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How to Make a French Trumeau Mirror

Monday French Country Crafts

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A trumeau mirror ( pronounced troo-mo) is a type of wall mirror originally manufactured in France in the later 18th century. It takes its name from the French word “trumeau”, which designates the space between windows.

Have you swooned over a French Trumeau mirror and then nearly passed out at the price tag? I know, I have too!

Glance through almost any French decor magazine and chances are you will see at least one French trumeau mirror on display. And if you put one of those French beauties in any space, it will be the star of the room. Unfortunately, the price tag can be pretty steep for the true antiques, priced anywhere from $2,000 and up.

Thankfully, you can easily create your own French trumeau mirror to fit your style and budget!

The mirror is set into tall wooden frames with a large section of painted or carved sculptural decoration at the top. Almost always the trumeau is rectangular in size. The bottom of the wooden framing was usually where the mirror was placed so a candle could be set in front to reflect light in dimly lit rooms.

Trumeau mirrors are often the showpiece in the room in which they are displayed, so let me show you how to create your own!

Originating in France during the 18th century, the first original trumeaus were set in wood paneling – or what the French call boiserie (prounounced – bwahzer-EE). This boiserie was an actual wall element, a panel that would be inset over the fireplace mantel. They were typically all wood with ornate decorative elements.

The introduction of glass into these wooden elements began in the early 17th and 18th century. But, glass was expensive so at first it was unusual to have even small mirrors set into the decor. As that resource availability changed, glass was incorporated into the wood. The word trumeau was used to describe the mirror that would be placed in the thin section of wall between two doors or windows. This was done to add a reflective decorative element to the wall and allow additional light to be thrown into the room. This technique was mostly seen in the more affluent homes due to the cost of glass.

Example of a trumeau with the decorative carved element above the mirror.

Example of a trumeau with a painted insert above the mirror in lieu of a carved element at the top.

Starting with MDF board, and crown moulding as the base.

Step 1. Purchase a piece of MDF board the size you'd like to make your mirror from.

Step 2. Also purchase a piece of crown moulding cut to the width of your MDF board.

Step 3. Glue the crown moulding to the top of the MDF board with Liquid Nails.

I embellished the front using an old antique mirror that I had stored away. The silvering on the mirror had become very timeworn over the last century and it had resulted in a very smoky look which I loved.

You can also use just a plain standard mirror as well.

Step 4. Just apply Liquid Nails to the back of your mirror and set in place. Place several heavy objects on top to help it seal to the MDF board.

Above the mirror, I used an old piece of wall decor that I found at a flea market. It depicts a bird and flowers on a branch.

You can use anything you would like. I used an antique drawer pull on my mirror.

I wanted to add a bit more to it so I created a wreath and swag garland with a mold and paper clay.

Step 5. Also glue these decorative elements to your MDF board with Liquid nails.

Once everything was glued in place, I painted everything in a base coat of Pure & Original chalk based paint in the color Tin Kettle.

I wanted the final result to be a pale blue, so on top of Tin Kettle, I alternated using the colors, Lagoon Water and Sea Salt, spritzing with water as I went to get a mottled finish. The result that I was trying to achieve was a faded, timeworn look.

After these layers dried, I used my homemade glaze to add a bit of antiquing and shadowing.

Step 6. For your glaze, you can use a dark stain and then apply it like seen here underneath the crown moulding, around the frame for the mirror and decor - really working it into the cracks that whipping off.

Step 7. Then I used Rub n Buff in Gold Leaf and gilded the moulding, frame, and embellishments. The final step was waxing with Pure & Original Italian Wax.

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed making mine.

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