Design Inspo

A Guide to Mixed Metals in Bathrooms: How To Make It Work

Mixing metals in a bathroom is daring. Keep these principles in mind, and you’ll discover exactly how to do it and when you may not want to.

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Nothing is as satisfying as selecting the perfect fixtures for your bathroom. They elevate mundane activities — getting ready for work and getting ready for bed become pleasant rituals. Take your metal fixtures a step further by curating the perfect mix of metals for your space to add depth to your everyday chores.

The old rule of never mixing metals has been abandoned for a brave new world of mixed metal fixtures in interior design. Let’s look at the different metal types, how to successfully mix metals, and discuss when you might not want to.

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Why Mix Things Up?

There’s absolutely no reason you have to mix your metals, but if you’re reading this, you are, no doubt, curious. So let’s explore that! Trying new things and inventing solutions to old problems are smart reasons to branch out with your metal fixture choices.

Spruce Up Your Space

Changing up hardware is a quick way to give your bathroom an update. Trading out a chrome faucet and drop-in sink for aged brass will completely transform the feel of the room. You may find you don’t feel the need for many more extensive changes, and that’s totally okay.

Get Instant Gratification During Slow Remodels

Maybe you realize you’ve been in the process of a bathroom remodel on that dreaded guest bathroom for a year and just want some instant gratification: Bridge your old bathroom design and a new one by installing new fixtures in different metals. Although these are small changes, they are no less satisfying, and they’re a great DIY way to experiment with new design trends before the bathroom renovation is complete.

Know Your Metal Temps

Metals, like colors, come in temperatures, with warmer tones being those we associate with yellows like brass, copper, gold, and bronze. In the same way, silver tones like stainless steel, nickel, chrome, and aluminum are considered cool tones. Black may be neutral, but it acts like a cool metal would. Any black metal, like cast iron, can easily work with other metal tones in your bathroom design plan.


Choosing the Right Sheen

So simple, right? Not quite. Yes, you can mix warm and cool metals but don’t forget to keep an eye on the sheen, or finish, of each.

The Spectrum of Sheen

A metal’s sheen is a way of placing it on the spectrum from highly reflective, like polished nickel, to very matte and dull, like brushed or satin nickel. A warm example of a sheen is how brass can look bright, polished, and highly reflective, or it can be aged with a matte, dull sheen. If you want the subdued version of any metal, look for the buzzwords matte, brushed, aged, oil-rubbed, burnished, satin, and antique.

Since age naturally dulls the sheen of metals, selecting matte metals will help it to read as vintage, with a subtle patina that gives your soaking tub a traditional look. In the same way, matte black reads as cast iron, which is an old-world style finish.

Metals by Temperature and Sheen

Cool Metals:

  • Chrome (polished chrome)
  • Nickel (polished nickel - warm undertones, brushed nickel)
  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steel

Warm Metals

  • Copper (aged copper)
  • Brass (aged brass, antique brass)
  • Gold
  • Bronze (burnished bronze, oil-rubbed bronze)

Neutral Metals:

  • Cast iron
  • Other black metals (matte or polished) — can also act as cool metals

How To Mix Metals Like a Pro

Now that you’ve reviewed the various metals at your disposal, use these tips to mix metals in a way that enhances the space.

A mixture of black and brass metals; Designed in Spoak by Laura Reis

Mix Metal Tones for Contrast

The most exciting part of mixing metals is the surprise of seeing how warm and cool-toned metals can bring out the best in your space. Mixing metals with different tones, rather than using only warm or cool metals, is an amazing way to add contrast. Try mixing two or three different metals together; just double-check they aren’t all from the same tone family.

Let Room Colors and Features Determine Your Metals

When adding new metals, consider the room’s colors and other features, like cabinetry finish, wall paint, or countertops. Aim for a contrast between those features and your hardware to let your new metals pop.

Thinking of your metal in terms of color can help when pondering what design styles they will best complement. Case in point: Much like blue and orange are complementary colors, blue bathrooms are striking when outfitted with brushed gold or brass finishes.

Are There Existing Metals You Need To Work Around?

