From Science to Sparkly

Back in 2012, when we bought the house and started plotting the design of the Kitchen and Butler’s Pantry, I thought about where everything would go. And by “thought about,” I mean that I made a list of what was in every cabinet and what was hanging on every wall in Jackson Street, and I designed a space and map to make sure everything had a home. I HIGHLY recommend doing this when you do a kitchen remodel. It’s insanity, but you know things will work. When it came to my antique glassware that had been on glass shelves in front of the windows, I knew I couldn’t do the same thing here – the windows here didn’t suit it.

So I drew this up :

Butler Pantry 2

On the back wall of the Butler’s Pantry would be a ton of storage, library shelves for our cookbooks, and glass shelving, backed by mirror, for my glassware. It would also hold the island from our previous house, which is on wheels and can be carted out for extra prep space (you know, if the miles of countertop I was planning in the kitchen wasn’t enough).

This a look at what this space looked like when we purchased the house. Just…..No.


We finished the remodel, but ran out of time and money before we could get to the mirror and glass project. And then we needed to finish the Cottage…. and the Porch…. so the glassware had to stay in boxes. For now.

This is what it looked like for the past two years after we finished the renovation. I also didn’t have my big camera lens here, so it’s a bad picture. Sadface.  Putting it into words, if you need it : it’s nice. It’s not fabulous. But it’s completely fine. I’m only okay with “fine” for so long.


But I did, TWO summer ago, at least get the mirrors done. When we do renovations, we often take our salvage to be donated, and we dropped some things off at Habitat for Humanity Restore. When we do that, we will always take a lap, because you never know what you might stumble on. We found these giant mirrors, and bought them for a total of $40. But I needed them to be antiqued. I wanted them to look old.


For that? I needed SCIENCE! And for science, I needed goggles and a ventilator mask and gloves.

Peace out, shiny “new” mirrors.


Here’s the anatomy of a mirror : there’s a clear piece of glass – just normal, clear glass. On the backside of the glass is a layer of reflective mirror – this is just a film, but it’s not a paint. Then, it’s protected with a coating of paint. Mirrors age over time when the reflective layer starts to etch and wear, and over time, people paint the backs, or have a piece of felt in the frame, so you start to see colors of age through the old mirror surface. I hope that makes sense. So, my goal was to get rid of some of that new mirror with chemicals. Muriatic Acid, to be specific, because you can’t get mirror to eat away with regular paint stripper. And then, you age it with paint.

I started out in the backyard. Paint stripper, muriatic acid, spray bottle of water, towels and gloves, lots of paint…..


Just kidding. It’s too windy.


To the porch! This was way back when we still had the old columns and railings, which was actually helpful when doing this project. Step One : Use paint stripper to remove the coating on the back of the mirrors.


Once the paint stripper was on and spread out, I covered the mirrors with plastic. It was HOT, and this allowed the stripper time to work, instead of evaporating with the summer sun. And then, you just have to give it time to work.


Another benefit to the plastic sheeting is that sometimes the paint comes right off when you pull it back. The black is the paint that’s been stripped. The copper is the actual mirror surface.


Easiest paint stripping job in the history of mankind! Also, my hair was SO SHORT two-ish years ago. And this was months before I even considered starting a blog, so I’m really glad I was already in the habit of taking pictures of everything.


The next step isn’t here to see though, because it happens too fast. You spritz the acid on, careful not to use too much, in full protective gear, and IMMEDIATELY cover it with water to neutralize it. I mean, it eats that mirror QUICK. So, this picture is after the water stage. But I really, really didn’t get it on fast enough. It ate away more than I wanted.

Ventilation, respirator, eye protection, and gloves.

Muriatic Acid ain’t no joke.


When I researched how to do this project, every site said to fill in the now-pockets-of-clear-glass with black paint. I had two issues with this. The first, was that I ate away WAY too much mirror with the acid, so it would have been too much black. Second, when I looked at REAL antique mirror, the authentic stuff had bits of gold and copper and bronze in it.

I did start with black. But I tried not to use a lot. I just sponge painted it on.


Then I added golds and bronzes and coppers. Remember, this is the back. This looks like I am TOTALLY INSANE. I get it. But the front isn’t so crazy. Promise. Stay with me.


I became crazy paranoid about how much paint I ate away. So I went and got a can of spray mirror, and got some more silver back on. Now, spray mirror doesn’t REALLY replace a real mirror, but it’s a great effect, and gives a vintage feel. I felt much better after I got some more silver on the glass. And then I painted a layer of paint, just to protect it all.


Note that it’s pitch black outside. It took all day! But see? Less crazy. And the copper really pops in this shot – it’s more subtle in real life. I still thought there was too much black, so I ended up stripping a bit of that off, and adding more mirror. Don’t do this project if you’re afraid to screw up. Or if you don’t want to do some things over.  Be willing to play.

DSC_0223 Now, time travel from 2013 to 2015!

We finally have time to get the rest of the project done. Yay! First up, we have to build a frame and hang the mirrors. We bought trim with classic egg and dart, which is the pattern found on the stairwell and throughout other spaces in the house.


Paint it black!


Clear it out, mark the studs, and the “X” marks the gas line so DON’T PUT NAILS HERE.


The outside of the frame is a simple black frame. This is before I filled in the nail holes.



Doug did the hard cuts,  I did the easy cuts. I mean, let’s be real. I already did science for this project. Asking me to do math is one step too far, people.


I signed my art. I hope, someday, once I leave this earth, that someone takes this mirror off the wall, thinking it’s original, and says, “What the hell? 2015?”


Doug put the mastic on to hang the mirrors. And was the muscle getting both mirrors up. They are not light. This process was once again a perfect example of how we work together : I describe what I want, and he figured out the engineering.


This was neat. Doug put a block of wood under the mirror to level it – the mirror needed to be level, but of course, the cabinets were not totally square, because nothing ever is in a house this old. Then, we realized it was in the way of the decorative moulding. Crap. So, Doug started to chisel part of it away. I left the room and hid because I was scared the mirror would break. But, as always, his patience made it perfect.


The egg and dart went over the mirror, and iron brackets went up!

IMG_9409 IMG_9411

Time to unpack the glassware!!!! I’m SO EXCITED. Like seriously Pointer Sister excited.


Brackets and Mirrors and Smiley Amy.


Doug added a bead of silicone in between the mirrors. Hypothetically, if the top mirror mastic fails (unlikely) the silicone can act as a cushion for the weight, to avoid breaking either mirror. The mirrors are also held up with the egg and dart moulding.


We put up a shelf! And one piece of glassware! We planned the shelf to go right over the seam between the two mirrors.


I LOVE THIS. All five shelves.


But then I decided I hated the white schoolhouse globes – too much white and distraction. I replaced them quickly with clear globes and Edison bulbs! Much better with the reflection of the mirror.


Oh my goodness gracious. Besides the naked window that is awaiting the new drapes that I am sewing, I am in LOVE.


I have just enough glassware to make it look perfect. Pictures make it look a bit cluttered, but it’s really not.


One added bonus that I NEVER consider is how much detail is on the bottoms of vintage glass pieces. And with the height of the room, and the glass shelves, the entire glass piece is featured. You can see the designs and facets on the bottoms, which is the most perfect of surprises.


I wish you could see the way this sparkles in the light.



Just like the drawing, right? I’m so happy with it. I hope you love it.


Science and Sparkles!!!


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