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Metal Finishes:
When to Mix, When to Match

Mixing metals was once a design no-no, but now it's a go-to way to add depth and visual interest.
From faucets to fixtures, here’s what to look for when you want to mix things up.

The fear of mixing finishes runs deep, from the horror of a hodgepodge bath to the deep shame of mismatched kitchen appliances. As consumers, it’s pretty simple and ideal to purchase metal fixtures, fittings and hardware in complete sets. And while there is a sense of completeness to a refrigerator, lighting fixtures and drawer pulls that all sport the same metal finish, you may be missing out on the best aspects of your room’s design.

These two key tips will have you feeling like a metal winner in no time:

Tip #1: If not matching, coordinate.

There are three main elements of the metals that you’ll want to keep in mind:

Color: This is the base tone of the finish. Whether it is gold, brass, bronze or silver, the core color is going to be one of the most pertinent characteristics of a finish.

Tone: Tone is how bright or dark a color is. This can come into play especially with custom or unique finishes. Keep an eye out for terms like bright or deep.

Finish: This is how the color itself is applied or treated. The most common to be aware of are polished, brushed, satin, matte and patina. Polished finishes give you a high shine, whereas a brushed finish will be more matte.

When mixing metal finishes, it is important to keep some kind of consistency among color, tone or finish. You’ll also want to make sure that the choices look deliberate as well. If you have a standout fixture in one finish, but the rest of the room is full of a different finish, it might look more like a mistake. Make sure the finishes that you ultimately choose speak to something else in the room and don’t stand alone.

Tip #2: Consider the room.

The size and function of your space will likely affect your metal-matching game, as well. Here are some things to think about, room by room:

Baths: Bathrooms tend to be the first place we think about mixing our metal finishes, with quite a bit of plumbing fittings, fixtures and hardware. Keep in mind that bathrooms tend to be smaller spaces, so a lot of different metallics or super bold pieces can make your space look smaller.

That said, the bath is a perfect place to play with various finishes while staying in a similar tone and color. For example, mixing brushed brass sconces with polished brass and brushed vanity accessories creates visual diversity through the finishes but still keeps the effect feeling purposeful and clean. Keep an eye on tone here, as this is an common way that fixtures can clash.

If you have the space, brass pendants and steel appliances can live in perfect harmony.
Design by Matthew Lechowick / Photo via Bardis Homes

Kitchen: Planning out a kitchen can be a nightmare, especially when it comes to trying to get an exactly matching finish across appliances, hardware, lighting fixtures and plumbing fixtures. Try creating a mixed palette of metallics to create another level of depth with your design—and save you a few headaches.

Don’t be afraid to mix colors here. Try combining different finishes between fixtures and hardware. Brass fixtures can be an awesome offset to richly colored oiled bronze handles. Alternately, a soft gold can be a gorgeous offset to chrome.

Generally kitchens are larger than a bath, so you have more room to get creative. Clean lines with unexpected finishes can add a lot of interest to simple spaces.

Living spaces: Making a room that is both impressive to your guests and comfortable to live in can be enough of a trick. In a living room, we love a polished finish to add shine and pop—and using gold, silver and bronze in the same finish can create a visual treat. If you’re mixing more than two colors, really keep an eye on consistencies between tone and finish—matching these two when mixing up colors is important to keep your look clean, not cluttered.

Bedroom: The bedroom is your sanctuary, and mixing finishes here can add a cozy ambience to your refuge. Try creating color schemes within a finish family—a melange of warm colors like hammered brass, brushed copper, soft gold and a rubbed bronze. Matte or brushed finishes are also nice for creating a softer feel and reducing any potential for stray glare.

These few simple guidelines will have every room looking as good as gold (and silver and bronze, too), so don’t be afraid to start mixing things up.