If you aren’t going to gut that guest bathroom and start from scratch (at least not yet … ), chances are you’re dealing with the metal tones of existing fixtures. Note the metal type and tone — everything you choose needs to work well with them. For instance, if your primary bath already has stainless steel faucets, you have cool tones covered, and it’s time to mix in warmer ones.

Assign Dominant Metals to the Permanent Fixtures

When adding new fixtures, choose what you’d like your dominant metal type to be. Think of the finish you find the most timeless, one that won’t feel dated in a couple of years. Apply this metal to your permanent fixtures like vanity sinks, overhead light fixtures, shower faucets, and shower heads. Of course, these fixtures don’t have to be permanent, but they are harder to swap out than others.

A dominant metal represents a majority of the fixtures but shouldn’t be relegated to only the big features. Place a few smaller items in this metal type to create a sense of cohesion. After all, there are no small parts, only small … accent pieces.

Experiment With Accent Metals

Easy-to-remove fixtures, like towel bars, toilet paper holders, toothbrush holders, and cabinet hardware, are low-risk ways to try a fresh finish. Besides the usual small fixtures, consider items like mirror frames and door knobs.

Play “mad scientist” interior designer with these slightly more labor-intensive adjustments:

  • Complement black faucets and shower fixtures with a brass mirror and brass sconces on each side of it.
  • Add chrome pendant lights or a chandelier over the bath to go with the current gold fixtures.

Mix Metals the Easy Way: Use Like Finishes

There’s no wrong way to decorate your space, but many find using different metals easiest when they don’t mix metal finishes. Try to keep all of your metal types in the same family of sheen.

Imagine this situation: You adore an oil-rubbed bronze for the faucets and the shower head. (Us too!) In that case, go for an equally matte cool-toned metal like a brushed nickel for the towel rings and cabinetry hardware. Adding cast iron shelves or door knobs is another way to use three types of metal in a room without using different finishes.

Mix the Temperature and Finish of Your Fixtures

Really want to throw caution to the wind? Mix up your metal tones and the various finishes. If you yearn to pair antique brass with polished nickel, do it!

If you’re looking to venture into mixing metal tones and finishes without it feeling too wild, rely on a common favorite metallic neutral — black. Combine matte black cabinet knobs to work with your gold faucets, and your bathroom will take on a whole new life.

Drop photos of the various metal fixtures you’re thinking about, along with tile types and paint colors, into your mood board to get a feel for how these styles and finishes gel with each other before you buy.

You love the hand-crafted sink faucet you bought in Italy, but when you return home from your voyage abroad to find out you should have bought it in a different size, you’re stuck. If you had done a mockup of your space, you wouldn’t have to try to return a one-of-a-kind item across the ocean. There: Problem solved before it even began.

Don’t Get Too Busy

We love the juxtaposition of modern and traditional fixture designs, mixed metals, and mixed finishes on your metal. However, if it’s all happening at once, it may be too busy in a small bathroom for the eye to settle and find a focal point. Basically, if you combine an antique-style shower head riser and faucet with modern towel racks, stick with the same metal finishes.

In the same way, consider your farmhouse kitchen with the white subway tile backsplash and distressed wood countertops. It would shine with a modern polished brass sink faucet, creating a gorgeous focal point in your space. However, adding brushed nickel drawer pulls may be a bit much. Try adding black hardware for a neutral that tones things down.


Go Mix It Up!

Now you have the full rundown on how to mix metals in your kitchen or bathroom. Whether you’re trying to solve an outdated fixture design dilemma or just want to avoid being matchy-matchy, you can create a layered, complex interior design just by changing out a few pieces of hardware.

Photo Credit: (Left) Washingtonian

Sources:

Gilded age: Bring glitz to décor with metallic tones | The Morning Call

Experts say to follow these 7 rules when mixing metals in your home | Dallas Morning News

What Are Complementary Colors? | The Spruce Crafts

The One Mistake To Avoid When Mixing Metals In Your Home | Southern Living

How to Gut a Bathroom | SFGate

Start designing your bathroom in Spoak today and create the perfect combination of metals for your space.

Date Posted
May 11, 2023
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