Mirror, Mirror Over The Mantel – What Size To Get?

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to “standard time!” Since Boston is one of the easternmost cities in “eastern time” and is also pretty far north, it gets dark quite early. Tonight (Sunday night) will be at 4:31, almost four hours earlier than on our latest sunsets at the end of June.

Oh, I could go on with the astronomy lesson, but I know you’re busy and might not be interested. If you are, though, here’s one of my favorite posts about the northernmost inhabited city in the world.

Okay, let’s dive into our post–

 

Mirror, mirror on the over the mantel.

Please tell us what size to get, Laurel.

 

Heck, if I know!

 

Okay, well, there is no one answer because there are numerous factors at play, which we’ll get to in a sec.

However, do you want to know the biggest mistake I see when folks place a mirror over the fireplace?

 

They choose a mirror over the mantel that is too small.

 

Wait! Laurel! Aren’t you the one who’s always harping telling us that our furniture is probably TOO BIG! As it needs to go on a diet?

 

Yes, that’s me. But, that’s furniture that sits on the floor. A mirror over a mantel or anywhere on the wall is, of course, a vertical surface.

What’s the difference aside from one being a horizontal plane and one being a vertical plane? Well, the walls are the largest area of any room. And, sometimes by a lot. But, also, because the furniture is for people to use. And, we are the same size no matter what room we are in.

This post isn’t talking about art because, in the case of art, we can have one, two, or a large grouping of pieces to make up an entire composition. In my 333 Hard to Find Rules & Tips, You Need to Know Guide; I go over this in great detail.

 

However, I have to admit that while I mention mirrors, I pretty much glossed over them.

 

Here’s the thing. It would be easier if every fireplace mantel were 48″-54″ high and every ceiling 8′-10′ high. But, since 90% of us have at least one ceiling of about that height, let’s begin there.

Remember this post about ideal fireplace mantel (or surround) proportions? That is actually a fairly large mantel for an eight-foot ceiling. It’s certainly fine, but I’d probably recommend one that’s 48″ so that there’s more room on top. I do like the proportions of that mantel, however.

And no, I don’t think the mantel size correlates to the room size or wall height, and I believe that mantel heights are pretty stable. Yes, you can put a more oversized mantel in a larger room, but I don’t think it has to be that way.

 

And, marble fireplace mantels might be smaller than average, but let’s just stick with an average of about 51″ high.

 

If your opening is roughly 30″ square and your marble surround area is from 6″, the mantel part is approximately 8″ wide, the shelf at the top of the mantel will be about 66″-68″.

I like a reasonably wide overhang, but it depends on the style of moulding. 

In addition, your opening might be larger or smaller. Mine is only 27”, which for my 13’6” ceiling height is relatively tiny.


 Generally, the mirror frame should never be larger than the stiles (vertical pieces) of the fireplace surround, and that’s a hard and fast rule.

 

That is unless you have a gorgeous apartment in Paris. Then, you can do pretty much whatever you want. The bigger, the better.

 

haussmannien-chic-moulures-noires-couleurs-sombresvia Apt Lafayette

I’m not saying this is wrong. In fact, I far prefer it to dinky. It’s making a statement which is not a bad thing, in this case. It’s a gorgeous apartment, and they rent this place. Please also follow them on Instagram.

 

However, you will see in print that the typical dimension for a mirror over the mantel is two-thirds the width of the mantel.

 

I am not sure if they include the overhang or not. Most of the time, that’s fine. However, it can be a little more narrow than that if there are sconces. OR, if the mirror is part of a composition of other things.

 

Rod Collins photo of Furlow Gatewood - wall mirrors fireplace mantel living room

Here is an excellent example by Furlow Gatewood. Photo: Rod Collins.

This is a good post about mirrors in general, with many mirrors over the fireplace.

 

So, let’s assume that there is only a mirror over the mantel with no sconces.

 

If your mantel is 68″ wide (the width of the mantel shelf), I will do a mirror that is approximately 40″ –  52″ wide. That is running the mirror vertically.

  • But, what about the height of the mirror over the mantel?
  • And, what if the mirror has moulding on the bottom or top?

 

Let’s begin with the second question. :]

 

Large Victorian Giltwood Mirror via 1st Dibs - Pier Mirror
Large Victorian Giltwood Mirror via 1st Dibs – Pier Mirror

 

There are so many types of mirrors. Mirrors with trim on the bottom are known as pier mirrors and are meant to sit right on the mantel.

