DIY Optical Illusion Garden Mirror – Empress of Dirt

DIY Optical Illusion Garden Mirror

04.22.2015 by // 2 Comments

Would you like to start a secret garden? Good news! This project may look complicated but it’s really not. It’s an illusion! I have a super simple tip (below) that makes it really easy to turn any rectangular mirror into cool, optical illusion garden art and you will not need to do any special measurements or calculations.

While you could make this project without power tools, it is preferable that you have an electric saw that does miter cuts, although you could use a hand saw instead. The electric saw will just make the cutting faster and easier.

If you would like info on keeping mirrors safe in the garden (for you and the birds), see How to Use Mirrors in the Garden.

This One Cost $12

I’ve been admiring these mirrors for years and, after seeing one priced at $290, decided I probably could make my own. Nothing like inflated prices to make you feel like you can do it yourself!

As it turns out, it was much easier (and faster) than I expected. In fact, you could probably make your own (other than waiting for the paint to dry) in less time than it will take me to write these instructions.

This project cost me a whopping $12 to make with the purchase of a mirror, wood, and hardware at the thrift store. I used leftover paint from my garden shed makeover.

Optical Illusion Design Ideas

There are so many possibilities for these mirrors but they all have the same basic design.

Look at the images below.

Every mirror has an outer frame and an inner frame, which is the section that creates the illusion.

Here’s the same design with window grilles:

This next one is simply doubled to look like two open windows:

And here’s another variation made to look like an open garden gate.

This can be really cool when placed on the ground against a garden fence.

To create my optical illusion mirror, I used the design with window grilles but simplified it so there were fewer wood cuts required.

Tips for Best Results

Before we get started with the instructions, here’s a few things to consider:

  • Use the same size/thickness of wood for the entire project (unless your mirror already has a nice frame). I used 1×2″ lumber.
  • There are many options for joining the wood pieces: this may determine which thickness of wood you choose (if you have some experience or expertise with woodworking). I’ve listed what I used in the materials section below.
  • Think about how you will hang the mirror (if it doesn’t already have a frame and hanging hardware) and plan accordingly.
  • Paint the inner and outer frames the same colour. This seems to enhance the effect of the illusion.
  • Paint all sides of the wood including the sides and back since it will be reflected by the mirror.
  • Add hardware (hinges and handle) to give the effect of a functioning window or door.

Super Simple Construction Tip

I mentioned this project can be done without any special measurements or calculations and here’s how.

Make a paper version first.

By creating a paper template, you will know exactly how much wood you need, you”ll have a template for each wood cut, and you’ll be able to double check the design before ever cutting the wood.

I’ll walk you through the steps below to show how to create your design.

  1. Get materials and tools ready (list below).
  2. Make paper template for the wood cuts.
  3. Cut wood.
  4. Assemble.
  5. Prime and paint (or stain) all sides of wood.
  6. Attach hinges and handle.
  7. Secure mirror to back of frame.
  8. Attach wood pieces to front of mirror.
  9. Add hanging hardware.
  10. Hang it up in the garden and amaze your friends.

Materials & Tools Needed

There are so many options depending on your woodworking skills or standards.
I’m a complete amateur but wanted something sturdy that looks good.

Some links go to sites including where I am an affiliate.

I put the mirror on a table and then created my template on top of it.
You could either cut out strips of paper using the wood as a template (for the width of the paper strips) or simply draw the whole thing on a large piece of paper and cut out the pattern pieces.

Have a look at the diagram (above) for guidance.

Many of you will probably be able to make the project simply by seeing the diagram and making the template.

If written instructions help, keep going. Otherwise, draw a design you like on paper, cut out the wood, and go for it!

Outer Frame Parts A and B – 2 of each
Decide whether you want to make mitered or butted corners.
I made mitered corners and created an outer frame that is larger than the mirror by 1″ on each side (2″ total) to allow room for attaching the mirror to the back of the frame.

Inner Frame Parts C (2), E, F, G, H, I
The inner frame has 4 sides plus the inner wood pieces forming a cross.

Create your paper template in this order:

  • E- Fits the inside space next to A.
  • G- is parallel to A (the outer frame) and placed equal distance from the top and bottom B pieces.
  • There’s also a gap between G and the nearest A (which helps create the illusion of the window being open).
  • First determine the desired location of G but hold off with the length for now.
  • G has two angled cuts but you need the C pieces first.
  • C – These two pieces are the same (you just turn one over after cutting it out).
  • The C pieces have two angled cuts (labelled 1 & 2, and 5&6). With G and E in place, cut out the C pieces to fit nicely against them.
  • See how cuts 3 & 4 on the G piece line up with the outer edges of the C pieces? Trim G at the top and bottom using the outer edges of the C pieces as your guide.

Make the Inner Cross

With E, G, and the two C pieces taped in place, make the inner cross pieces.

  • F is placed parallel to E and G, and slightly closer to G than E.
  • F has two angled cuts (7&8).

Make H and I

With F also taped in place, create H and I.

  • H will be slightly longer than I (because F is slightly closer to G than E).

If it looks good, you’re ready to cut the wood.

Cut the Wood

  • Label each pattern piece and trace them onto the wood.
  • Cut out the wood.
  • Sand any rough edges.
  • You can either prime and paint (or stain) first or after assembly.

Here’s a close-up of the lower left corner:

metal mending plates

GE II silicone sealant

Whatever you use, make sure it’s suitable for glass/mirrors and wood, and do not apply it near the edges where it will be reflected by the mirror.

Secure the mirror to the back of the frame. I used mirror clips.

Add hanging hardware. I used heavy duty picture hanging hardware.

copper colour

If You Make One Too

I’d love to see it! It would be great to create a gallery of all sorts of optical illusion windows, doors, and gates.

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