Our house, built in 1960, has many large rooms, an attention to detail in trim work, and a certain charm that new-built houses tend to lack. That said, it is missing the grand foyer I’ve so loved in many homes. The ceiling opens into the second floor above the staircase, but the rest of the foyer appears rather small. It should come as no surprise, then, that on our first tour of the house – when we already knew this was the one – we decided a mirror on the largest wall would help the room feel lighter.
We also already owned a six-lighted window that we’d picked up at a reuse warehouse a couple years earlier. It’d been mottled in dust and dirt, stained with white paint, and pretty much left in disarray. It did, however, have all of its glass intact and cost less than $10. It needed just a little love and a coat of paint to make it new – I just hadn’t decided what I wanted to do with it yet. It wanted to be a chalkboard, a calendar, a dry-erase board, etc. all at once. Sometimes it just wanted to be a window. It really was a pain for someone who tends to be decisive on all things design.
It may have taken far too long, a lot of elbow-grease, and a stroke of necessity, but it finally became what it always wanted to be: a mirror.
And with that, here are the things you need to make your very own:
Foam Brushes or Lint-Free Rags
Stain or Paint (we used Minwax Dark Walnut)
1. Find a suitable mirror at a reuse warehouse, preferably without paint or new enough that you can be sure it’s lead-free. There are hundreds of windows at the warehouse nearest us, but many of them are quite plain and most suitable to remain windows in a house. Hold out for a shape and style you love.
2. Clean the window and window frame of dust, dirt, and decade-old grime. While soap and water might work for some windows, many will require something more like Goo Gone and a heavy dose of effort. I alternated between rags and lightly scraping off the worst of the grime with a safety scraper. You may want gloves for this part – I did.
3. If you chose a window with a painted frame, now is the time to strip it (following the directions on your paint stripper). Definitely wear gloves, a mask, and protective glasses for this part.
4. Once the frame is thoroughly dry, sand the edges until you can see the grains and/or remove any remaining paint chips. Run over it with a damp rag to remove any dust.
5. Cover the glass with newspaper and tape the edges with painter’s tape.
6. Pick a stain or paint for the frame. I admittedly like the look of old white window frames – which had been a draw to this one – but our house has white trim work (and someday white wainscoting) and white doors throughout so it felt like too much. We chose a stain, so skip to Step 9 if you’re painting.
7. Dip a clean, lint-free rag in the stain and coat the frame. Let it sit for fifteen minutes (or however long your particular stain requires) and wipe it off with a clean rag. Repeat three times.
8. Once the stain has set for a number of hours (24, in our case), coat with Wipe-On Poly using a rag. Follow instructions and apply at least two coats. Let dry for two days before going to the next step.
9. Tape off the frame and use the Mirror Effect spray according to its directions. Spray on the BACK side of the glass (the side that will face the wall) – this seemed to be the most common mistake that reviewers of the product made. If you spray it on the wrong side, you will not get a mirror effect; you will get a dull gray flatness. I shook it well between each square and used two coats on each.
10. Unfurl that beauty and hang her (or set her on her side) so you can admire her – and the reflection – properly.
– M Ray Hall