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Sun-praising mirrors

You must be living under a rock if you haven't seen the avalanche of starburst and sunburst mirrors in home decor stores, antique shops and magazines. Why, you may ask? Well, they are considered classic and iconic in the design world and fit in with most styles of decor, from traditional to contemporary and in between.

Since the court of Louis XIV in France, the sun and the stars have been a source of design inspiration. It can be said that Louis XIV is the father of this style. Louis XIV was sometimes referred as the "Sun King." These mirrors, whose design revolves around a round central mirror with spokes all around the perimeter, are called sunbursts when finished in gold, reminiscent of the sun, and starburst when finished in silver, but the names can essentially be used interchangeably. Many historians believe that these mirrors' design is a result of repurposed crowns from icons and saintly statuary. Another telltale sign of their religious past, a cloud, a dove or an eye may appear over the rays on older starburst mirrors. These starbursts were symbolic of God. A dramatic example is that at the end of the nave at Saint Peter's in the Vatican. At its center, the starburst has a stained-glass window that faces west. Every day at sunset, the light streams make the starburst almost seem three-dimensional. It's an extremely dramatic focal point.

During the 1940s, sunburst mirrors made their debut into the interior design world. Designers such as Gilbert Poillerat in France and Dorothy Draper in the USA helped popularize the mirrors by incorporating them into their projects. In more recent history, starburst and sunburst mirrors were all the rage during the 1960s. Streamlined and futuristic, these mirrors were inspired by mid-century architecture, aeronautical ideas and visions of what the future would look like.

It's no surprise that this design icon is timeless and beloved by interior designers and architects.

These mirrors add radiance to a room, and their shape is so strong that when placed above a console, couch or bed, they become the focal point of any room. Originally, these mirrors were strategically placed to catch the light coming in from a window. Sometimes, the mirrors are flat, but some are convex to maximize the reflected light. A fine example of this can be seen in the 15th-century portrait of the Arnolfini family by Flemish painter Jan van Eyck.

Both sunburst and starburst mirrors are available in varied materials such as gilded wood, papier-mache, iron, bone, silver and brass. Finishes are generally shiny to reflect any light on them. Today's sunburst mirrors have taken center stage in decoration. Many of these mirrors have been produced in an overscale size as to even replace works of art. In cases where the mirrors are not so large, a grouping of them can give a "wow" and unexpected statement to a room.

Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida. His website is www.josephpubillones.com

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