Gildedfarmer's Journal

A Gilder and Framemaker living and working in Maine writes about projects in the studio and life around the farm

Designing an overmantle mirror

     Our skills in designs and finishes have brought in contact with  many facets of the decorative arts world.   While many of our clients know us as frame makers, we are a bit more multi-dimensional.  We have worked with interior designers, architects, and builders on commercial interior finishes for signage, showroom,  and wall design, on designs and finishes for residential fireplace surrounds, canopies, and pelmets.   We have gained over two decades of  knowledge of fine and decorative art history by working with  collectors, museums, and designers and by handling antiques and paintings in our gallery.

     This diverse background has given us the knowledge and confidence to be flexible and creative for any project that comes through our doors.

     When designer Joshua Bergey came to the showroom in August looking to collaborate on a site-specific design for a overmantle mirror, I was ready for the challenge!

     When I hear overmantle mirror I usually  visualize something like the two images below of  mirrors from the early 18th century

1710 Overmantle mirror

1710 Overmantle mirror

1725 Overmantle mirror

1725 Overmantle mirror

     These images were the basis for our design adventure.  From this point of inspiration we then went to the site to further hone our ideas.  The mirror was going above a painted mantle in a house designed by turn-of-the-century artist and architect John Calvin Stevens. For added inspiration,  I took photographs  of the interior, the mantle, the door surrounds, the stained glass window in the stairwell.  

reference image of stained glass window in stairwell

Inspiration from the interior elements

detail on mantle

a close up of a running pattern along the mantle

detail of mantle

A detailed image of the carved elements in the mantle

   In renovating the home, the client added some contemporary elements including furnishings from Green Design in Portland, Maine.  My task was to take all these elements–The original John Calvin Stevens designs with the owner’s taste for contemporary furnishings–and give a nod to the past then incorporate the design of the mirror frame with the design of the mantle while making it sympathetic to the interior design elements. I started first by coming up with three different design options. I provided Joshua with thumbnail sketches along with three corresponding Kraft paper templates cut to the exact dimensions the frame would be made. From this point Joshua presented the options to the client.  He was able to tape the templates to the space above the mantle to show the client exactly how the frame would work in the setting. When we next met we took the template the client selected and worked on finalizing the design. I took the template back to the studio with the list of changes and came up with a final template cut from grid paper to the exact dimensions. After the final approval we set out to make the frame! 

assembling the frame

In the workshop assembling the frame

drawing the outline

Drawing the outline onto the frame

the frame is cut and sanded

the frame outline is cut and sanded

elements to be gilded maked off

Inserted liner gessoed and ready to gild

gilded and ready to finish

gilded with 22 Karat gold leaf on the liner and the recesses behind the rosettes

close up of the corner

Detail image of the mirror frame

installing the frame
the carpenter checks to see the cleat is level






We enjoyed working on this project. We hand-picked the rough lumber from a local hardwood dealer  then planed the cherry down to the desired thickness. David turned out about 8 rosettes on the lathe so that we could choose two which matched.

Below is  the finished overmantle mirror in its home… a satisfying finish to a challenging project!

the finished frame in situ

The setting for the mirror frame

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