Mixing Metal Finishes in Your Home Decor

July 23, 2010

How to mix metal finishes in your home decor.

I get a lot of questions about what’s kosher when it comes to mixing metal finishes on hardware, light fixtures and faucets in houses.

First of all, I must say (again) – if you want to have 15 different finishes in your house, go for it. Seriously – if you like what you have then ENJOY. It’s YOUR house! Do what makes YOU happy.

Some in the decorating “biz” say you should stick with one and only finish only for everything. So if your knobs in the kitchen are brushed nickel, the faucet, light fixtures, everything should be the same. 

But I find that can get a little bit monotonous. I think mixing them up a bit can be a very good thing. (And that may or may not be because my house is in a state of “mixed” right now.)  ;)

I currently have three finishes throughout our house – shiny brass, oil rubbed bronze and brushed nickel. I am not a fan of the shiny brass, and I am happy to announce (from the rooftops!!!) that we are shiny-brass free when it comes to the light fixtures:


Pffffffttt…brass. You are dead to me.

I’ve also been working on replacing our interior brass door knobs with beautiful, dark oil rubbed bronze (ORB) knobs for the past six months or so. YES – it’s been a long process. That’s a story for another day.

But once those are gone, I will be free of the brass.

I still count the shiny brass as one of the finishes in our home because we do have a few doors knobs left to replace.

Otherwise, we have a mix of the brushed nickel/chrome/stainless finishes (I group those together) and ORB. The chrome I am not a fan of anymore – it’s starting to give me brass-like hives. We only have it on a few of our sinks, so for now I’m able to handle them.

For NOW.

So the million dollar question -- can you mix metals within one room?

I say YES, abso-posi-lutely you can. In our kitchen, I chose ORB knobs and handles for the cabinets:

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And I sprayed the light fixture in ORB (oil rubbed bronze) spray paint to match:

But most of the appliances are stainless, so when I picked out the new faucet, I went with that finish, and I LOVE IT:

brushed nickel kitchen faucet

I wanted it to pop off the black sink, and it does beautifully.

As a side note, let’s check out the before shot I have of our sink from last fall, and the after one more time:


Look at the difference! Sigh. Happy face. Hearts. Eyes flutter.

Our family room has a dark brown finish on the ceiling fan, and I sprayed the vents with ORB spray paint to match:

spray painted metal floor vents

I also spray painted the brass bars on the fireplaces in the family room and the bedroom:

I did not use high heat paint, and it has still held up great!

I have really been digging the look of brushed nickel lately. I think it looks so classic. I used it all OVER the Bub’s room redo:

propeller art

(Target propeller sprayed in brushed nickel.)

I used it on lamps, accessories, frames – and it looks FANTASTIC with the navy and white:

When it comes to light fixtures, I still prefer the darker tone of ORB – I think they make more of a statement hanging in all of that empty space. Most of our lights are the darker finish now:

 dining room

But we picked out brushed nickel light fixtures for our foyer and staircase when we built our house:


And I LOVE the actual fixtures, I just wish they were darker! The light in our foyer is much bigger than this one, and I would really love to just have them taken down, spray paint them, and then put them back up. But to that, we’d need scaffoldings and lotsa lotsa cash to pay someone brave enough to do it.  ;)

And if we’re going to pay that much, I’ll probably just replace them, and not mess with taking them down, painting, doing the hokey pokey and putting them back up.

Side note – anyone have a clue how to change a light bulb in these things? I guess we’ll be waiting till they all go out. :)

We still have brushed nickel lights in two of our bathrooms, including the master bath:


In our master, I’ve gone the ORB direction with the towel rods and light switch covers:

So I think the brushed nickel does look out of place. But so do the chrome faucets. :) But all of those will get replaced…someday. They are about 1,793 on the list. It’s a long one.  ;)

Our son’s bathroom has the same light, but I worked with it and went with the same finish for the toilet paper holder, towel ring, etc. So who knows if it will stay or go – for now I’m completely happy with it.

So you can see, we’re all over the place around here. :) My goal? I’d love to have (at least most) of the light fixtures and faucets in the oil rubbed bronze finish. I’d love to have little extras like vents, thresholds and railing brackets in the darker finish as well.

I am drawn to that dark, lovely metal tone – some say it will go out of style one day soon, but I think it’s a classic, traditional finish. (Remind me of that in ten years, umkay?)

