How to Mix Metal Finishes Like a Pro

How to Mix Metal Finishes Like a Pro - LightsOnline Blog

Many interior designers mix metal finishes in their clients’ homes to create a beautifully unique look that adds visual interest and dimension in a subtle way. The most popular area to use this technique is the kitchen, where one finish is already dominant in the appliances.

Much like how color palettes and skin tones are evaluated as “warm,” “cool,” or “neutral” shades based on their undertones, the same is true of finishes. For example, “warm” metals and finishes are those with gold, brass, and copper tones. It may surprise you to learn that brushed nickel falls into the warmer finish category because of its undertone while polished nickel, chrome, silver, stainless steel, and aluminum are in the “cool” family. Bronze, iron, and black finishes fall into “neutral” territory, as do white and gray.

How to Mix Metal Finishes Like a Pro - LightsOnline Blog
In this kitchen, nickel-finished hardware and faucets pairs beautifully with lights finished in brass.

In general, interior designers limit their use of metal finishes to two or three, with one serving as the primary finish (most often seen on appliances and the main lighting fixtures) and the others as an accent. In other words, the metal finishes are not divided equally. The primary finish should account for roughly 80 percent of the look. Just as with apparel – where wearing the same pattern from head to toe was once considered the height of fashion – times have changed, and having your faucets and appliances exactly matching the drawer pulls and cabinet knobs can make the room seem dated. The mix of metals should look deliberate and intentional, rather than an inability to distinguish brass from gold.

All color wheels are divided into warm tones (red, orange, and yellow) and cool tones (green, blue, and magenta). Unless you are working with an all-white color scheme, the dominant color of the room will fall into either of those two categories. For warm-colored spaces, the dominant metal finish should have an undertone of gold, brass, or bronze. If the room has more cool tones – for example, stainless steel appliances – then the finish should be more silver-based like polished nickel or chrome. For homes with open floor plans, interior designers will keep that dominant metal finish consistent since areas such as the living room and kitchen flow together.

How to Mix Metal Finishes Like a Pro - LightsOnline Blog
In this kitchen, the dominant tone is black and nickel/stainless steel plays a supporting role.

Worried about not being able to determine warm and cool undertones? The popularity of black or white finishes on faucets and lighting fixtures is a simple way to achieve the look of mixing finishes without any worry of having a color clash. Similarly, deep tones of bronze and iron can be used to successfully complement any other finishes in the room.

Looking for foolproof guidance? A black metal finish is one of those universally flattering neutral colors that pairs as magnificently with the warm tone of gold and brass as it does with the coolness of chrome and nickel. Chandeliers and pendant lights in black paired with either a warm or cool metal finish as an accent is a classic pairing that continues to look fresh.

Another solution is to opt for lighting fixtures that already mix finishes. For example, New York City-based lighting designer Alecia Wesner, who created the Alecia’s Tiers LED family of lighting designs for George Kovacs Lighting, combined light and dark finishes on the same fixture in a way that suits a variety of décors. “Mixing metal finishes is a terrific way to update an interior space while utilizing existing hardware,” Wesner states.

How to Mix Metal Finishes Like a Pro - LightsOnline Blog
This chandelier blends black with nickel.

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, designers suggest trying a dominant finish of brass paired with accents in bronze, stainless steel, pewter, or even polished nickel for a bolder statement in mixed finishes.

Whatever combination you decide on for your kitchen, bath, or other living areas, you can find what you need at, which has a comprehensive assortment of lighting fixtures in a variety of finishes and finish combinations that will capture your lifestyle and aesthetic simply, beautifully, and affordably.

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