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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bullseye Mirror Makeover (and a Mini History Lesson)

Convex mirrors, bulls-eye mirrors, eagle mirrors- whatever you call them, they are one of our favorite decorative accents because they are entirely timeless. You can use them in the most traditional of rooms, as seen below...

Or you can spiff them up with a coat of glossy paint and make them entirely modern.

I know very little about identifying furniture by period so I thought I'd dig up a little bit of background information regarding Federal period furniture, from whence the eagle mirror originated. It seems that eagle mirrors as we know them are a product of the late Federal period. The Dumbarton House website tells us that:

Our nation’s early years, when the Federalist Party led the American government between 1790 and 1828, generally defines the Federal period. During this time, a strong sense of nationalism was born and many government leaders, like Thomas Jefferson, looked to the classical past of Greece and Italy for inspiration in forging the identity of the new American democratic Republic.

Unlike furniture of the preceding Chippendale style, which possesses bold carving and rococo curves, that of the early Federal period (1790-1810) emphasizes straight lines and simple ornament. Furthermore, it tends to be light and delicate, allowing for ease in portability. Neoclassical elements, such as fluted or reeded tapering legs, classical figures, festoons, urns, masks, bellflowers and eagles ornament the furniture and decorative arts of the period. English designers Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite most frequently are associated with furniture of the early Federal style. By contrast, furniture of the late Federal period (1810-1830) copies ancient forms such as the klismos chair. It tends to be heavier in appearance, and often is ornamented with three-dimensional carvings of caryatids, dolphins and eagles.

An antique Federal eagle mirror like the one below will command a four figure price. Philadelphia Federal Giltwood Convex Mirror, c. 1810, $8,000, 1st Dibs
Philadelphia Federal Giltwood Convex Mirror

Luckily by the time the 1950's rolled around so did reproductions. Syroco (short for the Syracuse Ornamental Company) perfected a molding technique whereby they could make perfect reproductions of original carvings. We've blogged about Syroco here before, which churned out a ton of reproduction eagle mirrors made out of a composite material. You can find them on ebay and Etsy for a song, and they're not too precious to paint.

I scored this eagle mirror on Ebay a while back for a song. With shipping, I think I literally paid about $12 for the whole shebang.

I decided to make it pop with a few coats of red lacquer. This couldn't have been easier to paint. I simply removed the screws from the back, which allowed to me take out the cardboard backing and the convex mirror.

Then went to town with my spray paint. It took a few coats to get full coverage, and I let the frame dry thoroughly in between each coat. Since it was made of composite material, I was a bit worried about the paint adhering without primer, but it turned out just fine. If you do have primer handy, though, you might want to use it rather than than risk having your paint bubble.

Once the painting was complete, I popped the mirror back in, screwed the backing back on, and voila, the project was complete. 

For a while I had the mirror hanging on the top shelf of a bookshelf to create a focal point. 

But then I engaged in my favorite hobby- furniture rearranging- and it now hangs over my little bar area by the kitchen.

If you're thinking of incorporating an eagle mirror into your own decor, here are a couple of inexpensive options I found in a quick search- but there are zillions more of these on ebay, and I've seen them occasionally at thrift stores and secondhand stores. 

Etsy, $45
Federal Convex Eagle Bullseye Mirror

Syroco Eagle Mirror, Ebay, $9.99

Are you a fan of the eagle mirror? What color would you paint yours?


A Flair for Vintage Decor said...

Love the project and how it turned out!

Dina @ Honey & Fitz said...

I'm a huge fan! I love anything that has a traditional shape but can be updated to a modern look with a coat of paint. And as you mentioned, you can find these little gems for close to nothing at flea markets and on eBay so you don't feel bad being a little daring with color. I found one for $2 and after a coat of high gloss white spray paint, I think it will make a cute little accent piece in our new baby nursery. You can see the before & after at the bottom of this post:

Olivia said...

Beautiful! And what a great deal. I've been searching for one myself for a few days, but definitely haven't found any deals as good as the one you got.

Averill said...

I love it! And I love that you painted yours's so...patriotic (but still very hip). I think I'd go for a glossy navy. It'd be fabulous in my living room -- also hung on the bookshelves as you've done (brilliant, btw!).

Risa West said...

i love them too. i get excited every time i see one. and living in the DC area has made me more inclined to get somethings with a patriotic feel, but i don't want to be tack in my collection... so this would be perfect. as for color... i love them in white but the red is fantastic too.

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