18th Century French Louis XVI Carved Giltwood Wall Trumeau Mirror from Provence

18th Century French Louis XVI Carved Giltwood Wall Trumeau Mirror from Provence

 

This is a trumeau mirror. A trumeau mirror has a decorative frieze or painting over the mirror.

 

NewAntiqueFrench on Etsy trumeau mirror

NewAntiqueFrench on Etsy trumeau mirror

 

Sometimes there is a crown at the top of the mirror. Trumeau mirrors often have this. But, they don’t have to.

NewAntiqueFrench makes these custom trumeau mirrors in the Louis XVI style.

Below is a mini widget of some of them. But, you can customize your mirror however you want. Please click on any image if you’re interested in more info.

 

 

Let’s bring that pier mirror down again.

 

Large Victorian Giltwood Mirror via 1st Dibs - Pier Mirror

If there is moulding on the bottom, then I think it’s fine to take the edge of that moulding within an inch or so of the end of the overhang. In addition to moulding, some pier mirrors have a decorative corbel, such as is the case with the spectacular mirrors that Steve Cordony has in his double parlor at Rosedale Farm. It is a similar mirror to the pier mirror I found above.

 

These pier mirrors have a corbel on the bottom, as do some other types of French mirrors.

 

@stevecordony - eclectic interiors - new trad living room Rosedale Farm gorgeous crystal chandeliers - white slipcovers - white-on-white

Hang on, and I’ll get a better image of one of the mirrors.

 

 mantel mirror living room

Christmas mantel Steve Cordony Rosedale Farm

It isn’t easy to see here, but the corbels come very close to the edge of the mantel shelf.

 

As an aside, I would classify Steve’s style as young traditional or neo-traditional (neo-trad).

 

Please notice how he deftly mixes an exceedingly formal mirror with far less formal pieces as well as contemporary pieces. This is also something we talk a lot about.

Steve follows the 80/20 rule instinctively. 80% of the room is traditional, and about 20% is contemporary. He gets away with the formal pieces because his room is grand, and the color scheme is neutral.

 

But, Steve is a genius who makes it look so easy.

 

However, I was watching one of his hypnotic styling videos the other day when I couldn’t help but notice:

 

Steve Cordony - genius stylist ignoring the stain

Ummm… Did the dog pee on that super expensive rug? Or, is it just a water spill from the vase? And, why didn’t anyone notice? Steve has a crew of people helping him; you can be sure. They didn’t even try to cover it up.

Well, no matter, they left it in, and this just makes me love him all the more, if that’s even possible.

 

Okay, where were we before the doggie accident? ;]

 

Oh yes. The height of the mirror over the mantel. I hope I’m not putting you to sleep… zzzzz… I’m putting myself to sleep. lol

 

William McLure- Georgian fireplace mantel sketch

 

So, let’s go back to our eight-foot ceiling and 51″ mantel height. Which leaves 48″, not including the crown moulding. But, let’s subtract 4″ for that.

If you have an eight-foot ceiling, your mirror is most likely going to run horizontally. But, if running vertically, you can actually run the mirror right up to the crown moulding, and this will actually help lift the ceiling. But, I would do a mirror with a thinner frame.

 

Maybe– unless you’re in France. Or, Paris, to be specific.

 

If you have a nine or ten-foot ceiling, you can go as high as about 56″ and 68″ respectively.

However, all of this depends on the following:

 

  • the shape of the mirror
  • size of the mantel
  • the crown moulding.

 

Also, sometimes, there is a frieze or picture rail below the crown moulding.

The best thing is to draw an elevation of your wall or a mockup before purchasing your mirror.

But, what if it’s too late and you have a mirror over the mantel which is seriously dinky, there is no other place to put it, and your mother-in-law gave it to you for a wedding present?

Please have no fear. There is a solution for a mirror over the mantel that’s too small. And, we’ve already talked about it.

You create a composition around it.

 

Please check out this post about fireplace mantel styling.

 

Of course, when no one else is at home, and the pets are in another room, you could also help the mirror over the mantel crash down to the floor. I recommend that you wear some protective gear, however.

 

Okay. It’s time to look at some gorgeous examples of what I’ve been talking about.