If you are starting from scratch or want to get your finishes more cohesive – there are a few tips to follow:

  • Knobs on cabinets and dressers are the “jewelry” of your spaces, and you should have fun with them. Do whatever you love!
  • Light fixtures should be fairly consistent – but it also very much depends on the look and decor in the room too.
  • Our faucet finishes are mixed, and even when I’m done replacing them all, they’ll probably still be. :) That’s another one that depends on the space.
  • Ideally, door knobs and hinges should be consistent throughout the the house. But we’ve been living with a mix of ORB (lurve) and shiny brass (ick) for months, so do as I say, not as I do.  ;)

Most importantly -- keep in mind the style of your home and your decorating – as long as you are true to yourself and what you love, anything will work. :)

So how many finishes do you have in your house? Do you stay fairly consistent or are you in constant transition like me? What’s the metal for you? Nickel? Antique brass? Oil-rubbed lovely?  :)

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  1. My daughter's friend painted all her brass door knobs with the ORB spray paint. Two years later, they're still holding up. I'm thinking about doing the same. Ours are all brass (house built in early 90's). We changed out the brass-n-glass light fixtures in the dining room and foyer for ORB. I'll let you know if we paint our door knobs and if it worked.

  2. Thanks so much for this! I have stainless steel, ORB, and brass (yuck) in our house. I want mainly ORB everything, except stainless steel appliances. I hope that would look okay in the kitchen-- to have stainless steel appliances, but ORB faucets and knobs... Oy, I get so exhausted thinking about all those details!

  3. I agree...mix it up! All the same is a bit unnecessary. We have ORB and satin nickel, and I think it works. Still working on replacing 48 doors worth of hinges, but no ones's noticed yet. :)

  4. You can so paint your door knobs. I have posted how I painted mine on my blog if you want to stop by and read it. I painted my first on three years ago and it is still holding up. In fact they are holding up better than our purchased ORB knobs. I have bought the strike plates for some of the doors others I have just painted. Good luck ridding your home of that ugly brass.

  5. I have no problem blasting my door knobs and cabinet knobs with spray...it's the hinges that give me the shivers. seems like sooo much work!

  6. I am in lurve!!! In live with your chadalier!!! Love love love!

  7. I have different finishes all over this house. Not on purpose, though. I'm in constant transition. Outside the house my lights are brass (but oh so not shiny but tarnished). Inside the overhead lights have a white rim on them (cheapest thing at Lowes I'm guessing) and will be replaced eventually. The ceiling fans are either brass or nickle. My favorite is the ORB, too. Or the black wrought iron look.

    I agree that it's your house and if you love it, it's always in style. Your style!

  8. I have an older home, so no open floor plan. I like it since each room can have it's own personality. No matchy metal here.

  9. I live in Fishers, and just recently replaced the light in our entryway myself. I don't know how tall your's is, but ours is 2 stories. We went to the Home Depot on 96th St. and rented a ladder for $20. It was super easy, even for me, who is a little afraid of heights. I thought that might be an option when you have had enough or a light goes out!;)

  10. We moved into our house a year ago so we have yet to get to each room to replace everything, but what we have been able to do we have replaced with brushed nickle. Its my favorite, but when it comes to decorating I usually say to do whatever you like even if it doesn't follow a trend. If its something that makes you happy go for it because you are the one that lives with it!

  11. I am soooo over shiny brass, and now somewhat into painted wrought iron...although on the look-out for additional looks! Love what you've done with yours, especially the metal paint!

  12. We are in the middle of our Masterbath remodel in a 1982 split level ranch... everything was original when we moved in. Since it is a "contained" room I am using brushed nickel on everything (except the door hinges on the new prehung door ugh) even though I would have loved the ORB. The reason being the ORB showerhead and showerdoor displays were flaking in the store and I can't imagine once they really start getting used how bad it would look. The Home Depot lady that helped me pull it all together told me they are always having to send ORB things back because the finish starts flaking. I'm guessing it has something to do with the way the finish is applied and it being a wet environment?
    However, in my dining room, I love my new faux Tiffany ORB light fixture! I don't mind mixing some of it up from room to room.

