Designer Trick : Mixing Metals

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals - roomfortuesday.comMixing 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! 

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals - roomfortuesday.comI’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!

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals - roomfortuesday.comFirst, 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.

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals -

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.

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals -

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.

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals - roomfortuesday.comIn 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.

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals -

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.

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals - roomfortuesday.comI 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.

Designer Trick : Mixing Metals - roomfortuesday.comIf 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:

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!

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  1. Perfect timing! I’m so stumped on cabinet hardware. White quartz countertops and white kitchen. Sink faucet is Stainless Steel hi-rise arc bridge. I originally thought about matte black or some type of brass but not sure if the brass would seem too dressy for our old cape cod. So I bought a polished stainless look hardware. #boring? 🤣 Kitchen lighting Is just recessed. Any thoughts?

    1. Suzanne I love antique brass against white, and I think it would look beautiful and traditional in a cape cod; while the stainless brings in a more modern element. It sounds lovely!!

      1. Thank you Lauren! I’m going to go back and look for some antique brass. 😃

    2. Woohoo!! My thoughts, Suzanne… stainless can look very clinical- especially in an all white kitchen. Unless, you’re going ultra modern, I’d actually recommend bringing in a warmer metal: antique brass or polished nickel. I think that will give you a more timeless look and still fit your beautiful cape cod home. Since your recessed lighting is basic, perhaps you could install art in your kitchen with a battery operated or plug-in gallery light above it? Or maybe a countertop lamp if you have the space? There are easy ways to add ambient light without having to run new electrical or swap hard wired fixtures. Hope this helps!! xo

  2. So many beautiful images from your homes! As for mixing metals, I’m definitely in favor. I do have a couple of thoughts (natch). It seems that all of the “silver” metals look very similar within a room. Your current pot filler does not look different from your stainless range in the photo, but I don’t think they’re the same. On the other hand, brass finishes can vary widely…and some are blech. I’m also noticing that other items in the room can help make the metals mesh. Warm wood tones can mirror the brass finishes; black tile or accents meld the black or dark bronze fixtures. There’s a lot to consider, and designer rooms makes it look so effortless! This series always makes me run around my house and reevaluate all of my choices!🤣 BRB, gotta go add some warmth to a couple of my rooms. Thanks for the education, as always!💜

    1. Right Peggi??? I find myself going room by room critiquing the previous owners choices (because most we haven’t changed), and the elements that we have brought in. Lol.

    2. Thanks Peggi! Love your thoughts :) The “silver” metals in our space are similar, but more different in person… for the example- in our kitchen, the polished nickel plumbing fixtures are definitely shiny and the stainless is more matte. They’re similar in temperature though! Brass finishes probably have the most variation- great observation that is totally accurate. Another thing I probably should’ve touched on is the surroundings and environment in which the metals live. Just like paint colors, metals reflect their surroundings and it can influence how they look in a space. I’m pretty sure you’re making perfect choices in your home… and like I mentioned- some design rules were meant to be broken, so if you’re happy in your home- that’s really all that matters! Haha! Hope you’re having a great week. xo

  3. Haha…your timing is spot on! Jeff always throws a wrench in the plans somewhere along the renovation highway…in this case, my design for our bathroom consisted of antique brass lighting with brushed nickel plumbing fixtures and aged bronze accessories and hardware. I had already ordered the hardware. He pops up with “black everything”. My response: “boring, too trendy, too cool in an already cool room”. Ladies, this is a guy whose style preference is jeans and a plain white or plain black t-shirt. (Nothing wrong with it, he just doesn’t have an artistic vision to pull multiple things together; but clearly he still doesn’t trust my judgement after renovating an entire house 🧐). Point made?? Lol, he’s a plain sort of guy. Can you do a designer trick series “How to Get Your Husband on Board”??? 😂🤣😂 Now I’m stumped. Truly stumped. The Scorpio in me wants to fully rebel and go with my original plan because I like it THAT much; the good wife in me says maybe it’s the particular finishes I chose, and maybe I should redesign with different finishes. But I designed a monochromatic bathroom around the one light fixture I loved!!! 😞He thinks brass always looks dated and 90’s…my response: “yea if it’s cheap, and all of it is shiny”. So I did my best to pull together a “mood board” so he could see what I see without having to imagine…I’m not skilled at that so clearly, no dice. Then I tried showing him the photo examples of everything I would be putting in the room; no dice. Emmett is handy…can you have him invent husband vision goggles??😂🤣 Anyway, I’ve been focusing on paint and trying to design the water closet instead (a task I was going to put off until the main area was done), because I just can’t bring myself to change my original thought process. I see it in my head and I can’t unsee it! What do you all think?? Sarah I’m pinning every blog post you’ve done on mixing metals because somewhere along the way it might help me tackle this hurdle…or maybe I should just tackle my husband???🤣😂 This is my favorite series I think, because I love hearing what everyone else has to say in these posts. Thanks for sharing this!!

