How to Mix Metals

Once upon a time, mixing metals was considered a design faux pas. You would never add a nickel-based lamp in a room with a chrome table or – worse yet – a brass chandelier. And if you purchased a piece of furniture with pulls in a different finish than the other items in the room, your first stop would be to the hardware store to swap them out for something that matched.

Fortunately, design rules have relaxed in recent year, and mixing metals is much more acceptable. In fact, it can look downright rich when done well. The key to making it work is to follow some basic guidelines. Here are five things you need to know about decorating with metallic:


Mix metals, match finishes. Look to the reflective quality when combining metals. Pairing polished brass with chrome, for example, will give your room a stylish effect. Or pair brushed brass with gold leaf. You’ll get maximum impact by mixing warm metals, such as gold and brass, and cool metals, such as silver and nickel.

Mix finishes, match metals. The opposite approach is also a good way to go. You can pair sterling silver with chrome, for example, keeping everything in the silver tone. Or mix textured finishes, such as matte, polished and hammered. The combination will add depth and interest to the room. Choose a dominant metal tone. Then use a contrasting metal as an accent. The dominant metal will create an overall sense of unity, while the accent metal will add pops of metallic in certain spots within your space. This approach will help create balance in the room.

Choose a piece that marries the metals. An accent item such as piece of art or table that contains two metals will marry your mixed metal scheme. It can serve as an inspiration piece, and will make your mix of metals look deliberate.

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Repeat the metals more than once so the combination looks purposeful. Stand back and take in your room as a whole, then play with the balance moving things around your space until it looks just right. If you have all gold in your room and a single silver tray, it might look like a mistake. Adding a small gold sculpture on the tray, however, will tie it all together.