I received an email recently asking about cabinet hardware and what finish she should choose and it got me thinking about the art of mixing metal finishes.
Generally speaking, you have two choices:
Match everything to death, *YAWN*. This is the equivalent of buying a suite of matching furniture off the showroom floor at a furniture store (which is a definite NO if you want a well designed home). It screams, “I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong decisions, I just want it done.”
You can mix different finishes. This results in a curated look that is far more dynamic. BUT there is a fine line between curated and chaotic! Too many finishes, scattered about willy-nilly doesn’t look artless, it looks thought-less, as if you weren’t really paying attention and just bought random stuff with abandon and threw it all together to co-exist hoping it would do so peacefully.
Editing choices to create a curated look is one of the biggest contributions a skilled designer brings to the party! Sure, we know all about colors and undertones, fabrics and furniture construction, finishes, codes and ergonomics, and a zillion numbers for appropriate distances and sizes…but creating a great design is alchemy…part science and part art. It is born from a combination of experience, knowledge, and intuition.
here are a few guidelines that can help when mixing finishes:
Repeat the finish in more than one element.
A table with gilded iron legs might echo the same finish tone in a lantern fixture or picture frame, for example. A polished nickel bathroom faucet might be paired with mercury glass accent pieces and brass cabinet hardware and sconces.
Spread the repeating finish around the room
Much the same way we sprinkle accent colors in a space, spread the finish around the room to create a pleasing rhythm. Don’t segregate all the silver stuff on one side of the room and all the gold-toned finishes on the other like they were having a fight!
Black iron or nearly black bronze works as a neutral
A touch of black is always appropriate, and a bit of black-finished metal in a curtain rod, cabinet hardware, furniture, or lighting plays well with almost any other finish.
Limit yourself to 2 or 3 metal finishes
There are exceptions, of course. But sticking with 2 or at most 3 colors of metal is a safe bet. You might also want to try mixing shiny with more matte finishes i.e. polished nickel or chrome with gilded iron. Natural brass with stainless steel. If you have an element that integrates the two finishes (like a stainless steel hood with brass accents), even better!
Below are a few favorite metallic accent selections, from tiny martini tables to pendant lanterns. Click on each image for more information.
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