Skip to main content

DIY 101: How to make a new mirror look old

Vintage and antique furniture can beautifully accent any home, adding a little character and history that makes it feel cozy and elegant. However, these pieces are often expensive and well outside the budget of a modest home remodel. Thankfully, you can transform newer pieces of furniture and decor to give them an aged look without having the pay the price of an authentic piece.

Mirrors are gorgeous statement pieces that can make a room appear bigger, and ornate mirrors add an element of classic luxury. However, true vintage mirrors are expensive and heavy, so, instead, we recommend spending a few hours making your own. Want to learn more? Below, we’ll walk you through the relatively simple process step-by-step.

Room full of aged mirrors
Image used with permission by copyright holder

These are the supplies you’ll need

  • Mirror
  • Bleach and water
  • Paint stripper
  • Spray bottle
  • Paint scraper
  • Safety glasses
  • Protective gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Antique gold spray paint

Before you begin distressing your mirror, prepare the work area first. For your health and safety, ensure there’s plenty of ventilation because you’ll be working with chemicals that have harmful properties. Along these same lines, be sure to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) like safety glasses and plastic gloves, since some chemicals can burn or irritate the skin.

Take the back off the mirror

Start by removing the back of the mirror. If it’s framed, you can easily slide the cardboard out the back and set it aside. You’ll replace this piece once the antiquing process is finished.

Be careful here because the cardboard backing may be held on by staples. You don’t want to rush through the job and rip up the cardboard, leaving you with a mangled backing. To remove the staples, use a flat head screwdriver or pliers to pry them up before sliding the cardboard out. Remember, you can always staple the backing back on if you need to.

Remove the film from the back of the mirror with a paint stripper

Most mirrors have some paint coating on them, so you need to remove this paint layer from the back of your mirror using a paint stripper. This chemical is very strong, so wear PPE as you apply it to the back of the mirror using a paintbrush. The goal is to remove the paint while revealing the reflective film that causes the glass to actually be reflective.

Go slow, and feel free to be uneven with the application, using more of the paint stripper in some parts than others. In the end, it’ll give your mirror a rougher, more rustic feel. Once you’ve brushed on the paint thinner, simply wait about five to eight minutes for the chemicals to do their magic. Next, take the paint scraper and gently start scraping off the layer of paint.

Once you’ve finished scraping, take some damp paper towels and wipe down the back of the mirror. This step ensures that you don’t accidentally leave excess paint stripper on your mirror, which could continue to eat through the film. Remember that less is more here — the mirror should look distressed but not unusable.

Spray the back of the mirror with a bleach-water solution

To really drive home the rustic look, grab the spray bottle, fill it with bleach, and spray the back of the mirror. Mix the water and bleach solution outside to prevent yourself from inhaling the chemicals. If this isn’t possible, wear a mask to protect yourself.

To make the mirror look more authentically aged, use a cloth to rub it a bit or blot it so the distressing doesn’t look so planned. Be careful not to leave the bleach on for too long or it will eat through the film that makes up the mirror.

This process takes some practice, so we recommend trying it out first on an inexpensive mirror you don’t mind throwing away if it doesn’t go as planned. Once you’re comfortable enough to work with your mirror of choice, take a “less is more” approach here as well. Continue spraying and wiping gradually to prevent yourself from overdoing it.

Scrubbing bleach on mirror
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Paint the back of the mirror

Once you’ve achieved the look you want, use the antique gold spray paint to paint the back of the mirror. This both protects the reflective coating and will show through on the front side of the mirror. Once this has dried, you can reassemble the mirror.

Wrapping up

Mirrors really open up a space and make the room feel larger than it is, so they’re a great asset in homes of any design style and size. Antique mirrors, both authentic or otherwise, can add a sense of history to the house, regardless of when it was built, so you can have a statement piece that will amaze your guests. To get the precise look you want, just remember to have fun, take your time, and be prepared to practice on more than one mirror.

