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 outdoor space feel more expansive than it really is. What better way to do that than with mirror? Mirror isn’t just for indoor decor; it can be a piece de resistance in the great outdoors too.
On one of my Goodwill ventures about 20 years ago, I bought an elaborate (aka gaudy) mirror in a dated brown stain. Not having an immediate purpose for it, I added it to my other ‘priceless’ junk finds in the basement.
I forgot about the mirror until many years later when I came across an equally gaudy gold plastic wall mounted shelf in my sister’s garage (the identical one below was spotted at our favourite flea market). 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 our garden. My sister was only too happy to part with the shelf.
I first sprayed everything with a primer. Then I picked up some $1 paints at the dollar store (in rust, brown and cream tones) plus some glaze at the paint store and set to work. I started with a base coat of the rust colour 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 crumpled rag.
To highlight some of the detail, I dug through my crafting stash and found some silver leaf foil to glam it up (ironically found at the same thrift store the mirror was from). After applying the special glue and letting it dry until just tacky, I rubbed on the silver leaf on a few of the high spots. 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). For the mirror, if possible, it’s best to lift the glass right out and seal every inch of the frame! Don’t forget to seal the back of the shelf and mirror too.
Attaching to the Fence
When mounting heavy pieces like these to a 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!
We 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 fence and the connecting piece goes on the back of the mirror.
If you’re going to purchase a french cleat made of metal (vs. making your own from wood), buy aluminum like the set shown below. It won’t rust over time like ours did.
Before and After
Before we added the two updated pieces near the corner of the fence, the backyard looked like this:
With the mirror and shelf mounted, there was already a big improvement!
Pairing up the mirror and shelf did just the trick for our little garden! Looking at the two pieces, you wouldn’t know that they weren’t meant to be together. However, the empty corner still needed more embellishment.
To round out the vignette, the following year we upcycled discarded pieces of metal found in the garbage. We gave them a fresh coat of white rust paint. After they were dry, we connected them forming a right angle garden trellis and attached them to the corner of the fence.
Once the plant material matured, the combination of the mirror and trellis provided the clematis plenty of structure to cling onto. With a beautiful burst of colour, now the corner of the garden is a focal point we can enjoy all season.
The ‘laciness’ of the mirror provides the perfect foundation for the clematis grow through.
It’s fun to switch up what gets placed on the shelf year-to-year! 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 🙂
For more inspiring garden decor ideas, check out how we redesigned the trellis you see below in how to build trellises and privacy screens.