 

via - ideat.thegoodhub.com

via – ideat.thegoodhub.com

I adore this French mirror painted white. It knocks back the formality of the gold, and it’s also an excellent way for an imposing mirror to look less prominent.

 

verocotrel.fr - gorgeous Parisian apartment

verocotrel.fr

 

Oh, what a gorgeous Parisian apartment. Please check it out.

 

Emilie Bonaventure’s home in the 9th arrondissement. Photo – Nicolas Mathéus.

Emilie Bonaventure’s home in the 9th arrondissement. Photo – Nicolas Mathéus.

 

AB Kasha on instagram - gorgeous Louis XVI mirror - marble fireplace surround

AB Kasha on Instagram – gorgeous Louis XVI mirror – marble fireplace surround. Please revisit some posts where I featured their stunning renovations in Paris.

I want this mirror, but as you’ll soon see that I need one a bit taller.

 

OKL-Ali-Cayne - 2012 - apartment fireplace over the mantelAn oldie but classic goodie of Ali Cayne’s apartment. This is a beautifully proportioned mirror over the mantel.

 

Another option that I love is the integrated mirror that’s integrated into the moulding. Let’s look at some examples.

 

JK Place lobby beautiful mirror and architectureJK Place Capri

 

http:::camillearchitectures.com:fr- beautiful trumeau built-in mirror

camillearchitectures.com:fr

 

I love this trumeau mirror integrated into the wall paneling.

 

AB Kasha mirror and mantel detail

And, a beautiful architectural detail by AB Kasha over a gorgeous honed marble fireplace surround.

 

But, what if you have a ceiling 13.6″ ceiling like mine, or, even the ubiquitous 20th-century innovation, the double-story “great room.” Those rooms have a ceiling height that’s usually at least 17 feet high!

Indeed, we’re not going to run the mirror up 12 feet! Or, even 9 feet.

 

super tall mirror Parisian home

This is up there, but I think it works in this space. (source unknown)

However, I did mockups of my fireplace wall.

 

By doing this or an elevation, it’s the best way to see proportions. Another option is to put up some blue tape over your fireplace mantel to indicate where the mirror will go. However, if your wall is super high and you’re as clumsy as I am, then it is probably a good idea to keep your feet planted on the ground. haha

 

Let’s look at the mockups for the mirror over the mantel.

 

size for mirror over the mantel(2)

And, for my room and probably others with very tall ceilings, I did a mirror height that is 1-1/2 the height of the mantel. Or, close to 1.618, or 3:5, which is relative to the golden mean.

I think it’s also nice to do a mirror that goes to the ends of the stone before the mantel itself.

In plain English, this mirror measures about 78″ high by 48″ wide. That would be a perfect size for my fireplace mantel. That is the one I don’t have yet. haha

 

 mirror over the mantel - trumeau mirrorThen, I took the trumeau mirror from above to try it out. To the top of the finial is 96″ – eight feet! This mirror can rest on the mantel or be hung up from the mantel.  It’s certainly a dramatic piece.

 

However, below, I manipulated the proportions to make it better.

 

best size for mirror over the mantel - Trumeau mirror

I think you could make a case for either one.

 

best size for mirror over the mantel - Louis XV style mirrorThis is a more opulent Louis XV mirror that’s also eight feet tall. This could work, but I really prefer the Louis XVI style with the key corners.

Another thing to consider when deciding how tall your mirror should be is the height of the windows and doors. That can play an essential factor. For instance, my doors with their frame are roughly ten feet high. However, the windows come only two or three inches below the frieze!

 

Jan 13, 12-20pm bright sunshine - living room Benjamin Moore Classic Gray
By the way, I have tables and shades for the lamps coming. Finally!

 

best size for mirror over the mantel - Louis XV style mirror smaller

Here, I made the mirror a little smaller; what do you think? I know our American eyes are used to seeing smaller.

 

Do not pin this - It

This one’s very bad; way too small. Please don’t pin it.

 

However, I’m ending with one lovely idea that I found several months ago. It’s from a local designer Kristin Paton who did a fantastic job on a renovation very close to me. Please also follow Kristin on Instagram.

 

Kristin Paton interiors beautiful mirror Commonwealth renovationThis isn’t a fireplace mantel, obviously. But I love how Kristin created this integrated mirror using smaller mirrors with a small bevel and a tiny brass rosette.

 

I’ve never done an integrated mirror, but it’s something to consider if you can’t afford an $8,000.00 antique!

