I was in London last week and found a spare hour to visit the Sir John Soane Museum in Holborn. I loved it just as much as I had as a student, and wondered if I had been unconsciously influenced by the memory of its rich red walls when I chose the paint for our offices–and in fact the color we now call “Berkshire red” for my company’s logo and stationery.

I wish I could decorate my home with pieces of Roman ruins, as Soane did. But I did get a few practical ideas! It’s getting darker, of course, as we enter October, and while I’ve always advised people to use plenty of mirrors in their rooms to provide extra light and a sense of space, the Soane Museum exhibits the extent to which mirrors can be used more dramatically than anything I’ve seen. There are large round mirrors above bookcases, and small round mirrors in corners. Mirrors are used as panels in narrow alcoves. The guidebook said that one small room had some 50 mirrors, in fact, and the breakfast room has what is called a “starfish” ceiling, inset with mirrors.

By using plenty of mirrors, you don’t need floods of electric light and can create a rich, warm atmosphere and a greater sense of space. And mirrors needn’t be expensive: you can often pick them up at tag sales and junk shops for almost nothing. I simply repaint the frames to match my woodwork. Try mixing framed mirrors with pictures on the wall.

But I also want to try the Soane’s approach, and will be looking for places I can put long panels of mirror, edged with plain wooden molding and then painted. These could be especially useful in the bay windows where my plants are going to live this winter.

Here’s a little related text from the Armchair Environmentalist:

Scandinavian style–conscious of the seasons and oriented towards nature–is a useful perspective for a green decorator:

karen christensen's corona typewriter on t s eliot's desk

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