DIY projects inspired by New York City restaurants, bars and museums.



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Inspiration: The distressed bistro mirrors at Schiller’s Liquor Bar (131 Rivington St at Norfolk St; 212-260-4555,

TONY version: It’s seemingly mandatory for every Francophilic restaurant in the Keith McNally empire to sport at least one of these antique mirrors, which appear as if they’ve been clouded by years of cigarette smoke. Schiller’s nails that romanticized old-world look by adding warm lighting and vintage bottles. Provided you don’t mind handling toxic chemicals and have access to a well-ventilated space, you can re-create the feel of a European caf in your own home. Timothy Dahl, founder and editor-in-chief of DIY blog Charles & Hudson (, recommends Van Dyke’s Restorers’ Antique Mirror Patina Solution kit ($79.99, It includes thorough instructions, plus everything you need (other than water and the mirror). Too much manual labor for your blue blood? Not to fear: Demolition Depot (216 E 125th St between Second and Third Aves; 212-860-1138, sells salvaged antique mirrors that acquired their patina the old-fashioned way, starting at around $150.—Cristina Velocci

Total cost: $50 and up if you make your own kit (see below), and depending on the size and quality of the mirror
Estimated time: Four hours

Materials needed
* Mirror (We got this 8"x10" one for $4.99 from Kmart [250 W 34th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-760-1188,], but you can also try Housing Works Thrift Shops [multiple locations throughout the city; visit] or the furniture classifieds on Craigslist)
* X-Acto knife
* Staple remover or a pair of pliers
* Clear packing tape
* Drop cloth
* Protective goggles ($2.97 at Home Depot, multiple locations throughout the city; visit
* Heavy-duty rubber gloves ($3.29 at Home Depot)
* Sprayable paint stripper ($9.26 at Home Depot)
* Paint scraper
* Patina solution ($4.99 for Modern Masters Metal Effects Blue Patina Aging Solution at Janovic, multiple locations throughout the city; visit
* Kitchen sponge
* Washcloth
* Sea sponge
* Glass or bucket (for water)
* Paintbrush
* Gold, copper or black paint (we used Modern Masters Metal Effects Rich Gold, $11.99, at Janovic)
* Vintage bottles: We’re partial to the ones dating from the 1830s through the 1930s that artist and urban archeologist Scott Jordan excavates from dumps and construction sites throughout the five boroughs. Prices range from $1 for a small ink bottle to $100 for a rare Civil War--era soda bottle. (Sun 10am--6pm at the Green Flea Market, Columbus Ave between 76th and 77th Sts;

1. Place the mirror facedown and carefully cut through the paper backing with an X-Acto knife. Peel away the paper, exposing the mirror’s backside and as much of the framing as possible.
2. With a pair of pliers, remove any staples that may be lodged in the frame. This eliminates interference with the backside of the mirror.
3. Use clear packing tape to line all four edges on the backside of the frame; this protects it from being damaged by the paint stripper. If you’d rather create a warped, antiqued look on the frame itself, skip this step.
4. Lay the drop cloth over the area where you will be working, preferably a smooth, flat surface. Wearing protective goggles and gloves, spray a thick, even coat of paint stripper on the back of the mirror and allow the solution to sit for 15 minutes. Once the paint on the back of the mirror begins to bubble, use a paint scraper to gently remove it, revealing the mirror’s silver leafing.
5. Thoroughly clean the mirror’s exposed surface under running water or by using a damp washcloth. Make sure that the mirror is completely dry before continuing.
6. Soak a kitchen sponge with water and set it aside. Pour a moderate amount of the patina solution onto the sea sponge and dab it onto the silver leafing (depending on how heavy you want the patination to look, you can also pour, spray or wipe the solution on). The silver leafing will begin to corrode immediately; as soon as it has achieved the desired effect, pat the sponge soaked in water over the silver leafing to stop the chemical reaction, otherwise it will eat straight through the silver finish.
7. To seal the back of the mirror up and protect your handiwork, paint four layers of gold, copper or black paint over the “antiqued” silver leafing, allowing each coat to dry fully (about 20 minutes per coat). Gold paint will create a sepia tone, copper will appear rusted, and black will give it a charcoal feel.
8. Hang or lean your newly distressed mirror, with strategically placed vintage bottles and flickering candles around it. Fin!

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Users say

anne k
anne k

I shall do this. Thanks for you work and postimg.