The pros and cons of 9 popular bathroom mirror options

It’s easy to overlook a mirror. After all, when we look at one, we see a reflection of so many other things before we even see the mirror itself. But a good mirror is an essential component to many rooms, especially your bathroom. There are many options for size, style and shape to choose from, so I’ve put together this guide to help you put things into perspective and get your bathroom mirror just right.

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Sizing Your Mirror

When choosing the size of your mirror, you should consider not just function, but also proportion. To create a balanced look, think about the size of your mirror relative to that of your vanity.

Typically, vanity mirrors are not wider than the vanity itself, with some exceptions we will discuss a little later.

A common approach is to make the mirror exactly as wide as the vanity so the two line up perfectly.

Of course, this is much easier with a custom-sized mirror because you may not happen to find a pre-made mirror in the exact width of your vanity.

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If they are not the same width, another solid approach is to make the mirror about 70 to 80 percent as wide as the vanity so the mirror appears a bit smaller, but not shrunken.

With respect to height, a functional mirror needs only to reach about a foot above and below the eye line of the people who will be using it. But the more height you can get, the better, because it will provide more viewing angles and a more open look to the space. Try to reach at least 4 to 7 feet above the floor.

Single vs. Multiple

If you have a wide vanity, especially one with multiple sinks, you have the option of using multiple mirrors or one single mirror wide enough to service both.

Using several tall and skinny mirrors can give a room a more vertical look, emphasizing the height of the space (especially effective when you have high ceilings). Of course, using a single large mirror opens up the room by reflecting more of the opposite walls. Ultimately the choice comes down to personal preference.

Using multiple mirrors can still work even when there is only one sink.

In fact, centering a mirror on the sink and then adding a second mirror symmetrical to the first can make the whole composition look more pleasingly balanced, compared with using just a single mirror.

Sconces

Another reason to use smaller mirrors is, of course, to allow some room for sconces to sit in between. Vanity light can be located in various places, but placing it to the sides of the mirror lights the face well, so it is both beautiful and functional.

When leaving room for sconces, choose a mirror that is closer to 60 to 70 percent of the width of the vanity (divided by the number of mirrors if you have more than one), so the sconces have room to sit above the vanity rather than hanging beyond the edges.

Wall-to-Wall Mirrors

For a different approach to sizing your mirror, you can ignore the size of the vanity on its own and instead use the mirror to fill the whole wall, often running above the toilet as well. This approach gives you a larger mirror, which can go a long way toward making a compact bathroom feel twice the size.

In this case, you can run the mirror literally wall-to-wall (and typically up to the ceiling) or extend it from one end of the vanity to the end of a nearby fixture.

In the latter case, though, it should still fill most of the wall to avoid looking like it’s simply the wrong size. And it should line up neatly with the objects below.

On one hand, having a custom-sized mirror cut to fit perfectly wall-to-wall is a higher investment than purchasing a prefab piece.

On the other hand, compared with running tile or stone behind or around a smaller mirror, it is often a relatively budget-friendly choice.

Depending on your budget and goals, it may make a lot of sense to use a custom-fitted mirror paired with a little splash of a splurge material below.

Framed vs. Frameless

Frameless mirrors are a popular choice in bathrooms for a few likely reasons. One is that they tend to be less expensive while often still quite stylish. A second is that they give modern appeal, and bathrooms even in somewhat traditional homes often run a bit more modern to achieve a clean, airy, “spa-like” look.

Frameless mirrors work most easily in contemporary or modern and minimalist spaces without a lot of busy decor. Mirrors with elaborate frames tend to suit traditional spaces where the other elements are also very detailed and decorative.

For a nice balance that can suit nearly any space, try a mirror with a simple frame that is a few inches wide and in a textural material that isn’t too busy.

For an eclectic sensibility, an ornate mirror can look magnificent as a statement piece in a modern bathroom.

Getting the mix just right will take a good design eye, but the unique result will bring a lot of personality and drama to the room.

Inset Mirrors

A clever way to get the modern look of a frameless mirror and the sense of polish of a framed mirror is to inset the mirror into tile so it’s essentially framed by the surrounding material.

Layering floating shelves over the top gives extra additional modern flair and some useful storage.

Round Mirrors

We’ve mostly looked at simple rectangular mirrors so far, but of course there are many other shapes.

Round mirrors can be a great way to bring some softness and relaxed appeal to a bathroom, which often has a lot of hard surfaces and crisp lines.

Round mirrors are a great companion to pedestal sinks, as they often have curved lines themselves.

Round mirrors generally leave more negative space at the “corners” than a rectangular mirror would, which makes sense because pedestal sinks leave some negative space around the pedestal base.

A round mirror is also a great choice if you have an interesting wall finish to show off. It gives you enough mirror to see your face, but it leaves a bit more wall exposed, and the curved lines will pick up the organic shapes in a leafy or floral print.

Medicine Cabinets

Sure, all of the previous mirrors were attractive, but what if you need some serious storage space?

Medicine cabinet mirrors are best when inset into the wall — that way they won’t be so in-your-face. A professional can guide you during a site visit as to whether your wall cavity can house some inset or partially inset cabinets.

Otherwise, try using a few tricks to avoid letting that cabinet visually shrink the room.

A cabinet with little or no frame will avoid feeling in-your-face, while adding some under-cabinet lighting (just as you might in a kitchen) will bring a glow that cancels out any dark shadows and makes the whole sink area feel more open.

Suspended Mirrors

If you have an unusual bathroom layout or an inconveniently placed window or obstacle, don’t forget that mirrors don’t absolutely have to hang flat on a wall.

Suspending a mirror from the ceiling or a window frame, or mounting it on rails rising from the counter, can allow you to place a mirror in a new, functional spot.

Keep an open mind, and you can really open up some beautiful views.

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