Antique Mirror Subway Tiles: Our Own Little Phenom
It has been a little over two years since my original post on antique mirror subway tiles. In it I describe one harrowing evening in which my crazy sister (yes…she’s the crazy one, OK, maybe we are both the crazy one) installed an antique mirror subway tile backsplash in her kitchen while our babies slept in the other room. We didn’t even start the project until after 9:00 at night; proving that dogged determination sprinkled with a little crazy can get you pretty darn far.
I never anticipated that the response to this product would be SO huge. It has been a magical experience! Readers from all over the globe have contacted me with questions regarding finishes, installation techniques, design questions and how to order! It happened so fast, but I knew an online store was in the near future, and Striptiles.com was born.
It seems fitting that, at this point, these little antique mirror darlings and their groupies deserve a post all their own to answer questions, make some confessions and honor that little tile that can.
An Inch Here, An Inch There…
Let’s get the ball rolling with a confession…subway tiles (the regular kind) are 3 x 6. Hmm…so why are our antique mirror subway tiles 4 x 8? Well, the answer is simple, my sister and I just thought that we would use 4 x 8 and – it seemed subway-ish enough at the time so we ran with it…never expecting that two years down the road, antique mirror subway tile would become so popular that others would copy our design (and “creative” size) or that big retailers would offer the product – but in the “traditional” dimensions. When I recently came to the realization that 4" x 8" was not actually a subway tile size, I found it funny, yet flattering that our perfect size was being copied by vendors. You know what they say, imitation is the best form of flattery. Thank you, we are flattered.
The great news? It doesn’t matter what size you want because the answer is yes! Our antique mirror subway tile is hand-cut on the premises to any size you want – there are no wrong sizes (phew…what a relief!). I recently designed a coffee bar backsplash and opted for a larger size antique mirror tile, 6" x 12". Those large tiles looked so good, lWe decided to add this size to our standard collection options.
As my sister and I proved, you don’t have to be a professional to install these gilded gems – resourceful DIY-ers, Pinterest lovers and Houzz stalkers alike can get the job done. Of course, if you prefer to sip a mimosa while a professional tile installer does the heavy-lifting, no judgement here!
For My Hardcore DIY-ers
Now that I have touched on my beloved tribe (I’m looking at you do-it-yourselfers!), I must make another confession: I once tried to create my own antique mirror. Once. maybe twice. It was a misguided attempt during which I am fairly sure that I lost a few precious brain cells to accidental inhalation of fumes. Every pattern on an antique mirror is the result of a unique chemical recipe and the application of many layers of these chemical cocktails are needed to strip the mirror backing off, and then it still needs to be antiqued. The antiquing process you see on Strip Tile is achieved by a glass artisan.
Full Disclosure: I grew-up around mirrors and glass, I own a custom glass business and even I found this more challenging than it was worth!
But, since I know my tribe, I know that there are a few of you out there that are feeling more than a little gutsy and don’t mind handling potentially dangerous substances. The prospect of applying a unique mixture of chemicals to distress the silvering and then adding another mixture of colors to create the patina sounds romantic. You can already see yourself applying the final layer of protective coating and standing back to admire your masterpiece. Just for you, the good folks at Angel Gilding offer these guides to creating antique mirrors:
Now, if you read through these links and decide that you want to go a “natural” route, simply buy a piece of mirrored glass and leave it in a damp area. Come back in 50 years and it will have taken on a stunning antique patina – other than that, take it from me and leave it to the pros.
Moving On….and Moving In!
Now that we have covered creating and cutting antique mirror subway tiles, let’s get these babies on the wall (or table, or counter, or anywhere else you can think of)! You can peel-and-stick, apply adhesive or all of the above! I can assure you that I have personally tested every method. I have changed my mind a few times on what is the easiest and has the best outcome.
I really thought Magic Mirror tape was my preference. This stuff has serious holding power and is even easier than peel-and-stick. Simply run a long line of it and quickly attach tiles one right after another. No mess! The only negative...the stuff holds too good. Scenario- you've decided to start your installation because it's 10:00 on Friday night and you are feeling really confident after a couple of glasses of wine. Perfect, that's how this pro rolls. You start sticking these tiles to the wall and are applauding your amazing skills. Then you start to notice that you have put a few in crooked. Not good. Have fun trying to pop that tile free from the tape. Once you stick it, it's stuck. Remove the wine from this scenario and this will likely happen at some point. It's super easy, but also super non-forgiving. If you are going to add grout or do the wood filler trick my sister and I did, tape is a great option.
