If you live in a teeny tiny house on a teeny tiny suburban lot like us, you’ve got to use every trick in the book to make your spaces feel more expansive than they really are. What better way to do that than with mirror? Mirror isn’t just for indoor spaces; it can be a piece de resistance in the great outdoors too.
This faux finish DIY mirror and shelf idea did just the trick for our little garden.
On one of my Goodwill ventures about 20 years ago, I came across an elaborate (aka gaudy) mirror in a dated brown stain. Not having an immediate purpose for it, I bought it and added it to all my other ‘priceless’ junk finds in my parent’s basement. I forgot about it until about six years ago when I came across a gold plastic hall shelf in my sister’s garage; I remember it hanging in her mother in law’s hallway topped with a piece of white marble. Suddenly the light bulb went on: if I paired it with the mirror and treated both pieces to the same faux finish, I’d have a great little vignette in the garden. My sister was only too happy to part with the shelf.
I picked up some $1 paints at the dollar store (in rust, brown and cream tones) and some glaze at the paint store and set to work. I painted a base coat of the rust color and let it dry. Then I mixed up the remaining two paints with some glaze (to make them transluscent) and applied them randomly with a rag. By the time they were done, they were still looking pretty dull though, so I dug through my crafting stash and found some silver leaf to glam it up. After applying the special glue and letting it dry until just tacky, I rubbed on the silver leaf. It brought all the detail to life! To seal it for the outdoors, I used a water based spray varnish and sprayed on about 5 thin coats (letting it dry between coats). Don’t forget to seal the back of the shelf and mirror too. For the mirror, it’s best to lift the glass right out and seal every inch of the frame!
Looking at the two pieces, you wouldn’t know that they weren’t meant to be together.
Before we added the mirror near the corner of the fence, the backyard looked like this:
With the mirror and shelf added onto the fence, there was a big improvement! However the corner still needed something more.
To round out the vignette, the following year we found discarded pieces of metal in the garbage and used them to form a garden trellis in the corner. We first gave it a fresh coat of white paint:
Once both the mirror and trellis were in place, it gave the clematis plenty of structure to cling onto – and provided a beautiful burst of colour! Now that corner of the garden is another focal point we can enjoy.
The ‘laciness’ of the mirror provides the perfect foundation for the clematis grow through.
When mounting heavy pieces like these to the fence, make sure they’re secure and can’t go anywhere—especially with the mirror. You don’t want it blowing off in the wind and smashing to smithereens amongst the flowers. That would just bring you seven years of bad luck — and a poor substitute for mulch!
I recommend using a heavy-duty interlocking ‘French cleat’ hanger made of either wood or metal (like the one pictured below). One side is attached onto the back of the piece and the connecting piece goes on the fence. To mount, they just slip together and lock into place.
The marble shelf is impervious to the weather and can be accessorized with a plant or even a yoga frog for a zen effect.
And along the lines of peace and tranquility, the mirror has one added bonus: it’s positioned exactly were we can see uninvited visitors reflected in it as they open up the gate—giving us just enough time to hide 🙂
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