How to Mix Metals in Your Home

Mixing metals can be even more impactful than matching. These expert tips will help you find a winning combination.

There's no rule that says every finish in your home has to match. In fact, it's often better if they don't. Mixing metals has become a favorite way to create a collected-over-time look in kitchens, bathrooms, living areas, and more. Varying metal finishes across hardware, furniture, lighting, and other fixtures, adds depth and character that a matching look would lack.

For those of us without much design experience, however, deciding on the right combination of metals can be daunting, as is applying them within the space. There's no perfect formula for determining how to mix metals correctly, but New York-based interior designer Courtney McLeod, of Right Meets Left Design, has several strategies for achieving a mixed-metal look you'll love. Follow these tips, and you'll be able to pull off this trend effortlessly.

Kitchen with dark blue cabinets and rug
Stacy Zarin Goldberg Photography LLC

1. Select one metal as your primary finish.

A hierarchy of finishes is the key to success, McLeod says. A room where metal finishes are split 50/50, or in perfect thirds, can feel chaotic and unfocused. "When you walk into the room, you should be able to recognize that there's one primary color," she says. "Pick one finish to use as a focal point, and incorporate other finishes as accents to complement it." Start with a metal that reflects the overall aesthetic of the room. For instance, satin or polished nickel works well in traditional spaces, while matte black offers a more contemporary feel.

In general, McLeod tends to stay away from high-shine finishes, like chrome and polished brass, which can be difficult to mix effectively with other metals. Polished brass can quickly veer into '80s territory if you're not careful, she says, so an aged, brushed, or satin finish tends to work better. For silver-tone finishes, McLeod prefers nickel over chrome, because its warm undertone harmonizes better with brass finishes.

Adam Albright

2. Choose complementary metals for accents.

Aim to have your dominant metal make up approximately 60 to 75 percent of the finishes in the room, McLeod suggests. Then choose one to two accent metals for the rest, paying attention to the undertones as a way to determine which metals go together. In general, brass, copper, gold, and nickel have warm undertones, while stainless steel, chrome, and other silver metals give off a cooler look. Matte black is fairly neutral. Although you can mix warm with cool, McLeod notes that you'll have to be careful to avoid clashing. When mixing two very different metals, such as polished stainless steel with aged copper, bridge the gap with a finish that's somewhere in the middle, like brushed stainless steel.

green kitchen cabinets
Werner Straube

3. Vary the finish as well as the metal type.

Metals can be antiqued, matte, satin, brushed, or polished, and incorporating a variety of sheens can make the mix even more interesting. "If you want to use nickel and brass together, go with polished nickel and satin brass," McLeod suggests. Contrasting soft with shiny adds more distinction and depth. She warns that combining two polished finishes can result in a very glam look, so if that's not your intent, err on the side of matte to satin metals. "Softer, more muted finishes that don't have a lot of shine are easier to mix than polished ones," she says.

Kitchen with wooden floors and gray cabinets
Panichgul Studios, Inc

4. Distribute the metals throughout the room.

Following your hierarchy of finishes, apply your chosen metals throughout the room. In a kitchen, for instance, McLeod suggests choosing cabinet hardware in your primary finish, and using the faucet to showcase your accent metal. To ensure a cohesive effect, consider bringing in a mixed-metal light fixture, or a piece of furniture that combines both of your chosen finishes.

5. Go with what you love.

"Don't be afraid of your own taste and style," McLeod says. If you love the classic look of nickel, for example, don't feel pressured to choose brass, just to keep up with the latest trends. Choose metals that reflect your personality and complement your existing paint colors and surfaces. If you like the result, consider it a success.

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