look through to the other space.
TO BUY OR DIY? I did consider and research DIYing. When mercury glass became such a trend a few years back the internet was flooded with tutorials. We could of had glass cut to size, mirrored it ourselves and then antiqued it. But having glass cut to size isn’t super cheap itself, and I knew it would probably never look as good as I had hoped. Did you know mirror patterns are owned by manufacturers? This particular pattern is called Summer Cloud and it took me weeks to decide which pattern I wanted. Just as fabric and wallpaper companies own the right to patterns, glass companies own the rights to antique mirror. Crazy. Going this route meant that I got a consistent pattern and paying someone else to install it ensured we weren’t liable if something went wrong I just saw me spending hours trying to mirror and antique and then something breaking when we went to put it in. DIYing most of the other details in the kitchen made it easy for me to say no to DIYing this.
THE COST: This is not a cheap treatment. I knew that going in, and prepared myself to pay. The mirror plus installation ran us around $850. I can’t tell you how many times Micah said to me throughout the reno “can’t we just tile this area and call it a day? We could save so much money!” And he was right, tiling that space would have been a fraction of the cost, but the results would not have been the same. The mirror opens the space up and adds interest in a beautifully subtle way. Design is in the details, and this detail is one of my favorites.
What is an element in your home that you splurged on and are happy you did?