Saturday, December 19, 2015

How-to (and How Not To): Refinishing a Mirror

Refinishing this mirror taught me something--don't be afraid to just try something! I didn't know exactly what look I was going for, or how to do it. The results the first time? Not my favorite. But that was okay--I just tried something different. And it worked.

When we bought our project house, it came with a few bonus things that were actually pretty decent: a huge, heavy seven-drawer wooden desk that my son promptly claimed, a mid-century mod round end table that goes great in my formal living room (you'll see that later), and this mirror.

The mirror is huge and ornate and . . . gold. Now I'm no decorator, but if the re-turn in the jewelry world from primarily silver-colored metals to gold is any indication, gold and brass fixtures may be on their way back into decorating. Or maybe not. But in my world, I'm not there yet.

The gold color had to go. But I was willing to experiment before ditching the whole thing. I mean it was the perfect size for the entry, so why not try a few things first?

My biggest mistake in refinishing this mirror is not writing down what I did. I knew I was going to write this post, but I thought I would remember everything. It was a simple enough project, so why wouldn't I remember? Yeah, except that it's been a couple of months and I've had several projects between now and then. The pictures above and below here show the first try. I think I did a dry brush of white primer (I used Zinsser 1-2-3) over the gold plastic. I used primer knowing I was going to do another finish over top, so I didn't worry about it being matte.

After the primer, I used some mahogany wood gel stain. At first I really liked it. I liked how the dark highlighted the intricate parts. I kind of liked that it looked like carved wood. (Also, if you look close, you can still see the gold.) I hung it on the wall and lived with it for a while, but I decided I couldn't take it. It was too close to the wall color, not giving enough contrast and blending in a little too much. That, and I decided I didn't like the fact that it looked like carved wood.

So on to try number two.

Using gray interior acrylic paint from another project and a foam brush, I dabbed on a fairly even coat. It ended up a little thicker and darker than I expected, but I knew I was going to lighten it up afterwards. Again, I didn't worry about covering everything because seeing all the colors through is part of the charm.

When that was dry, I pulled out the dry brush and primer again. 

I concentrated on highlighting the parts that were raised, leaving the gray in the crevices. This turned out more of what I was looking for.

The final touch was taking off a little of what I'd just put on. Using 220 grit sandpaper, I roughed up the mirror's frame a little, concentrating on the raised parts. I'm happy with the results, but I love the fact that it's such an easy thing to do to change the look just by trying something different. So be brave and just try it!

I think it turned out pretty okay, I think. Would you do something different? Did you like the first try better?