  13. We have a mix as well. Like you, I am trying to rid our house of shiny brass. Really, we don't have much left.

    Our doorknobs are more of a muted brass and are near the bottom of my list for a re-do. Last year we replaced all of the cupboard hardware in our house. Went from shiny (well, kind of tarnished) brass to satin nickel. We're slowly moving stainless steel appliances into our kitchen to accompany the look but our kitchen, dining, and living room light fixtures are all oil rubbed bronze. I don't think the contrast looks too hokey.

    Last summer we renovated all 3 of our bathrooms and supplied them with satin/brushed nickel faucets and light fixtures. I really don't mind the mix and think they're both classic enough to stand the test of time.

  14. We moved into a new house four months ago and got to pick out all the lighting/knobs/etc. All the lighting is ORB but in the kitchens and bathrooms, the knobs, towel bars, and faucets are brushed nickel. We have stainless steel appliances and we wanted to have brushed nickel stuff to match just like you. But we really liked the look of the ORB lighting with amber glass so that's why we didn't match. I haven't gotten any comments from visitors yet about how we are mismatched, so it must not be a big deal! :) And besides, WE like it and that's what matters most.


  15. Stainless is like those black pants in your closet. It goes with everything in my opinion. I have been moving to brushed nickel (very close to stainless) in our bath. It was shiny and antique brass in there. I have yet to tackle the shower fixtures or the brass framing around the door. If anyone has a solution to the brass on the shower door I'd love to hear it! It bugs me so much!!

  16. Thank you, Thank you for this post!!!! Can I tell you that I have been driving myself to distraction about all the different finishes in our house?!?!

  17. I could just hug you right now! I needed that post! Right now I have every single finish possible in this house! Hoping the buyers don't notice! :-) We are building a house and there are so many decisions to make! I am happy to know that I can have a stainless faucet in my kitchen with stainless appliances, ORB knobs, and a black sink! I plan to use ORB everywhere else, but I really thought stainless would look better with that sink. If anyone has other tips for me, feel free to send me an email! The walls are up, shingles are on, and now lots of decisions have to be made! My next decision is the fireplace. Wood or cast stone??

  18. I think you can mix metals. But, with that said...it is best to keep them consistent throughout a room. We have ORB most everywhere, but our master bath and the girls have shiny chrome (fixtures, knobs, hinges) to match the shower surrounds. When we redid those a few years back, ORB was not yet available. But, we did stick with the same type of handles/hinges. We have ONE shiny brass fixture left to replace...the ceiling fan in our two story family room...can't wait!!

  19. My home is currently 99% antique brass (translation - greenish fugly nastiness). I've got big plans for the conversion to brushed nickel, but my "Brushed Nickel" spray paint I bought recently turned out more like "Speckled Pewter." Not the look I was going for. That spray painted propeller in your sons room looks great - what brand and color of spray paint did you use? Thanks!

  20. I'm loving the idea of a stencil behind the towel bar! I'm SO stealing this look ;)

  21. I've got a mix of it all. I've always hated brass but our builder didn't have any other option for door knobs. Grr. Next time I build I'll make sure and get what I want instead of settling for less. I honestly don't care enough about the door knobs to mess with changing them out. Now...the drawer pulls and handles in my kitchen are a different story! I'll be changing them out as soon as I can figure out what to do.

  22. I live in a two story house. I have tried to keep the metals the same on both floors. That being said, we just finished a remodle of our downstairs. I have changed out the metals downstairs to oiled rubbed bronze except for the stainless steel allpiances in the kitchen. We plan to work on the upstairs next year, and I'm thinking I will go with brushed nickel. I think these two metals will work since they will be on separate floors and will not be competing against each other. I spray painted some of the gold finished door knobs with oiled rubbed bronze spray paint. I am pleasently surprized that the paint is holding up and I have saved money by not purchasing new door knobs.

  23. LMAO at the "forbidden" light fixtures...we have FOUR of them in my house, I've been wanting to replace them for YEARS!!! You've given me more support for my argument. :)

    I also LOVE the stenciling behind the towel bar, great idea!

  24. I think you nailed it when you said that it depends on your style. I LOVE contemporary/modern so all the finishes in my house are stainless and chrome...not because I'm against anything else, just cause that's what I love!

