Increase Natural Lighting in a Room in Less Than an Hour OR Mirror Shelf




  I'm a sucker for natural light, and really who isn't?  Studies show that classrooms and offices with natural light cause occupants to feel happier, more energetic, and score better on tests.  Making the maximum use of natural light also reduces heating costs & lighting costs.  But if you are like me, you don't have the liberty or time to knock down walls and turn them into windows. Luckily there is a easy way to 'intercept' sunlight and direct it into your lovely abode; mirror shelves.
  In this instructable I will show you how to make a mirror shelf (its very simple) and give some ideas for how you can customize your mirror shelf for your lighting / darkening / planting / needs.

  Interesting fact: Before the widespread use of electrical lighting, shops had to come up with creative ways to get outside light in, especially in clothing stores because oil lamps would produce soot which would damage the garmets.  The use of mirror shelves was one method used to lighten their shops.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

List of Supplies:

A mirror;  (i used a full legnth vanity mirror (~10$))
2 Shelf brackets; (vary in price, I chose the cheapest (~2$each)
Rope (Optional (I used paracord scraps))
Adhesive (glue,ducttape, other (optional))

A drill with screws (or hammer with nails)
A window (sorry basement dwellers)

Step 2: Choose Location for Shelf

Where do I put the mirror shelf, you ask?  You want to catch the maximum amount to light, so determine which direction your window is facing and deduce where the sun will be throughout the day in relationship to your window.  My windows face NE. In my location on the globe the sun goes from South East to North West. 

I should install my mirror shelf to the west most window (leftmost in the picture) , because that would catch the maximum amount of sunlight.   But for the ease of this instructable, I decided to just do it across the 2 center windows.  In the last step, I will discuss how to 'cut' a mirror to fit different sized windows.

I can also take into consideration the height and tilt (angle) the mirror shelf will be at.  

The light needs to get from the sun through the windows and onto the mirror, which will then reflect the sunlight into the room.

 I positioned my brackets, so that they were ~1/4 away from the top of the window.  If they were higher, I don't think they would intercept as much light, much of the light would come in from underneath the shelf.  If they were lower, other objects (outside my windows) would catch those lower rays before my mirror, and the shelf would be of no use (think of another building blocking some/but not all light from your window.) Depending on where you building is, your windows are, and what your outside environment is like, the height of the shelf may be different.  
  If I have my mirror shelf perpendicular to the wall (which is parallel to the floor) it will reflect onto my ceiling.  My ceiling is white, so that will reflect back into my room adequately.  But for added versatility and my own experimentation, I chose to make use of string so that I may adjust the tilt of the shelf whenever I please.  This is discussed in a later step. 

Step 3: Install Brackets, DO NOT Drill Mirror & Changing Angle of Shelf the Easy Way.

Now that you've scoped out your location, you know where to install your brackets.  In the picture I show my mirror sitting on top of the bracket.  

You have some options in this step.  If you want your mirror shelf to remain stationary, you should use glue or some adhesive to attach the mirror to the bracket.  DO NOT drill the mirror into the bracket, it will crack.  If you don't want the mirror stationary, you should make sure that its secure somehow (you don't want mirror crashing down onto your floor and it to shatter and kill your dog, cat, or blind you.)  It would be preferable to have a bracket that extended past the edge of your mirror and had a lip on it so that it could not slide off your bracket. (you can attach a lip to it of silicone, or wood, or a wad of duct tape, etc.)  
Like text diagram below:

I------------------ (mirror)
        (bracket) I
                         I  (wall)
If you follow the above method, you can change the angle of your mirror, by placing objects underneath one of the two ends (back or front) of the mirror.  So that the mirror on the diagram above would look like a ramp.  Then you are finished! Enjoy your sunlight !

If you don't have the materials for a set up above, like to do things a more difficult way, or just don't want this awesome instructable to end (lol)....continue onto the next steps.

Step 4: Extra Step: Using String to Secure and Angle Shelf

1) Add screw/nail or other hardware above brackets.  This will act as a 'hook' for the string.
2) Make a small string loop and secure it to 'hook.'  This loop should be large enough for a second peice of string to go through.
3) Thread a second piece of larger string through the loop and tie it around the mirror.  
I wanted mine adjustable so I could use it to angle the mirror, so I used a water knot.  See webpage for great instructions on all knots ( I am in no way affiliated with mentioned webpage)

Extra information: If I am trying to secure a rope or string or other knot to the wall, I like to tie 2 knots in the same string very close together and then drill my screw into the tiny hole between the two knots.  I don't know very much about knots, but I do know it makes me feel like the string is safely secured onto the wall and is not in danger of slipping off.  Another way to reduce the chances of slippage is to drill your screw or nail into the wall at an angle so the head is higher than the base.

Step 5: The End Product: Enjoy More Sunlight!

Unfortunately it was dark out by the time I completed this project, so I can't show you any light reflecting pictures.  But here are 2 pictures of how it will look when its done.  From the front it looks like a plain old shelf.  As you can see, I was able to close my blinds behind it, so when I don't want light, I can block it out.  Also, If i decide I need a mirror, I can just drop it off of the brackets and the strings will hold it up, as demonstrated in the next picture.

The shelf would look a lot nicer if I bought a mirror that fit the width of one of my windows, or if I cut the mirror to the width of my window.  There are mirror cutting kits available (~12$), but its a process that take some skill and practice.  Mirrors are prone to shattering, so if you do decide to experiment, be sure to wear goggles and be safe.  

I could have also put a wood plank/shelf underneath the mirror, attached that to the brackets and set the mirror on top.  This would have been a good option if  I wanted to put things on top of the shelf (e.g plants.)  But if you put too many things on top of your mirror shelf, it won't reflect light, and will just be a plain old shelf.

Have a sunshine-y day.




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    3 Discussions


    Question 3 days ago

    Great work!
    Where did you find the information that led you to doing this on your own ?
    Also, did it work?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Can you post pictures of the completed project during sunlight hours? Looks like a great idea, would love to see it in action.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting idea, I'd love to increase the amount of natural light in my place and have considered using mirrors but didn't really know how to best set them up. I would love to see a photo with the light reflecting in.