    1. Hahaha! “Maybe I should just tackle my husband?” I’m cracking up, Lauren. Husbands have a way of doing that. I think at this point in our marriage, Emmett finally trusts my design vision. Is there any black in the space at all? Maybe you could use a black soap dish or pump? Paint the ceiling black? Bring in some small black accents, instead… to make him happy? If it were me (also a scorpio), I’d just keep going because there is always a turning point where Emmett has the “Oh!! It’s going to be amazing” moment. Ha! That’s probably not helpful. I can’t wait to see it and hear what you decide :) Happy Wednesday! xo

      1. 😆😜Spoken like a true Scorpio Sarah!!! So the plus side is the light fixture comes in black, aged bronze, antique brass and polished nickel. I could easily switch the metal finish of the fixture to black, and then go with brass hardware for the drawers and cabinets (there’s not many in the room), and stick with the brushed nickel plumbing. In answer to your question, no black in the room at all; it’s generic white currently. It just doesn’t hold the same pizazz for me and definitely changes the monochromatic look I was going for, but the contrast could be pretty. I guess marriage is about compromise right? Scorpio wants to win!!! 🤣 What are your thoughts on the metal combos Sarah?

        1. Right?! haha! If it were me, I’d match your light fixture finish to your cabinetry hardware. I think you could either do brass or black (keeping your brushed nickel plumbing fixtures). Brass would definitely add more warmth and femininity, whereas black would add more contrast, and make it feel more modern & masculine. Not sure if this helps?! I know you want to win! ha :)

          1. Definitely helps Sarah!! Thanks for your input; I feel like we’ll end up finding the compromise that works for us. Once the vanity is finished getting it’s color, I think there will be a clear winner. Thank you! XO

          2. I think so too! Finish the vanity and see what feels right :)

    2. DY-ING laughing over here, too, Lauren! Definitely think you should tackle him! In all honestly, if you shared the design with him before you ordered everything and he didn’t have any objections, I’d say “too late”! But, I love Sarah’s suggestions of how to bring in some black. Did he mention why he’s interested in having it all black? If he’s just looking for a more masculine look & feel overall, maybe you can bring that in with easily replaceable textiles, like a dark, rich rug and black towels? Your design plan sounds beautiful AND well thought out, though so maybe you can “call marriage” on this one! 😂

      1. 🤣😂I honestly have no idea where the black is coming from. I know he likes very clean and crisp, and loves high contrast everything. He’s also very “match-y match-y”. So it does make sense. I’m definitely brainstorming a lot over here and trying to see a different vision. Marriage card! I love that Anne! Maybe I’ll keep that as my ace on the hole.😏

        1. Good luck and let us know what you end up doing!

      2. “Too late!” would my response, too Anne! Hahaha! I’m terrible.

  4. Enjoyed your thoughts and rules for mixing metals. So if you have all brushed nickel plumbing fixtures and you wanted to add black knobs on cabinets, would this warm the room? We have a mix of marble and a golden brown (bad description) tile. Our walls have been dromedary camel for 10 years and will be painting them either swiss coffee or alabaster soon. I put black handles on our Ikea closet system in our master and thought this might be a good time to add knobs to our bathroom. I’m just talking this out (more like rambling) since we are making plans on updates.
    Have a great Wednesday!

