A common challenge these days is how to integrate chrome, steel and varying shades of silver (furnishings & decor), with the ever-trending surge of gold, brass and bronze. These metals (among others), although so gorgeous on their own, are sometimes hard to blend together. When one has a much brighter sheen than the other, or one looks more sleek and modern while the other looks antique, it can leave the look feeling disjointed.
But, that doesn’t mean you’re required to go completely “out with the old, in with the new” if you’re looking to change it up… it’s neither economical nor creative! In fact, mixing them together is an amazing way to add depth and character to your space.
Here are a few tips I find helpful for incorporating the new with the old, cohesively.
1) First, Take Note of the Undertones
The gold family (brass, bronze, copper, etc.) typically has a warmth to it - which makes it ideal for pairing with whites, beiges, taupes and lighter pastel colors. The silver family (stainless steel, chrome, nickel, etc.), on the other hand, tends to have cooler undertones, ideal for mixing with greys, blues, greens and black.
For the purposes of mixing metals, consider iron neutral. Just be mindful, the dark/black finish adds weight. So, paired with the gold or silver family, it blends easily, but adds another (heavier) dimension.
2) Next, Per Usual, Take Inventory
Survey the space you’re planning to work with. Look at every detail - furnishings, colors, decor, artwork, rugs, pillows, light fixtures, hardware, cabinet pulls, etc. ALL the things. Evaluate their warmth/coolness based on step #1, and decide what you want to stay and play up, versus what you want to put away and/or downplay.
As you’re preparing to experiment, think about your other spaces. Are there metallic pieces elsewhere that could go nicely with the new look you’re trying to achieve? If so, grab them! (You can always go back and enhance the space you poached them from later…!)
3) Gauge the Ratios (don’t freak out, I am NOT a math person…)
Important: As with every design technique, this is an art NOT a science. In the end, whatever feels best to you is ALL that matters.
That said… like a salad dressing recipe (2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar), determine the ratio of metals. For example, 5 pieces with brass accents and 1 piece with a chrome accent = 5:1.
Then do the same with the accent colors - how many warm colors do you have vs how many cool colors? Example: 3 beige + 2 white + 2 taupe pieces = 6 warm colors. 2 black + 4 dark grey + 1 navy = 7 cool colors. Ratio = 6:7.
If your ratios are evenly weighted between warm and cool (across both metals and colors), there is a good likelihood that your design will turn out feeling cohesive because it will feel balanced. Placement of each piece is less significant because there’s a strong presence of both.
If the ratio of metals is heavily weighted warm, and your colors are heavily weighted cool (or vice versa) see if you can even them out by adding/subtracting as you like. Again, this will simplify your placement of pieces, because it’s balanced.
If the weighting is skewed one way or another, here is my go-to process for blending them cohesively…
I start by putting the most necessary/functional pieces in place. If it’s a dining area, I’ll usually place the rug, table and chairs together before any accent pieces are built in. If it’s a living room, again - chairs, couches, rug, etc. Then comes the layering….
I avoid putting one metal directly next to another, unless there is a bunch of both present in the space. For example - I wouldn’t put a marble & gold side table next to a black bench with chrome legs, without there being some more neutral pieces integrated to help bridge the gap. Meaning, I might layer in a few white / beige books on the side table, and add a mirrored glass lamp with a beige shade, in addition to a light blue or beige blanket strewn over the bench…
Glass and crystals also make for great buffers - because glass is so neutral, and crystals tend to have a warmer sparkle - and greyish hues of the natural rock’s exterior.
Say the ratio is 4:1… I like to place the “4” around the perimeter of a space, and make the “1” more of a focal point, noticeably contrasting against the rest.
When in need of purchasing something new, and I have an equally balanced mix of metals to coexist in one space, I try to find pieces that have both warm and cooler colors combined, or a few of each temperature family. Example: if I’m building around a dining table with a chrome base, but have a white and gold sideboard (buffet table / credenza) to work in, I’ll try to find a chandelier with both metals, or a rug with a blend of beige, grey and blue, and/or a piece of art with metallics to tie it all together. I’ll then put various decor pieces of the opposite metal on both the table (ie. candle holders) and the sideboard (ie. a vase or serving platters, etc.) to blend and balance.
If the pieces I’m working with are varying intensities - say one piece of furniture is bright gold and the other is brushed (muted) stainless steel, I try to keep them further apart if possible, and extensively layer a bunch of warm and cool pieces in between.
If the pieces are bright and muted of the same metal family, I try to find another piece that matches one or the other, to allow one shade to become more dominant over the other, and therefore creating sort of an accent piece out of the non-matching item….
In the end, experiment, experiment, experiment until you find a balance YOU love, and that makes you feel at ease. And of course, please comment below with any questions! I know this isn’t all-encompassing, but it’s a start :)