Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Metal Types in the Home

Metals are the jewelry of the decor world. Whether they’re used on lighting, textiles, or walls, nothing does more to dress up a room than a bit of gold, silver, or bronze.


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A Madeleine chandelier adds a bright, striking flair to a room also highlighted by darker or more silvery metals.

Photo courtesy of Delightfull Lighting

Metals are the jewelry of the decor world. Whether they’re used on lighting, textiles, or walls, nothing does more to dress up a room than a bit of gold, silver, or bronze. Tradition dictates that you should stick to one finish. If your doorknobs are brass, then your lighting should match. But what fun are traditions if they’re never broken? The fact is that you can mix metals within a house—even within a room—as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.

First, decide how bold you want to be. If you’re intrigued by this idea but aren’t quite ready to go full-throttle with it, stick to one dominant metal. Say your kitchen hardware is polished nickel; try displaying some copper cookware on your stove. The dominant metal will anchor the space, ensuring that the overall effect feels both refined and purposeful. And yet each metal will also heighten the differences of the other, so your eye can better appreciate the qualities of both.

If your style is more eclectic, there’s no need to hold back. Feel free to mix silvers, golds, and bronzes in equal measure. Such a look is layered and cosmopolitan. It speaks to a certain insouciance and confidence in style, and is right at home in a space with a worldly, casual vibe.

Whatever method you choose, consider how the metal tones will work within the room. If your home is composed of cool grays and whites, a silvery metal, like chrome, will recede into the background. That creates a tranquil effect, whereas a warm metal, like brass, will provide more contrast. Both looks can be pleasing, but they’re very different. As the old design adage goes: Contrast equals interest. That may be just the ticket for a living room; however, you may want something calmer in a bedroom. There’s no wrong answers here; your intention dictates the best approach.

If this all seems a bit daunting, here are some helpful hints. Try uniting your fixtures through style rather than finish. If your lamps are similar in shape, they’ll still feel connected and cohesive, even if their tones don’t match. Second, try mixing in new metal finishes in stages: a lamp first, a side table next. There’s no need to rush it. Take it as far as you want, as quickly as you’re comfortable, and don’t be afraid to pull back if it starts to feel out of hand. And finally, don’t forget the wonders of iron, the little black dress of the metal world. Its neutral base pairs well with every finish under the sun.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making all your metals match. That’s a sure-fire method to achieve a look that’s serene and pulled together. But if carefree glamour is more your jam, then don’t be afraid to pair that gold and silver. It’s an easy way to take your home from cookie cutter to delightfully distinct.

Sarah Coombs is an interior designer based in Alameda.

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