    1. So happy to hear that, Danna! To answer your question- it wouldn’t “warm” the room (because black is a cool toned metal), but it would definitely add a nice contrast and depth. I love the idea of adding black cabinetry hardware! :)

  5. I can’t seem to get enough of Mixing Metals posts. It’s a design trick that always fascinates, and if I’m honest, often confuses me. I had seen someone (McGee’s maybe?) mentioning to keep metals on similar eye planes consistent, ie. sink fixtures are in the same metal as towel bars, but that seems easier said than done sometimes. Do you just go with your gut for the most part about which metals you pick for which places, Sarah? What do you think of using the same metals on cabinetry hardware and the light fixtures as a general “rule”? Also, is there a good ratio/percentage breakdown to keep in mind when mixing, ie. how much the dominant metal should be and then the accent metals? In that same vein, should the dominant metal be one you love the most or the one that works the best visually, if those two are different? Figuring out where to use other metals in a kitchen, for example, with the huge stainless steel appliances so many of us have, often stymies me. Sorry for all the Q’s, but fascinated/confused as I mentioned. 😂

    As for designer tricks posts, one thing I’ve always wondered is where designers go when they’re unsure of what to do or does that just never happen? 😆 If you’re ever stumped (unlikely), where do you personally go for inspiration/advice/validation? Also, how do designers choose which storage options are best for certain items? I see a fair amount of beautiful storage, but for some, if not all, of the items, it’s holding, doesn’t seem very practical. Not sure if those are really tricks, though!

    Thank you, Sarah!

    1. Yay! Love hearing that, Anne! I’m not as much a fan of keeping things consistent on the same plane… I think it’s more about grouping by function (plumbing fixtures, accessories, etc), for me at least. I’ll keep the toilet lever, faucet, and shower trim the same because they’re all “plumbing fixtures” and bring in a different metal for the lighting, towel hooks / bar, soap dispenser, vanity hardware, etc. I’d say instead of percentage, it’s more about balance when it comes to mixing metals. In our kitchen, for example, I used polished nickel for our plumbing fixtures (pot filler, kitchen faucet, side spray), antique brass for our cabinetry hardware, polished nickel for the lighting (sconces), and then stainless came into play with our range. I don’t think any one feels too dominant, but they all feel balanced together. Hope this helps! I know it can be confusing.

      To answer your question about designers- I think we turn to other designers for a second opinion… at least I do, if I’m stumped. I find a lot of inspiration in nature and travel! Thanks for all the great blog post ideas, Anne :) Have a happy Thursday! xo

      1. SUPER helpful, Sarah. Thanks so much and the countdown is on to Pizza Friday!

        1. Woohooo!!! Negronis and pizza and definitely on the menu tonight, after this crazy busy week :) Cheers!!

  6. Hello Sarah – My husband and I are building a home and are at the stage to choose & order lighting. Our space is an open concept great room; cabinets are a pale grey with brushed nickel hardware on pulls & doors; light tile floors & a pretty light shade of gray on the walls. I’m trying to find fixtures for the island (3 lights), a large chandelier for the living room and one for over our DR table. I’m so confused with trying to coordinate the fixtures & keep changing my mind. I was thinking that the dominant shade should be black, to break up the shades of grey. I love bronze fixtures but am not very brave about choosing that metal. Any suggestions?

  7. I’m so glad I found your post! I’m having panic attacks over my renovation choices. I have polished chrome handles in the kitchen on maple cream cabinets. I’m thinking of warm bronze and antique brass lighting fixtures to stay consistent with my other lighting choices in other room, but am stumped on what finish to do my French doors, interior doors and exterior doors. Should they all match? Does antique brass make sense for all the doors? I’m wishing I did polished nickel instead of chrome but I can’t go back now.

    1. Oh no, Jennifer! I hope the rest of your renovation feels less stressful… that’s renovating for you though. It can be tough mentally and physically. I like my door hardware to match, but that’s just personal preference!