Mixing metals is a question that frequently crosses my inbox and messages. I’ve talked about it here on the blog before, but never in a Designer Trick post. I wanted to really break it down, keep it simple, and share my best tips for mixing metals confidently- like a trained designer. Ready? Click through for my tips, suggestions, ideas to try, and installations to avoid!
I’m a big fan of mixing metals. It feels layered, adds depth, interest, and can really elevate a space. In my kitchen, pictured above, I mixed antique brass, polished nickel, and even a little stainless. As a designer, I’m comfortable doing this and don’t really think about it anymore, but I realize it can be intimidating if design isn’t your occupation or passion. As they say, design rules were meant to be broken… BUT- sometimes it’s helpful to have parameters or “guidelines”, especially if you’re not trained in a particular area. I thought by breaking down and sharing some formulas, they might help you achieve a beautifully layered, mixed metal look. I also thought it would be helpful to share some things you may want to avoid. I enjoy learning with visual examples and clear language, so I’m hoping this will take the guesswork out of the equation for you!
First, there are more metal components in a home than you might expect: plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, hardware (cabinetry hardware, towel bars, door knobs, etc), accessories (mirrors, soap pumps, frames, etc), and furniture (chair legs, tables, etc). When you really consider how many metal finishes share a space, it can be a bit overwhelming.
Something to keep in mind before you begin your design or styling process- intentional contrast is a great thing. Although there are lots of finishes on a variety of objects to consider, as long as you stick with consistent contrast, you’re golden.
Tips for Mixing Metals…
- Stick to 2-3 metals (max).
- Make sure the metal finishes you’re mixing have enough contrast (example: antique brass faucets in my bathroom above, paired with polished nickel hardware and lighting).
- Choose a dominant metal to carry the design.
- Consider the metal color temperature (pairing a warm metal with a cool metal usually works well… same example: antique brass and polished nickel).
- Design with proximity in mind (leave negative space between metals of different finishes if they compete).
- Keep metals of the same function consistent and intentional (example: matching brass plumbing fixtures in my bathroom- shower trim, sink faucet, tub spout, drain, etc).
- Consider the texture of the metal (combine matte, polished, and hammered finishes to create an interesting and textural look).
- Make sure your metals feel balanced in the space.
In our previous kitchen, pictured above, I mixed a lot of cool metals throughout: chrome, stainless, black stainless, so adding a warmer hued antique brass light fixture was an intentional design decision to add a bit of contrast. Ask yourself where you could use a little variety. In my case, the sconce was far enough from the other metals to make sense while providing depth.
Metal Mixing Installations to Avoid…
- Finishes that *almost* match, but obviously don’t pair well… in close proximity to one another (example: satin brass and living or polished brass).
- Too many finishes in one room. It can look chaotic and amateur.
- Cheap or fake metal finishes. Metal is one of those materials that either looks expensive & heavy or cheap. There really isn’t a good in-between, so make sure you’re sourcing and installing the real deal.
- Avoid random installations… make sure you’re being intentional (keeping plumbing fixtures consistent, etc). A brass tub filler paired with a black shower head makes zero sense. I like to keep ALL plumbing fixtures the same finish.
- Resist the urge to make every metal match. Believe me when I say, while easy- that is not a good, designerly look. In our previous bath, in the above image, I mixed matte black hardware and accessories (towel bars, vanity hardware, hooks) with antique brass plumbing fixtures.
I always recommend following your instinct, because there really is no wrong answer and it’s YOUR home. Personally, I prefer to keep plumbing items consistent, then bring in alternative metals with cabinetry hardware, lighting, accessories, etc.
If you have missed any of the posts in this series, fee free to catch up below! So far, in the Designer Trick series, I’ve covered the following:
- Examine a Room in 2-D
- Tips for Getting Scale Right
- Choosing the Perfect Paint Color
- Making Moodboards & Conceptualizing a Room
- Floor Planning
- Mixing High & Low
I always hope these posts are helpful in designing your home and transforming your space! What would you like to see or read about next? I’d love to hear your ideas for the next Designer Trick post. Have any questions about mixing metals? I love chatting in the comment section below!