You asked about mixing metals… we’re answering. Metals, or “finishes,” as we call them in the design industry are an integral part of any interior. The right finishes can add a touch of shine for a more sophisticated, timeless feel. They can tie together different design elements, play up the personality in a room, or layer in texture for more visual interest.
Our secret? A room almost never has just one type of finish. Mixing metals is just one of the ways we create WOW spaces… and you know we don’t settle for anything less.
Today, I’m sharing our best tips, the how behind the magic, along with plenty of inspiration to spark your imagination. But first, let’s look at an overview of the types of finishes out there…
Introduction to Metal Finishes: The Vocab & Possibilities
Base Metal: The metal that makes up most of the piece (be it hardware, plumbing, light fixtures, etc.). Most hardware is made from zinc, copper, or brass.
Finish Metal: The metal plating that covers the base. There is a wide variety of options, including brass, bronze, nickel, chrome, aluminum, and iron.
Type of Finish: The look of the metal finish can also vary based on how it’s applied. Most people would call this “high shine” or “low shine,” but in the design world, we call it luster. The highest luster comes from a polished finish, followed by a softer satin finish, an antique finish, or the lowest luster finish, matte.
Now that your design vernacular is up to speed, let’s move onto those tips and inspiration I promised you.
Tip 1: Designate a Number of Finishes Per Room
The first step is reading the room to decide how many, if any, metals will be mixed. Most often we’ll use 2-3 finishes in a room, but sometimes we may use just one finish throughout the space when we are trying to achieve a clean look that highlights other dramatic elements (in a small powder, for example).
However, two finishes per space is pretty standard, especially for smaller spaces. We’ll sometimes opt for 3 finishes in a larger room (like a kitchen), where we can use multiple elements to balance each out. In the case of 3 finishes, the third choice will usually be a simple black or white finish that doesn’t compete with the other two.
Brass, black and nickel finishes play beautifully together in this expansive Jersey Palm kitchen.
Tip 2: Nominate Your Leading Finish
Once you know how many finishes are appropriate for your space, you’re ready to pick the room’s leading lady. We typically design a space with one selection as the dominant finish, and then we will add in another as an accent.
It’s kind of like the 60-30-10 color rule. When it comes to finishes, we typically use a 70-30 ratio, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken, depending on the design!
Can you guess the dominant finish in this Jersey Palm Project bathroom? It’s matte black!
Tip 3: Mix Metals with Warm & Cool Undertones
The best rule of thumb to follow when mixing finishes is to pair warm and cool undertones. Warm metals like brass and gold feel balanced and become more rich in color when accented with a cool tone, like nickel or chrome. Yes, most metals do work well together, but contrast is key, especially if it’s your first attempt. With more experience comes more room to break those rules and get creative. 😉
The master bathroom in the Greenwich Project pairs iron mirrors and pulls with shiny brass faucets and shower fixtures. They help create the perfect blend of warm and cool, masculine and feminine.
Tip 4: Mix Metals with Complementary Lusters
In addition to warm and cool tones, you should also consider mixing high and low shine options, or “lusters” (polished, satin, antique or matte). Pairing two different lusters is a great way to make each stand out rather than compete.
For example, we typically wouldn’t use polished brass with polished nickel, because they look too similar and could read as a design mistake, unless one element of the design pulls both high luster finishes together. Instead, we would mix polished nickel with antique brass, or matte black with polished brass. You get the idea.
We typically would not mix the same metal with different lusters either, like polished brass and antique brass. They will still look a bit too similar to complement one another. That said, we do love to bend the rules, so never say “never.” 😉
In one of the Jersey Palm bathrooms, we used satin brass hardware and light fixtures paired with a polished nickel faucet and shower hardware. It creates a soft yet playful effect perfect for their daughter.
Tip 5: Incorporate a Single Piece with Multiple Finishes
Another great tip that will make mixing metals easy? Find 1 element (like a light fixture) that combines the 2 finishes in one piece to tie both finishes together. Of course, you will still want to repeat each finish on its own throughout the design, but that one piece serves as the unifier, making it even easier to balance the overall design. Here’s a great example…
In the Jersey Palm butler’s pantry, there is a beautiful mix of different metals: the matte white and brass light fixtures, the matte black and bronze faucet, the bronze pulls, and this shiny gold backsplash. The two-toned light fixtures and the dual-finish faucet bring the design together harmoniously.
Tip 6: Balance Your Finishes by Visual Height
To mix metals in a space and have them look cohesive, you’ll want to think about balancing them visually. This means distributing finishes from ceiling to floor, using light fixtures, wall decor like mirrors/frames, faucets, pulls, and even some low-eye-level furniture like cocktail tables. A good mix and balanced spread will make the pairings look and feel effortless.
In the Ocean Meadow Project, we paired warm-toned antique brass (in the great room chandelier and dining nook) with cool and high-luster polished nickel (kitchen pendants and knobs). We tied it all together with pops of metal and a balance of warm and cool tones in the various accessories.
There you have it — a basic guide to mixing finishes in any space in your home. This is just one of the many design strategies we use to create homes that feel personal, sophisticated, and bold. If you’re ready to take the next step in planning a vibrant, fulfilling home, download our Interior Design Project Planner here or grab a spot on our calendar to discuss your project.
Until next time…