Editors' Recommendations

Will Blesch
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Blesch is a copywriter, content writer, and someone passionate about anything that lets him discover more about this…
French country decor that will wow any room
French country is making a comeback. Here's how to make it work for you
Interior country-style kitchen

French country design is one of those classic styles that never goes out of trend. It has so much history and stories behind it, and it stays in favor because it's stylish, comfortable, and also uber luxurious. There's a reason we see French country design in so many high-end hotels and restaurants all over the world! There are so many ways to bring French country decor into 2023 without it feeling too "shabby chic," which has fallen out of favor in recent years. Here's how you can make this style work for you.
Muted tones
French country uses gorgeous fabrics with provincial designs, and those can be achieved in furniture fabrics, curtains, and even on the walls. Muted tones like beige, gray, blue, and sage green can be added to wallpaper, pillows, and when selecting chair fabric. When thinking about the walls, choose softer tones in ivory, beige, or pale yellow to complement the muted tones in the rest of the space. Another option for wallpaper or pillows is toile — a staple in French country design.

Distressed, painted furnishings
Another trademark of the French country style comes with distressing. You can accomplish this with a large distressed couch bought at a vintage store or one made to look vintage (which is a more cost-effective option). Larger pieces of furniture offer a dramatic effect in a living room or kitchen. We love this ivory nailhead chesterfield design from Overstock. If you're not entirely sold on a large piece to invest in, consider decor like lamps, trays, or a small table. Then, once you commit, you can add larger pieces to the room.
Wrought iron
Wrought iron is another trademark of French decor, and there are plenty of options to introduce them into a room. You can find kitchen chairs, bar stools, cabinets, coffee tables, and headboards. You can keep the color in its natural state or paint it with gold or darker colors. In traditional French country, the wrought iron would be curved or designed in an interesting way rather than straight lines more common in industrial design. An ideal use of wrought iron would be with kitchen chairs, where a layer of muted, soft fabric can be added for dramatic effect. You can complement this with soft wood cabinets, wood beams, and muted granite countertops in light ivory.

Read more
Everything you need to know about the whimsical fairycore style
What is fairycore? Here's what to know about this magical Pinterest trend
White bedroom with hanging vines and other plants

Fairycore has become a trendy design style for young girls and teens looking to create a whimsical and magical aesthetic in their bedrooms. Though, this style goes far beyond the bedroom and has proven to be a popular dorm and apartment aesthetic for young people. Thanks to the fantasy hype often seen on TikTok and Pinterest, fairycore has emerged as a unique and whimsical design style that many adore for its fairy-tale-esque aesthetic.

Today, we’ll discuss exactly what fairycore is and how it has gained so much popularity with the younger crowd. And, of course, we’re offering our tips on how to best use fairycore in your design. So, if you want to explore a magical and fantastical design style, then this could be just what you need.
What is fairycore?
Fairycore is a blend of soft pastel and earthy tones, plants, crystals, vintage trinkets, flowy decor, and anything that inspires a "fairy-like" aesthetic. The goal of this style is to emulate classic fairy tropes and fairy-tale scenery, particularly forest scenes and anything that reminds the viewer of fairies. As a result, you’ll often see features like decorative moss, crocheted animals, mushrooms, butterflies, flowers and vines, furniture with a whimsical feel, and sheer fabrics in a fairycore design.

Read more
Looking for unique nursery ideas? These Instagram-approved designs are incredible
These Instagram nursery ideas are ultra cozy and unique, perfect for your little bundle of joy
Nature wall art in simple minimal nursery

When you’re a parent, there's a tendency to go into full-on nesting mode before the baby’s arrival. This means you’ll be thinking about redecorating your space and looking for the perfect setup for your little one. So, if you’re looking to spruce up the nursery before you bring home your new baby, we’ve gathered some stunning Instagram baby nursery designs that may inspire your new setup.
The grandmillenial room
Grandmillenial decor has taken off as one of the trendiest interior styles in the past few years. And while we often think of this grandparent style as reserved only for antique-loving family members, it can be a great decor choice for a baby nursery!

Read more