Create your own retro sunburst mirror

You can add sunshine to any room with a sunburst mirror - a timeless design feature that’s easy to make.

Circular mirrors with ornate frames that radiate from the centre, like the rays of the sun, have been used in interior design since the 18th century. Their most recent heyday was the 1970s, so you may be able to find one at your local op-shop or second hand store if you’d like to be part of the current resurgence. But don’t fret if you can’t find an authentic vintage sunburst mirror – it’s easy to make your own, using a few simple materials and only an hour or two of your time.

You’ll need:

  • A round mirror with flat frame (frame should be at least 2cm wide)
  • 150 pieces branches, twigs or dowel
  • Hot glue gun with glue sticks
  • Painter’s tape
  • Yardstick
  • Hacksaw or other saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Sheet of paper
  • Spray primer
  • Spray paint
  • Hanging hardware
  • Pencil
  • Analogue clock (should be slightly smaller than your mirror).
Circular mirrors with ornate frames that radiates from the centre, like rays of the sun

Construction directions

  1. Attach hanging hardware to the back of frame before starting the project.
  2. Cut your branches, twigs or pieces of dowel to varying lengths between 38 and 45cm.
  3. Place your clock on the mirror and, using the spaces delineating the hours on the clock as a guide, make 12 light pencil marks around the edge of the mirror frame. Remove clock.
  4. Place your yardstick just next to the pencil marks corresponding to the 12 and 6 o’clock marks.
  5. Using the yardstick as a guide, apply a line of hot glue to the frame at the 12 o’clock mark.
  6. Place the end of the branch onto this line of glue, so that one end is flush with the inner edge of the mirror frame. While the glue is still wet, move the branch slightly so it’s parallel with the yardstick.
  7. Hold the branch in place until the glue dries. If your frame or mirror is particularly thick, you may need to prop up the end of the branch.
  8. Apply another line of glue and, again using the yardstick as a guide, apply another branch at the six o’clock position.
  9. Repeat steps five to eight using the three other corresponding pairs of pencil marks, so that you have 12 branches radiating out from the mirror’s edge.
  10. Using these 12 branches as a guide, make your way around the rest of the mirror, applying glue and affixing branches. Alternate the lengths of the branches, so the final product will have variation but an overall balance.
  11. When you have a full circle of branches, sand the top sides of branches with sandpaper to remove any excess glue.

You can create more interesting, intricate designs by using bent bits of wire rather than straight branches or dowel. This approach has been used to create this article’s feature image.

If your prefer, you can fix the branches, dowel or wire to the back of the mirror instead of the front. Taking this approach leaves the mirror with a more defined, prominent edge.

Painting directions

  1. Cover the mirror surface with paper and apply painter’s tape to the reflective surface around the inner edge of the mirror’s frame. This will protect the reflective surface while painting.
  2. Spray the backside of mirror and branches with primer. Let it dry to touch, for approximately 30 minutes. Stacked paint cans provide a convenient stand on which to place the mirror while painting.
  3. Turn the mirror over and place on stand front side up. Prime branches and mirror frame. Let dry to touch, approximately 30 minutes.
  4. Repeat above steps to apply further coats to the front and back of the mirror. Let it dry for 24 hours after the final coat, then remove the protective paper and hang the mirror.

Image credits: Emily May and Rebecca T-S.