Tips & trends

Everlasting vintage pieces: three iconic mirrors

Timeless reflections: beyond their practical function, mirrors designed in the 20th century exhibit unique shapes and details, taking on the status of authentic works of art that add a touch of uniqueness to every room in the home.


Who said that the mirror is "only" used to try on a dress, comb your hair or apply make-up? This piece of furniture is many more things: a frame, an original shape, a touch of style that gives character to an interior, as well as a strategic optical illusion. In a small space, a reflective surface automatically gives greater depth, space and light. If it is a vintage mirror, you are dealing with an object that brings a story to the decor, a silent witness to the places, people and things that its surface has reflected over time.

We focus our attention on three precise mirror typologies: a sober and essential mirror, which is the synthesis of form and personality, a showy and irreverent mirror, and a mirror which represents the cultured choice of those who chose it for their own space.

Apparently simple, essential and therefore very recognizable (consequently among the most imitated), the Unghia or Lipstick mirror could not be missing from our hit parade. Originally designed by Milanese designer Rodolfo Bonetto (1929-1991) in the 50s, it remained in production until the end of the 70s in a wide range of colours. In addition to being iconic, its shape is also ingenious, being a cylinder from the top of which a transversal cut that generates a section in which the mirror is inserted, producing a shape that recalls that of a nail, or lipstick, and which thus allows the whole body to be reflected while standing.

The sober elegance combined with the relatively small size (a diameter of 25 cm for a height of 162 cm), make it easy to move and suitable for any room in the house, whether displayed in the bedroom or in the living area, but even in passage areas such as a corridor, or in the most intimate parts such as a bathroom or a walk-in closet.

A little curiosity for collectors looking for a variation on the theme: Lipstick has been so successful over the years that a (much rarer) floor lamp version of it was produced. Almost identical to the original, this version contains a light source inside, which emanates light through the translucent PVC structure: an effect that transports the object into a typically 60s pop and Space Age dimension.

Let's shift our attention to the mirror that has become the most fashionable ever in the last 10 years, a period in which its author has reconfirmed himself at the top of the most requested, followed and collected Italian designers in the world, together with Carlo Mollino and Gio Ponti. We are naturally talking about Ettore Sottsass (1917 – 2007) and his (defining it iconic would be an understatement) Ultrafragola mirror-lamp, designed in 1970 for Poltronova, a company of which Sottsass was also art director. The 70s were key years for the designer, those in which he understood the project as a tool of social criticism, which led him to state that «design is a way of discussing life. It's a way of discussing society, politics, eroticism, food and even design." Today, to tangibly understand the renewed popularity of Ultrafragola, just think that it is the mirror most chosen by influencers to shoot selfies, as well as appearing — hardly going unnoticed — in advertising campaigns, film sets, photo shoots, comics. Distinguishing features: its sinuous shape, which seems to have been designed by a hand tracing a stylized head of hair, which becomes the pink illuminated edge of the mirror (LED or neon).

In Milan, getting lost among the pieces of the Triennale's permanent collection, you inevitably come across an example of Ultrafragola, an object eternally suspended between a work of art and furniture — and which usually divides the public: you either love it or hate it, as it happens with all imaginative, eye-catching, original things, which force you to take a position because they cannot leave you indifferent, and will always stir a reaction in the observer. A monograph published by the Poltronova Study Center for Design is also dedicated to Ultrafragola, an object which combines the triple function of lamp, mirror and work of pop art in furniture.


The third mirror that we take into consideration belongs to the 1950s, and is the 1669 model designed by the French designer Max Ingrand (1908 – 1969) for Fontana Arte. We like to turn the spotlight back on this object for two reasons: on the one hand for its contemporary style, almost evocative of a space planet, a sensation given by the superposition of two round shapes of different sizes (the reflective surface and the curved colored glass frame and ground). On the other hand, because in this mirror, as in all the specimens offered by Ingrand, the precious aspect comes from the design that marries the processing of glass, the flagship of Fontana arte, a company known for the processing of curved crystal and for the production of lighting equipment. A refined master of glass (his first works were the restoration and creation of evocative stained glass windows that illuminate important French churches), Max Ingrand took over the artistic direction of Fontana Arte from '54 for ten years. The designer, certainly well known on a global scale, remains in some contexts even less known to most people: imagining one of his mirrors to furnish a space represents an effective, and at the same time refined, thoughtful choice.