When Pinterest announced its 2024 trends, it reported that cool tones are “so hot right now”, a pendulum swing from the love affair with gold. Oh how we love to look at trends in design to see how people are dressing and decorating from year to year, but it amuses me to think that somehow one particular metal that comes from the earth is trendier than another. Aren’t all metals appealing in some form?
Having renovated dozens of spaces and closely observed the interior design industry for fifteen years, I believe we’ve reached point in design evolution when we can say all metal finishes are timeless. What matters is what the designer is looking for in a metal to help tell a story. It’s the undertones in the metals that influence the overall style or aesthetic of a space as well as the shape and design of the chosen fixture.
Different undertones and sheens are what make a difference. Warm undertones are found in brass, copper, and rose gold whereas cooler undertones are present in chrome and nickel. Warm undertones have red, yellow, or brown hues present while cooler undertones include blue and gray. There are also a variety of finishes to choose from on a spectrum from brushed to polished.
When we study the countless examples of well designed rooms, one can spot every metal finish. Below is a closer look at the differences and examples of all metal finishes looking good in different spaces.
Polished & Brushed Nickel
Nickel is a silvery white metal alloy containing primarily nickel but includes other metals like copper, zinc, and sometimes iron. Nickel has good resistance to corrosion and tarnishing and is available in both polished and brushed textures, the polished versions present as elegant while the brushed more casual in style.
Chrome is a bluish silver metal made from chromium which is plated on a base metal like steel or brass. Chrome’s silver blue tone is cooler than warmer nickel and it has a reflective shine. Because it is resistant to corrosion and tarnishing, chrome is used a lot in automobile manufacturing but also for decorative kitchen and bath fixtures. A chrome finish is ideal for kitchen appliances and hardware because of its stain resistance, and chrome is often more affordable than nickel.
Bronze is an alloy made up mostly of copper and has lovely brown undertones that are warmer than black. Oil rubbed bronze was popular fifteen years ago, I hope to see more use of bronze in modern design as the warmer tones and textiles and tile have returned.
Iron & Black
A black finish is either forged iron or a coated bronze or brass. Matte black has been trending for a few years, and what a great choice if high contrast or a bit of drama is what you’re looking for.
Brass is a copper alloy that contains zinc and is resistant to corrosion. The matte or unlaquered finishes more popular in this decade than the shiny lacquered fixtures of the 1980s. A beautiful brass faucet or hardware is always a timeless addition to a kitchen or bathroom or as a lighting choice in any space.
The blend of copper and yellow gold is what gives rose gold its pinkish tone, this finish has been in demand for a few years as an alternative to brass. This warm metal is used frequently in jewelry and accessories but is also available in faucets, mirrors, and other kitchen and bath fixtures.
Similar to pewter with its deep gray tones, a gunmetal finish is alluring for its depth and finish that’s darker than nickel and a few levels up on the hue scale from bronze. Gunmetal is an alloy of bronze, it is made up of copper, tin, and zinc, it is scratch and corrosion resistant which makes it a good choice for faucets and hardware or sinks. Last year at KBIS, the gunmetal or “graphite nickel” finish was surging in popularity and availability among manufacturers.
Warm, versatile, and timeless as can be, copper has been used in kitchens and bathrooms for centuries. Copper is its own element, a soft metal with high conductivity and thermal capabilities and has been mined for centuries. In modern construction, it’s used for plumbing and electrical work, but also aesthetically and functionally in kitchens and bathrooms as lighting, faucets, basins, and pots.
Sometimes you want cooler tone metals, sometimes you want the contrast and drama of black, sometimes you want the warmth of brass or copper. They are all available to you depending on your preference.
I understand why some metals can become more popular for a few years and then recede as the less chosen one, and I know we love to talk trends in the design industry, but I truly believe it’s silly to say any metal finish is “in” or “out”. Every great designer has used all the metal finishes in their portfolio depending on the look they’re creating, and mixing metals in a space or throughout a home feels more considered and less matchy.
This kitchen by Blu Interiors is a good example of mixing metals: stainless steel appliances, brass pulls and lighting paired with silver tone faucets, and is still has a cohesive look, balancing warm and cool tones.
Any metal can look good when used the right way. Is there a metal finish you disfavor? Join the conversation!