How to Make a Cheap Mirror Look Like an Expensive Antique

Mirrors are a timeless piece of home decor, and for good reason. Not only can they make small spaces appear larger and amplify a room’s natural light, but they can also blend seamlessly into almost any design style.

That said, mirrors come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and patinas. And while a brand-new mirror from a big-box store might work in your mid-century modern guest bedroom, you might want a mirror that looks a bit lived-in for your bohemian-Victorian living room.

But try as you might, you just can’t find a mirror that looks aged enough at your local thrift and thrift stores. There is, however, an abundance of newer mirrors at very reasonable prices. Rather than continue your search, take one (or even a mirrorless picture frame) and turn it into the vintage mirror of your dreams. Here’s how.

How to age a new mirror

When it comes to making a new mirror look like an expensive antique, there are two things to consider: the mirror itself and the frame. It all depends on your personal preferences. Maybe you want what looks like a very well maintained antique mirror, where the mirrored surface looks new, but the frame looks old.

Or maybe you don’t really care how the frame looks, but want the mirror to look like it’s been sitting in someone’s basement or barn for decades and it shows its age. Or maybe you haven’t come across a mirror at all, but have found a picture frame that you think would make a great antique mirror.

Well, whatever your preferences and what you’re working with, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s where to find full step-by-step instructions for each process.

How to age the frame

There are many techniques for aging frames. But if you’re looking for that classic antique gold frame look, Trisha Sprouse at Hunker suggests painting the frame with gold gilding wax. To give it an even older look, you can paint a light coat of dark wax polish over the gold wax, making sure to get into any nooks, cracks, and crevices.

How to age the mirror

Mirror weathering itself is a bit more complex, but this article on The Navage Patch walks you through each step (including helpful photos). Warning: These are chemicals. They also share a technique for painting the frame, but the end result doesn’t really look old, nor does it match the new (old) patina of the mirror.

How to turn a picture frame into an old fashioned mirror

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect antique frame, but it’s a picture frame, not a mirror. This is not a problem. In the same Hunker article, Sprouse tells you how to turn any picture frame — with a glass or plastic front — into a mirror that looks like a family heirloom. She shows how to do this using an IKEA picture frame with a plastic front.