Working with vintage mirrors is one of our favourite antique design techniques. Mirrors offer an unparalleled ability to open up a space and add depth to smaller rooms. Large vintage mirror frames, however, also bring with them a wealth of character and charm.
But have you ever stumbled upon a striking vintage mirror only to discover it’s fallen into a miserable state? Fear not, we have the ultimate guide to restoring your vintage mirror back to its former glory.
Where to Find Vintage Mirrors
First things first, you’ll need to get your hands on a vintage mirror. This isn’t too difficult since many are quick to cast aside old mirrors when they become tarnished or dull. This is a gold mine for antique lovers who have the patience and passion to restore their vintage finds.
If you’re not wanting to splash too much cash then flea markets, op shops and garage sales are a great place to start looking. Finding large vintage mirrors for sale is a matter of seeing the potential in your purchase. Remember – we’re here to restore worn out mirrors, not find immaculate pieces.
Re-silvering Your Vintage Mirror
Once you’ve secured a vintage mirror to work with, your first step is to dissemble it. This will allow you to restore the glass without risking damage to its frame from the harsh chemicals.
Next up is e-silvering your mirror’s glass. This can be a complex process so be sure to thoroughly research your re-silvering method. Below is a basic run through on re-silvering your vintage mirror:
- Thoroughly clean the glass with warm water and a gentle detergent or soap, then wipe dry with a microfibre cloth
- Remove the backing paint with paint stripper – this can be left on overnight for up to 12 hours
- Once the backing paint is removed, use protective gear and a chemical silver remover to safely dissolve and remove the silver
- Use a re-silvering kit to apply fresh silver leaf to your mirror. Follow with your new mirror backing.
Repairing a Vintage Frame
Once your mirror glass is bright and gleaming, it’s time to take care of the frame. Start by giving the frame a thorough clean with rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt, grime and fingerprints. This will also provide a seamless base for your paint to adhere to, should you wish to re-surface or paint your frame. Ensure you choose the right paint base for your type of frame (plastic frames can be difficult to adhere paint to compared to metal).
If your vintage mirror frame has any noticeable chips or cracks, attend to these with silicone putty, or gesso for smaller cracks, prior to painting.
Bringing Your Mirror to Life
Once you’ve attended to each separate section of your mirror, it’s time to bring it together. Carefully re-assemble you glass in the frame. You can add new mounting hooks and accessories at this point too. This will ensure your refurbished mirror doesn’t go anywhere once it’s hung in place.
And voila – your once dingy old mirror is now a gleaming statement vintage piece to add a touch of elegance to any space.