 

What about new mirrors?

Yes, there are some nice ones. And, Anthropologie has a couple of large ones that are nice.

Maybe one day, I’ll do another post focusing on making a mirror, or, at least, have it made.

It would be possible to create a beautiful faux gold leaf. Or, you might purchase or have made framing pieces that are already antiqued that are meant for paintings.

Of course, there are always estate sales and auctions. And, maybe some of you are lucky enough to inherit an old 19th century or earlier beauty.

 

The socialite family - huge leaning Louis XVI style French mirror

The socialite family

 

Like this incredible huge leaning Louis XVI style French mirror

 

But, Laurel, you didn’t talk about other shapes for a mirror over the mantel like round mirrors, for instance.

 

I know.

Maybe another day.

xo,

 

PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

And the beautiful new HOLIDAY SHOP filled with decorating ideas as well as gift guides galore!

 

  • Rita Brantley - November 8, 2021 - 1:24 PM

    Love your post! They are so informative and really gets me thinking. I have 8 ft ceilings and my fireplace is 54” high and the mantle is 83” wide and the fire box is 40” wide and 30” high. These numbers are way off of your average and there is a mirror over it that is 83” wide and 41” to the molding. I am thinking of the anthology mirror that is 39x 391/2 and putting it over the big mirror. I am not sure about a mirror over a mirror. Anyway thanks!!ReplyCancel

  • SM - November 7, 2021 - 4:16 PM

    That Parisian apartment with all that shamelessly gorgeous plasterwork! Thank you for these magnificent pictures! I’d love to have a huge mirror above our fireplace and have been pondering it for many years, but it would be interesting to know how do they go about mounting it on the wall when it is that tall, without potentially damaging the fireplace, I’m thinking especially the mantel and hearth? We had our old fireplace cleaned and refinished (white marble) and put in a new hearth (black honed marble) and I would really worry about getting it damaged in the process. Just to demonstrate, we had the exterior of our house repainted, and it all went well until they put a ladder up on top of one section of our slate roof and cracked a few of the slate tiles with the ladder (slate is difficult to repair because very few roofers still work with slate, plus it’s expensive), so anything involving a ladder makes me nervous! So for a fireplace, I’m thinking they must be building some kind of scaffolding around it?? Well, Laurel or anyone, if you know, please share.ReplyCancel

  • Ingrid Stockton - November 7, 2021 - 2:19 PM

    Laurel, these are all seriously beautiful mantels and mirrors. My mantel is more on the seriously ugly side and I think I’m better off sticking to my (horizontal) painting of two small dogs against a “painterly” background. Sigh, am not one of the moneyed class in this particular incarnation.ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - November 7, 2021 - 2:09 PM

    Hello Laurel, The current trend for leaning large mirrors scares me, as I feel they are quite unsafe. They are very heavy and could easily be pulled over or even slide out “from under.” Also a small child could upset one–the weight alone is frightening before we even begin to think of broken glass. I have a large leaning carved window which is a similar situation, but I keep a table in front of it which is not ideal, but will stay until I can get the window affixed properly.
    –JimReplyCancel

  • Lisa D. - November 7, 2021 - 12:25 PM

    Thank you for this post, Laurel. Very informative and I love the links to those beautiful rooms that you provided.

    Now I know why I don’t like the mirror hanging over my fireplace mantel. It’s too small. It’s a massive room, with a massive fireplace and mantel and really needs something with more presence. I could never to a mirror that rests on the mantel as I live in earthquake country.

    All of these rooms are just so beautiful. As usual, I find myself first getting lost looking at the beautiful pictures, and only afterward reading your text. How could one go wrong with those stunning Paris apartments with their gorgeous architecture, herringbone wood floors and plaster work. I don’t understand how someone could take an exquisite period room like that and put all mid-century furniture and decor in it, but I guess that just reflects my personal choice.

