Sometimes you'll walk into a room and there's an instant 'wow' factor—something that makes the space unique, balanced, pleasing, and a little unexpected. It's not always obvious what aspects of design are making it work so well, but part of it could be the choice of metals.
We tend to see color first when we enter a space, as well as the main pieces of furniture. We may not notice metals in a room, but they definitely play an important role—especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
Interior Metal Design Options
We incorporate metal into our interiors with appliances, lighting, faucets, knobs, and pulls on cabinets, furniture, and frames for art and mirrors. MirrorMate has 25 different metallic finishes on its custom mirror frames, from Slim Champagne Gold to Pemaquid Dark Bronze.
So what do we do with all these different metals? Traditional advice was to keep all the metals in a room uniform, but trends have leaned toward mixing metals for several years now. Using two or three metals creates depth, originality, and interest.
Once you have an overview of metal options and a few guidelines for how to mix them tastefully, you'll be ready to choose the mixes that make sense in your space and suit your taste.
Warm and Cool Metal Finishes
Consider all the choices—chrome, nickel, gold, brass, bronze, copper, iron, white painted metals, black painted metals—the list goes on. There are no hard and fast rules for which types to choose, so you can have fun figuring out the combinations that work best for you.
One organizing principle that may help is to understand that just like colors, metals have warm and cool tones. Silvers are cool, golds and coppers are warm. Think of black or white painted metals as neutrals.
If you have a room with a warm palette of colors—say a kitchen with sandy beige walls and terracotta floor tile—you might want to make gold or brass your main metal, to keep the warm vibe going. A second metal in matte black could give the scheme contrast and have a grounding effect.
A bathroom in cool colors, such as blues and grays, would harmonize with cool metals, like traditional chrome fixtures. You could mix in a few fixtures of antiqued bronze to add interest and depth.
A combination of warm and cool metals can enliven a space.
A Mixture of Metals - Lusters from Shiny to Matte
Add to all these metal choices the ways they are finished, or how shiny they are. A high luster finish is very shiny, like polished chrome or brass. Satin has some shine, but less than polished metal. Step it down to a more subtle finish with brushed metal, and at the opposite end from shiny are the antiqued, or aged metals.
If you're a little overwhelmed by all these choices, it may help to remember that working in opposites is a good, bold choice that will make your space interesting. So if you love matte black, throw in a copper sink and some pendant lights incorporating copper for a beautiful contrast of bright and dark, matte and shiny.
If you want to keep most of your chrome bathroom fixtures but you need a new sink, try a tall aged bronze faucet, with a bathroom mirror frame like MirrorMate's Austin Distressed Bronze, and the dark richness of the bronze will set off the shiny chrome and give it some new life.
A Helpful Guideline for Mixed Metal Décor
This certainly isn't the only way to do it, but one tried-and-true way to mix metals is to replicate the color mixing formula of 60-30-10. Your main metal is used 60 percent of the time, your second metal about 30 percent, and an accent about 10 percent.
For example, you may select satin brass as the main metal for your new kitchen, using it for your cabinet hardware, the pendant lights over your island, the legs of your island stools, and the frame of your dining room mirror. The stainless steel of your appliances may be your second metal, and you could choose an accent of black matte for the chandelier over your table, with a sink faucet combining black and satin brass.
Since most bathrooms are smaller than kitchens, two metals may be enough for the space, using your main metal around 70 percent of the time.
Mixing Metals - Ceiling to Floor
Something else to keep in mind, you want to give thought to the distribution of different metals. Hopefully, each metal is repeated at least once, and in different areas of the room, as well as at different levels. It would look unbalanced to have all your main metal down low, and the second metal only up high. If you have three pieces of accent metal—say a copper sink, a decorative copper pot and a copper light fixture—you wouldn't want to concentrate them all in one corner of the kitchen. Aim for balance.
Mixing Metals in Kitchen Fixtures and Appliances
Now let's combine what we've covered so far in a kitchen example. We want to:
- Consider all the metal choices you have.
- Consider the level of luster you want in each metal.
- Probably confine yourself to two or three metals, with one dominating.
- Make sure the metals are tastefully used in a balanced way.
One sophisticated way to mix three metals in a kitchen that has dark green cabinets and wood counters with stainless steel appliances would be to select shiny brass hardware to contrast with the green cabinet paint, and repeat the brass in light fixtures. A faucet of oil-rubbed bronze and a decorative piece or two of the same material could rest on open shelving.
Mixing Metals in Bathroom Chrome Schemes
Bathrooms are a great place to start experimenting with combining metals. Chrome is the go-to metal for many bathrooms, and it has the advantage of having a similar appearance across manufacturers. Other metals, such as antique brass or bronze, may have color variations depending on where you buy them, so it's best to buy all of that type from the same manufacturer. To have metals close but not the same may look like a mistake.
Let's say you know you want a matte black waterfall faucet for a new vanity. That would suggest black hardware for your vanity, but chrome could remain the main metal on the other fixtures, and could be tied in with framing your bathroom mirror, with a frame like MirrorMate's Pacifica Silver Sheen.
Framing mirrors with metallic frames is a great way to repeat one of your chosen metals in any space, or to provide a fun contrasting accent. With so many styles and colors, you're sure to find a MirrorMate frame that will complete your look.