There was a time, just a couple of years ago, when convincing a client that all the metals in her living room need not be the same color was a tough sell. Eyebrows were raised, dubious silence ensued. It’s understandable: for decades we were all told not to mix our metals- (gasp!) you just can’t do that- it was one of those “rules” that became so ubiquitous as to accept unquestioned. Well, times have changed, and this is one rule whose time has come to be broken. When well executed, a room incorporating a mix of metallic finishes gives a deeply layered, thoughtfully collected, and quite sophisticated feel that an all matching suite of satin nickel for example, while safe, can lack.
Mixing metals, like mixing neutrals (think cool grays with warm beiges), really successfully is a skill. That’s probably why it came to be so avoided. For all those who have asked and want to try it out on their own, I say go for it, and offer these tips to start.
1. Think of chrome and any polished silver finish as a mirror
Because that’s basically what it is. If you want to try mixing metal finishes in a room but are still a little nervous about doing it right, here’s a great place to jump in. Try mixing any one other metal finish- like brass, bronze, or copper- with chrome or another polished silver finish like aluminum. Because the high-shine, reflective silver reflects and reads like a mirror, you can relax because hey, mirrors really go with everything.
2. Embrace the basics
Like the versatile, little black dress of metal finishes, antique bronze (also called aged bronze or architectural bronze) goes just about anywhere. So dark it’s just about black, but with a hint of warmth, freely accessorize this tone with any other metal finish, just like you would jewelry on basic black clothing. So chic paired with yellow golds or cool silvers, this blackened bronze is another approachable metal to start mixing with.
Also, blackened iron (or aged iron) is having a resurgence in popularity and offers the same kind of easy versatility.
3. Choose a “marrying” piece
Select an accent piece, like a lamp or an end table, that contains two metals you are mixing in your room, but within the same piece. This marries your mixed-metal scheme together. Either start with a piece like this that you love as the inspiration to start building your mixed-metal scheme, or if you’ve already got a space with mixed metals that lacks cohesion or just doesn’t look deliberate enough to you, seek out a marrying piece after the fact to bring the harmony you need.
So your door hardware is brass but your chandelier is silver, and you think it just looks like a mistake? Add a marrying piece like this cocktail table, and voila! Suddenly it was all part of your genius plan from the beginning.
4. Consider the warm/cool balance
This one takes practice. While the first few tips here are easy for a beginner to pull off, this one can be more challenging but needs mention. Stand back, look at the room as a whole, and try to see just warms and cools. Like superhero heat vision. Is the room mostly warm, mostly cool, are there hot and cold zones? A room that leans very cool overall (lots of blues, silvers, grays) may benefit from a little pop of gold, for example.
Also, where are the warm and cool tones now? A room can feel intuitively off balance if the cool or warm tones are concentrated all to one side of your space, like they’re staring each other down. If you see this happening, try for example positioning a brass reading lamp next to your all-gray sofa, and maybe a silver vase would be perfect between your tan lounge chairs. You can use warm or cool metal finishes just like another color, to balance the overall warm-to-cool distribution in the room.
Accessories can be an inexpensive and noncommittal way to experiment with all these tips. If you’re curious but still hesitant, get thee to your nearest HomeGoods, Target, or Marshall’s and pick up a few metallic accessories. Picture frames, vases, candle holders… these are easy ways to begin testing out these tips in your space. Move things around, experiment, and layer!