When Toby Young bought her one-bedroom apartment in New York’s Gramercy Park neighborhood, she knew she would have very little money to renovate the kitchen. She planned to simply paint the dark brown cabinets white, replace the ceiling light, and update the cabinet hardware to chrome to match the existing faucet. It was this last item on her to-do list that confused her; Her small kitchen opened directly to her living / dining room, where all the fittings – doorknobs, hinges and lighting – were made of brass. “I’ve always been taught that the metal fittings in a room should match the color of my shoes, my belt and my handbag.” Fortunately for Young, times have changed. There are no longer any restrictive rules for matching fashion accessories, and to some extent (some guidelines apply) the same applies to mixing metal fittings in homes.
Mixing metal surfaces is a conscious design decision for New York designer Thomas O’Brien, founder of Aero Studios, and one he even made for his own residence. When renovating the kitchen at his Bellport, New York home, he painted his cabinets a glossy white and installed satin brass handles, but decided to use chrome for all of the fixtures. He says when mixing metals in a room there should be logic behind any choice. “For example, I chose the brass handles because I wanted a softer and warmer feel than chrome.” He views kitchen cabinets as furniture, so in his opinion they can be treated differently.
Interior designer Zoe Feldman from Washington, DC also advocates mixing metal fittings. “I feel like it prevents a room from feeling too monotonous and it looks more collective and layered,” says Feldman. In general, she avoids using suitable sets in her work, e.g. B. a dining or bedroom set because she says sets are too predictable. She sees matching metal fittings the same way and says that they have a boring, uninspired effect on rooms.
But you can’t just mix all of the metal fittings together. Both O’Brien and Feldman agree that there are some guidelines that should be followed. O’Brien suggests mixing brass and dark bronze, brass and chrome, or brass and nickel, but never mixing nickel and chrome. He also warns that there is a limit to the number of metal surfaces you can mix together in a room. “There should be a main choice and maybe an accent,” he says. More than that, he says, can be too much. And for those concerned about how their stainless steel appliances will match other metals, O’Brien says, “Chrome and stainless steel are really the same and can be used together.”
Feldman says it usually sticks to a maximum of three metals in a room. She also pays attention to the placement of each finish. “You want to make sure there is a certain cadence when you mix metal surfaces,” she says. By cadence, Feldman means that you should distribute the metal types evenly around the room. All of the pulls and buttons should be of one type, and all of the faucets (like sink and bathroom faucets) should be of one type. According to Feldman, lighting is a good place to introduce another type of metal, as are accessories like pot racks in kitchens or door hooks in bathrooms.
Feldman also advises paying attention to the surfaces. She likes to mix metals of different colors that share a similar warmth, like unpainted brass, polished nickel and matte black, but she says she should never mix the same metal in different finishes like polished nickel and satin nickel. Like O’Brien, she says she shouldn’t mix metals that are closely related but just a little bit off, like nickel and chrome. “They’re too similar to be interesting,” she says. “One is the cool version and the other is the warm version.”
When possible, Feldman likes to use what she calls “living metals,” that is, metals that are not painted. “I love the idea of metals aging and getting a patina,” she says. “There is depth in the room and the lights age elegantly.”
Young decided to ditch the existing chrome fixtures, install antique brass cabinet handles, and hang an antique brass and dark bronze ceiling fixture that unites all surfaces. “The lamp connects everything,” says Young. “It’s like jewelry. If you’re wearing a stainless steel and gold watch, you can wear silver or gold or both.”
Mayhew, a show style expert for Today and a former magazine editor, is the author of Flip! For Decorating.
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