Updated: Dec 30, 2022
Entertaining is my wife's and my great love so naturally a love of china follows. When we built our new home creating a butler's pantry to house our dishes and drink-ware was on our wish list. We met with our cabinet maker, Art Lever of Lever's Cabinet Shop, armed with photos from Pinterest and magazines and quickly decided on a design with mirrored paneled cabinets. Then, my heart attack happened on our cabinet maker's desk when he told me the price for antiqued mirrored glass! After some CPR and a shock from a defibrillator I awoke to the realization I have an art degree and surely I could faux finish mirrors. Whoa! It was not easy learning how to do it but hopefully I've done the experiments and homework for you.
The eight large panels of mirror I needed would have cost around $1,000 or more depending on the quality of faux antiqued glass so DIY saved about $800. Our cabinet maker order the mirror he needed for about $200 and then I picked it up and the faux finish rodeo began.
NOT ALL MIRRORS ARE THE SAME
Believe it or not each mirror differs in how it was created. I found this out the hard way as my test mirror glass and the actual mirror glass behaved very differently. If you can, secure a test sample before you commit to your large piece. Not only can you see how your mirror will react, you can judge if you like the effect and try different paint backgrounds and techniques.
THIS IS PROCESS IS MESSY
This is a messy process! Did I mention it is VERY messy? Make sure you wear clothing that can and will get stained and bleached. I neither had on my boots or my bowtie to do this. Boots would have been a good option rather than my flip-flops and shorts as I was attacked by swarms of mosquitos. No malaria symptoms yet! Anyway, you will need strong waterproof gloves and goggles or sunglasses too.
My yard had not yet been sodded but you need to select an area that is free from any plants that might be damaged by the Clorox and paint stripper you are going to use. You will also need a good flat surface suitable to place the glass upon. I used wooden pallets to strip the mirrors and a metal latter laying horizontally for the Clorox and spray paint application.
Paint Stripper (I used Citrastrip)
Plastic Putty Knife (Metal could scratch)
Black Spray Paint or Metallic Paint of Your Choosing (I used Krylon)
Access to a Garden Hose and Water
Ladder or Saw Horses
1- Coat the back of the mirror with a VERY HEAVY application of the paint stripper. Eewww!
2- When the grey backing appears puckered you can use the pallet knife to see if backing is loose. It should come off very easily. If it does not allow the stripper to sit longer. (I had to let mine sit over night and do two applications.)
3- One you have scraped all of the grey backing from the mirror transfer your mirror to your latter or wooden pallets.
4- Wash all remaining paint stripper residue from the mirrors and allow them to dry.
5- Once the mirrors are dry now comes the antiquing part. Spray the Clorox onto the mirror. Concentrating more around the edges and less in the center as a real mirror would age. *Depending on your mirror the antiquing may take seconds or minutes.
Look at the face of the mirror and stop the antiquing process when you are satisfied by washing the Clorox off. My first mirror took minutes, the second brand took seconds so really pay attention!
6- Allow the mirrors to dry once again. Then spray or brush on your desired background color. You could use a mixture of bronze and gold. In my case I used a bit of navy spray paint and then covered the entire back with black.
7- Finally, after the background paint has dried you may want to give the mirrors fronts one last rinse with the garden hose, or as we call it is the South the hose pipe, to make certain all of the paint stripper residue is gone. This final rinse also helps to further antique the mirror.
DON'T STRIVE FOR PERFECTION
Remember perfection is not what you want here. This mirror needs to look old, like it has been under the pressures of weather, hot, cold, rain, dust, p0or house keeping and atomic armageddon. In other words, let the materials work and don't try to stress over perfection. The beauty of the patina is in the unpredictable behavior of the process.