Add major character to your home with a DIY mirror tutorial, featuring an ornate mirror from Howard Elliott and a custom stencil from Stencils Online.
I cannot believe that three years passed since I wandered those charming, cobblestone streets, picnicking with the mister under the Eiffel Tower and indulging in a daily feast of espresso and macarons. To commemorate what I like to refer to as THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE – here's a lovely little DIY project to help add a little bit of "oh la la" to your home.
I fell head-over-heels in love with the mystery of what I assumed was a love note scribbled in French on a gorgeous, ornate mirror. Although I had absolutely zero idea what the text meant (isn't that half of the allure?), I vowed to make her mine. The mirror, however, was not for sale.
So what is one to do in this modern-day dilemma? One is to re-create the mirror using a gorgeous piece from Howard Elliott and a custom stencil from Stencils Online. Also, one is to speak of one's self in third-person – because that's totally normal.
Let's get started, shall we?
For whatever strange reason, the mister refuses to drop our current life in the states and re-locate to the City of Light (how rude!). So until that day comes, I'll settle for surrounding myself with things that remind me of my beloved "Paree."
Step 2 | Choose your favorite quote. This part of the process is the most time-consuming, because how in the world do you choose only one?
At first, my francophilian heart was set on something French. The more I searched for a fitting quote, lyric or poem, however, the more I realized that a French quote on a French mirror is far too cliché and desperate – two qualities that the French absolutely abhor. Instead, I went for an element of surprise with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 but in Russian – as a nod to my own roots and heritage.
In addition, I would be covering quite a large amount of space, so this particular verse was perfect in length, too. I plan to install the mirror over the mantle (if we ever figure out the ghastly fireplace situation), and I adore the idea of a daily reminder that love is the greatest guiding principle of life.
As far as the design is concerned, I designed the layout in InDesign. A much easier option for non-designers, however, is to simply send your quote and font choice to Stencils Online, and their helpful designer will mock up your custom stencil and send a proof for you to review.
Step 3 | Get your hands on some good, ol' tape and a can of spray paint in the color of your choice. With an overwhelming collection of gold spray paint and white primer, I decided that gold on gold was, again, too in-your-face and opted for the white instead.
You could also use an etching cream or chalk paint; both materials work just as well on a mirrored surface. Using spray paint, however, eliminates the need for any sort of application brush.
Step 4 | You'll want your work of art to look professional – unlike a five-year-old's arts and crafts project – so an even application is key. Place the stencil over the mirror and slide it around until the sheet is right in the center (or wherever you want your quote to be). If in doubt, use a measuring tape to check that you have an even amount of mirror surface on each side of the stencil.
Step 5 | Ensure full contact between the stencil and the mirror surface by smoothing out any air bubbles under the stencil. If any loose letter parts stick up, you may end up with a fuzzy edge around the letter.
The stencil text is cut out in a way that bridges inner, unattached material – like the inside of the letter "e" – to the rest of the stencil using thin vertical lines. This technique is called bridging, and it adds extra sturdiness to the stencil.
However, if your text is quite large, like mine was, then you may find it difficult to spray paint clean edges for certain letters like "h," "c," and "p," due to the fact that these letters all have larger loose parts. If that is the case, you may want to use a removable adhesive to temporary attach the stencil to the mirror during application.
Attach the stencil to the mirror with tape, so it doesn't shift and ruin your work while you're spray painting. Blue painter's tape is best, simply because it's easier to remove afterwards.
Cover the mirror frame and edges with scrap newspaper or garbage bags; make sure you've sealed off any remains of the mirror surface. Cover the space where you're working with dropcloth or scrap cardboard, with plenty of space around the mirror for you to extend the spray can beyond the frame as you apply the primer.
Step 6 | Prepare the can of primer for application according to package instructions. For an even coat of paint, sweep the can horizontally and vertically past the mirror as you spray. Do not get too close to the stencil, or the primer may bleed between the stencil and the mirror, making a total mess. Lots of lightly sprayed layers are far better than one dripping coat of paint – trust me.
If you do make a mistake, or one of your letters ends up bleeding, you can easily scratch off the primer within an hour or so of application. Just use a dull object with a fairly sharp edge; I used the side of the tape dispenser for more precise removal of letters where I applied too much primer too quickly, causing them to bleed.
Step 7 | Allow the paint to dry for approximately an hour before removing the stencil. Otherwise, you risk smearing the freshly applied paint.
Step 8 | Step back and admire your work of art.
Next, I may try a graphic version like the one below, courtesy of B&B Italia.
And if you're still wondering about the French quote, it's an excerpt from Jacques Prévert's poem titled "Pour Toi, Mon Amour," which translates into "For You, My Love." Below is a rough translation:
Pour Toi, Mon Amour
Je suis allé au marché aux oiseaux
Et j'ai acheté des oiseaux
Je suis allé au marché aux fleurs
Et j'ai acheté des fleurs
Je suis allé au marché à la ferraille
Et j'ai acheté des chaînes
De lourdes chaînes
Et je suis allé au marché aux esclaves
Et je t'ai cherchée
Mais je ne t'ai pas trouvée
For You, My Love
I went to the market of birds
And I bought birds
I went to the market of flowers
And I bought flowers
I went to the market of ironwork
And I bought chains
And then I went to the market of slaves
And I searched for you
But I did not find you