    (I would just like to crawl into that room of Furlow Gatewood’s.)ReplyCancel

  • Dan - November 7, 2021 - 12:06 PM

    Very informative. Would be nice to know if / when hanging art over a fireplace is a more appropriate or reasonable alternative to a mirror. I think there are many scenarios where that would be the case.ReplyCancel

  • Joan - November 7, 2021 - 11:01 AM

    Admittedly, I did a quick scan but didn’t see the answer for an 8 foot ceiling. I have purchased the Anthropologie prim rose mirror for my daughter as a Christmas gift. She’s confident she won’t stay in this home and the mirror I purchased goes from mantle to ceiling. I didn’t want to purchase a dinky mirror that wouldn’t work with taller ceilings in the future. Please tell me I didn’t screw up. lol BTW, know your original hometown well as I grew up across the river in Owensboro but now in Louisville. Cheers.ReplyCancel

  • Paula Dewell - November 7, 2021 - 10:23 AM

    Your post is very informative, as usual. I have a very tall ceiling.(May end up buying approx 6′ wide by 7′ tall The reflection from the mirror however would show the upstairs railing… not much else.Would a large painting be the better choice? ThanksReplyCancel

  • Sandy Reese - November 7, 2021 - 9:12 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    I’m a long time reader, my first time to comment. I have introduced many of my relatives and friends to your blog.
    I checked out Kristin Paton’s Instagram page as you suggested. It is lovely, I especially think her post with glass walls surrounding the stairwell would work well for your home.
    Good luck with all and thank you for your informative and entertaining posts.ReplyCancel

  • Rose - November 7, 2021 - 8:35 AM

    Laurel I love your posts and your new home but mostly your sense of humor. I burst out laughing all the time when reading your site. Now, for this post it was beautiful , one can sit and look at these beautiful places and end up dreaming thinking , where did I go wrong .But Laurel , I don’t know one person who lives in a home that looks like this! Where are the pictures for the boring 8 ft ceilings that most people have? You know , the homes that most of us live in? For me, I can only dream when I read your posts, and laugh allot also. Thank you for making my day !ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 7, 2021 - 1:02 PM

      Hi Rose,

      Sorry about that. For an 8-ft ceiling, most of the time the mirror should be horizontal because the space between the top of the mantel and crown is wider than it is tall. For this reason, sometimes I think it’s better to do art over a mantel and use mirrors over something lower or by itself on a wall or leaning against the wall.

      However, the same principles apply for proportion. Also, this post fireplace mantel decorating has some excellent examples that would work for a lower ceiling.ReplyCancel

  • Mary E - November 7, 2021 - 8:19 AM

    Good morning Laurel,
    You’re right. Everyone I know that has a fireplace has a mirror too small over it. And they hang their mirror horizontally.
    My new house doesn’t have a fireplace but my old one did. Now that it’s getting colder I sure miss it.ReplyCancel

  • GigiS - November 7, 2021 - 7:52 AM

    Happy 1st Anniversary! Through Craig’s List, I scored a free huge gold frame (4’x 7′) coming out of an old house. Thankfully, the GOOD woman didn’t sell it to the guy who called after me begging to buy it from her.
    I am in the process of antiquing 18 individual mirrors (purchased from Amazon in sets of 4), to set inside this frame. Antiquing process much easier than expected. Also intend to do the gold buttons on corners of each mirror. Will let you know how it turns out 🙂 Thank you for all the fabulous design inspiration you share!!ReplyCancel

  • Linda - November 7, 2021 - 7:15 AM

    While the mirrors over mantels in this post are stunning, most homes do not have this kind of gorgeous architectural detail which are reflected. I would suggest not to hang a mirror that high if you just have a ceiling fan to reflect. 😝ReplyCancel

  • GL - November 7, 2021 - 5:15 AM

    For those interested in the DIY version, David Jousselin’s site offers all the mouldings in the NewAntiqueFrench Etsy shop, and more, at https://www.moulure-decorative.com/fr/. The site is in French and in English. The mouldings are made of wood and resin, and are very easy to fix. I’ve been buying from him for years, and the service and packaging are excellent. He’s based in Spain, and postage charges in the EU are very reasonable (just over 7€, no matter how much you buy), but I don’t know about carriage to the US!ReplyCancel

  • Sandra Berube - November 7, 2021 - 2:12 AM

    The created antiqued/beveled mirror with the rosettes looks perfect! Please consider this idea… Seems to be perfect for your home’s character… Altho we know you’ll make the right decision for you when you do…ReplyCancel

  • Marji Karlgaard - November 7, 2021 - 1:14 AM

    Happy House-iversary, Laurel! i can’t believe it’s been a full year since you closed on your amazing abode in the Back Bay. Maybe by this time next year we will have fully past through the dreadful-grey phase and into brighter walls and color. Lead on!ReplyCancel

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