Tucked away in a quiet New York City neighborhood, dwarfed by the apartment buildings that have grown up around it, is Amster Yard, a garden created by interior decorator James Amster in the 1940s and 50s. It contains an extraordinary optical illusion: the mirror Amster’s mentor Elsie de Wolfe suggested he install to make the garden look bigger, which Amster framed inside an arch. It made for a genius collaboration.

Elisa Rolle CC BY-SA 4.0

The mirror arch truly expands the space, giving a sense of lush gardens beyond. Vines disguise the mirrors edges, obviating any hint that it is a mirror. You would only know its a mirror once you get close.

Joan Lauri Poole

Thinking of our own love of mirrors to “expand” our space, we can imagine using mirrors cleverly in a garden, and found some examples.

This mirror in a dorset garden was made by attaching a long mirror to a wall and adding a lead design that mimics a wrought iron gate.


The trick is to make sure the mirror’s edges are hidden in foliage or architecture, as Amster so cleverly did. The edges of this mirror totally gives it away; were it concealed by foliage, it would in fact made the garden more expansive.


Elisa Rolle CC BY-SA 4.0

Thanks Chris!

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