Mixing metals used to be one of those hard rules of design. It was a big no-no to change metals in the same room. Well, if you know anything about me you will likely know I am not a big fan of rules. They provide a good framework for decision making but are often a great departure point in design. That’s not to say that I advocate abandoning good sensibilities altogether. Just know when and how to adapt a rule, or bend it to your liking ;). With these guidelines you will have a good framework for making your room look thoughtfully put-together and avoid a hodge-podge result.
How to Mix Metals Like a Pro
Brass, and copper are great ways to add some warmth to a room and I am really excited to see them holding their place in design. But, I have found my clients of late hesitant to introduce them, thinking they will be too trendy. Wanting to stick with tried and true finishes, they avoid the new looks on the market in the hope of saving their room from looking dated in five to ten years. The outcome however, lacks currency and can look dated – the very thing they were hoping to avoid. Combining different metal finishes creates depth and adds visual interest in any room.
Combining Metal Finishes
So how to keep up with the fickle waves of design while dodging the next design cliche? The key is in using discretion, restraint. Perhaps choosing rose gold cabinet hardware for your entire kitchen was not a great investment. But an i-phone, (something you will upgrade soon enough), or a tabletop accent is a great place to play along. The result looks collected over time (which is always our goal) instead of builder-grade, or that “I just bought the showroom display” kind of look. We want your home to feel like a home, not a showroom.
Well I’m here to tell you that your room will look dated as soon as you complete it if you don’t embrace some diversity and add in some variety in your metal accents. The key is to not go overboard!
Stick with these four guidelines to get a dynamic mix.
Choose a dominant metal
The best place to start for this is your main fixtures. The shower head, tub filler, and faucet, in my opinion should match. Period. Will I find an exception to this ‘rule’? Probably, but for now let’s let this stand. This dominant metal is going to set the tone for the room. If it is a shiny chrome, for example, it adds a note of “newness” and depending on the style of the fixture, a formality or dressiness to the space.
Most frequently used metals:
- Stainless – cool and contemporary
- Chrome – cool and contemporary but adding a note of dressiness and sparkle
- Polished nickel brings a warmer version of a ‘white’ metal than chrome and stainless. It is lovely in traditional rooms where brass won’t work
- Brass – polished and new
- Brass – antiqued
- Oil rubbed bronze – gives an old world feel
- Black – sleek and modern
Chrome is a great option for the main fixtures because even if you mix brands, they will always match. Other metal finishes will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer especially when you get into the brass and coloured finishes but chrome is uniform.
Choose your finish
To keep it simple, focus on a singular finish to create a unified look.
To understand what we mean by the finish, usually you will have three distinct options to choose from:
- Polished: a smooth, shiny finish with the look of being “new” for lack of better description, such as polished chrome or polished nickel but brass, black, bronze etc. can come in a polished finish.
- Satin or Brushed: A more subdued look than polished, satin or brushed is the same metal without being buffed to a intense shine. It is a softer, matte surface like any stainless steel faucet or sink.
- Oiled or antiqued: A darker varnish or patina can be added giving a metal an antique look
The finish you choose should reflect the style you are going for. A farmhouse look might be best achieved with an aged brass, or oil-rubbed bronze rather than a shiny new finish like polished chrome, while a modern home might work best with a polished finish, and a contemporary home leans on brushed finishes. Exceptions can make the result sing but for now, let’s stick with the tried and true. Keep to the finish that best suits your style.
Here is a great example where the designer chose antiqued finishes and kept this consistent.
Add in an accent metal
I like to stick with two metals but you can pull off three with a bit of finesse. The key here is to pick a metal or finish that relates to what you have already selected for the room. So if you have chosen a contemporary dressy chrome faucet, you have set the tone, or mood for the room.
If you are using wallpaper, or fabric, they might lead you to another direction for your accent metal.
This designer below has beautifully paired the mirror frame, framed artwork and sconces. The faucet and sink pedestal all have a sense of historical relevance but are introduced in a different metal, yet it all works.
This wallpaper below is a great jumping off point to add an oil rubbed bronze metal frame, and looks great with the chrome or polished nickel faucet.
Chrome is very versatile for your main fixtures – think of it like a pair of jeans. Everything goes with jeans, you can dress them up, you can dress them down. A chrome faucet would pair nicely with a black iron mirror frame just like this bed frame does below, but as you can see in this image, brass is the accent they chose in that small vase. If you want to use brass for the fixtures and add a black mirror frame in your bathroom this would look great! Have a look at the bathroom image that follows (I would have preferred the polished brass accents to be antiqued, or the faucet polished to keep it consistent)!
…like this below!
Using the same wallpaper, brass works quite well as an accent with chrome fixtures in the image below for two reasons:
- both are in a polished “new” finish
- the brass picks up on and highlights the yellow in the wallpaper.
Repetition is key
Now here’s the secret sauce. Repeating each of the elements is the key to a pulled-together room. Whenever you introduce something new into a room you need to repeat it to make it look welcome and not just a random after-thought. If you add a mirror in a new metal, you might want to also add artwork framed in the same colour, or sconces (the exception to this is when you are selecting a stand-alone feature but that is a different design lesson). Below are a few gorgeous examples where three metals were used but in most cases were introduced in pairs or triplets. Two mirrors, three sconces…
As a rule, I always keep cabinetry hardware the same metal but changing up the shape or style in a collection is more interesting.
So there you have it. Go ahead and fearlessly layer in a mix of warm and cool metals for a designed look. If you get stuck, we can help with that!
Judith Taylor Design Services
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