Tape and mirror adhesive is another option that I was using for awhile. I liked that if the walls aren't flat and even, I could use the Gunther adhesive to 'build out' the spots where the tape wouldn't catch. Keep everything nice and even.
Eventually I realized that the Gunther alone was really easy to work with. I realized I didn't really need the tape after all. You have time to slide the tile right into place and smoosh it down until its perfectly even with the other tiles. Gunther is 'buildable', which means you can build out hollow spots with the adhesive alone. Also, If you don't like how one antique mirror subway tile looks next to another, you can just pull it off and use it somewhere else. This will inevitably happen if you are a little OCD like myself.We recommend Gunther White Ultra Bond Mastic because its 'build-able' and also cures super fast. Standard mirror mastic takes 30 days, which is not ideal. Not ideal at all, unless you want some cracked mirror tiles. We offer the Professional Grade Gunther for purchase, but Liquid Nails for mirrors will also work.
To Grout or Not to Grout? That is always the question!
I am a big proponent of leaving out grout whenever materials, design and installation allow and antique mirror subway tiles allow! I stand by my original (and might I say, ingenious) use of wood filler to fill-in the tiniest spaces in-between the tiles. It is easy to clean-up and covers pieces of the wall that may peek through the gaps. The brown or black versions seemingly disappear right into the crevices leaving a beautiful, seamless look.
Love grout? Have at it! Simply plan ahead and use spacers, just as you would with any other tile and grout installation. Non-sanded grout of course!
After installation, cleaning is as simple wiping with a damp microfiber cloth, a quick swipe with the dry end rot make it sparkle. No paper towels (no lint!) and no glass cleaner (no streaks!) necessary. Sleep easy my bedazzled hippie friends. Not only do you have artisan made antique mirror in your home, but you are also doing the Earth a favor. It's almost too good to be true. But there is more. The tiles do not even show dirt, dust or water spots! Don't like cleaning mirrors at all? Good, it's supposed to look antique after all. Feel free to skip a week or two…no one will ever know!
I also get lots of questions about cutting the tiles. For some reason, people are a little sketchy when it comes to cutting glass – throw the word “antique” in there are the anxiety reaches new levels. Relax. It is not difficult at all. Invest in a commercially-available tile cutter (usually around $40) and layout your pattern to ensure a minimal amount of waste. Then get to it! I detailed everything you need to know in a previous post, so check it out before you get started.
It’s Pattern Picking Time!
Which brings us into another fun part of this journey! The pattern layout! You have two choices here: an eclectic mix or a uniform pattern. You want a mixed look; choose four to five patterns of tile. This ensures that there will never be two of the same pattern touching (if you are careful with your layout step!).
We recommend ordering a few sample boxes to see which patterns you like together. If you are still a little unsure, check in with our experts. We have seen every mix in countless installations and can point you in the right direction. You truly can not make a mistake here. We have shipped out orders of what we thought were some odd combos, nope. There is no wrong combination of tiles.
If you want a more uniform look, pick only one or two patterns. Maybe a dominant pattern (your favorite) sprinkled with a few of your second favorite – best of both worlds!
Now that we have covered just about everything there is to know and you can’t wait to get some of these treasures into your home…but where!?! My answer: ANYWHERE!
Of course there are the usual suspects: kitchen backsplashes are exquisite when covered in antique mirror subway tile. A powder room takes on new depth and a certain amount of luxe when the tiles are installed behind a hanging mirror, or choose a small wall as seen below. Feature walls of large antique mirror tiles make a huge statement while complimenting nearly any décor.
Want to take a walk on the wild-side? I may or may not have been known to re-style a chunky picture frame, resurface a coffee table, clad some wood shelving, cover a wall in a glass wine cellar or even use it on friend’s coffee bar…from time to time. Really, there are no bad ways to use these antique mirror subway tiles. It is the little black dress of the tile world. It looks great wherever it goes! From contemporary, transitional to rustic, I promise it always looks amazing.
So that’s it! I would love to hear from more of my antique mirror subway tile loving fans! Send me your pictures and your questions! Ready to join the team? I must warn you that it can be addictive…you may find yourself forgoing sleep to layout the perfect pattern or covering every surface with an antique mirror…don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Order your own sample box here…and then let me know what you think!