  25. I have many different metal finishes, but the one I've worked like crazy to get rid of is the shiny gold. Some people call it shiny brass. I'm also not a fan of antique brass and I've painted nearly every light fixture that had that finish.

    from Trash to Treasure Decorating

  26. OH MY GOODNESS! It never crossed my mind that I could spray paint the brass bars on my gas fireplaces! That is happening ASAP! Thank you so much for the tip!

  27. I like the brushed nickel look, but none of my fixtures look like that...yet. ;)

  28. We have a mixture of brushed nickel, ORB, black iron & rusty (on purpose) iron. I live in an old farmhouse and I love that not everything matches, as well as all the little imperfections that come with a 100 year old house.

  29. We have that same light fixture and another one very similar but larger in our entryway and I sometimes just sit there and ponder HOW we will change out the bulbs in the entryway because we live in a split level!!! Let me know what you come up with!! :)

    P.S. I mix metals! but NO BRASS here!

  30. I LOVE ORB! I'm spraying something tonight for a towel holder. Do you put a topped like sealant on top of your ORB when you spray things that'll be touched alot like door knobs? We have all brass knobs and hinges and I really want to change them all to ORB to match other items throughout the house.

  31. Love all your changes. Ever want to change your FAUX logs in the fireplace?? Try this site.
    aquaticglassel.com I cannot wait until I have a fireplace to get some. I love all the different looks. Just an idea. Shanda

  32. I went through my townhouse with pewter spray paint and most of my metal finishes are now "new"! Light fixtures and all...now to get to the door knobs..
    I'm so over all the old , gold, brass and other yellow finishes!

  33. AMEN! I despise shiny brass! When we bought our house it had smurf blue deep pile, matching puff valences stuffed with tissue, shiny brass EVERYTHING incl register covers, and etched mirrora in the bathrooms with country roses and wagon wheels. I wasn't sure whether to host a barn raising or call or exhorcist!

  34. It all looks great! I love the brushed nickel look too!

    This rental has shiny brass up the wazoo! I cannot wait until I can live shiny brass free! 10 months and counting!!!

  35. Where did you get your restroom light fixtures. I've been looking for some like that to cover up where we had the old light fixture. Thanks

  36. We're a mix. Oil rubbed lovely is making a slow but steady presence in our house. The majority of things in the house now is brushed nickle and stainless steel. At least I can be grateful that we don't have an ounce of brass anywhere. PHEW.
    Thanks for the tips. I actually have been wondering about mixing metals and this helps. My big one is having cabinet hardware in the kitchen that doesn't match appliances. My hubby thinks they should match, but I think differently, and now I have some support to back me up. :) Thanks!

  37. Other then the obvious: using a ladder to change the lights, if you have an open balcony type you could stand there. We used a long pole to reach out and pull the light to the landing. Then change it and slowly release it. I always think it's a good idea to have a ladder tall enough to get to the highest part of your house if you'll live there a while. You never know when you'll need to get up there. It always ends up after stores are closed or on holidays that you need to get to your roof for a quick fix or something.

  38. Oh my goodness, I just came across your blog and love it!
    I am signing up to follow your!
    Have a good afternoon~

  39. Enjoyed all comments about the mixing of metals. I purchased this home already built & staged & I loved it as presented. Only after living in it did I notice the mix of brushed nickel/natural iron (light fixtures, knobs, door hardware)and 'warm" metal (brown fireplace screen & recessed lights in the great room) but with black iron curtain rods. Sounds bad, but this was spread out over large rooms. I began to obsess & try to change it to match starting with the the rods & found neither the brown or natural rods blended as well as the black rods had. I decided the decorator knew something I didn't, & now feel that the three kinds of metal mix well together, although there is a definite 75% brushed nickel, to the rest adding up to 25% ratio. (I have heard decorators say they use a punch of black in each room to help electronics blend better...maybe this was the rationale. Hope this helps...we are a Mixed Metal family!

  40. I spray painted all the doorknobs. It doesnt last very long but it gave me time to replace each of them one at a time. Home Depot has the inexpensive in bronze now.

    By the way I have your sink and I love mine too!

  41. I actually have the same crystal branch looking chandelier one in my house..I love it!

  42. I love your blog and check it every day! sop many great, simple ideas! I love the beautiful designs of your give away. Am going to check them out now!

  43. Funny how our taste in things change....I use to love the shinny brass, now I have none!

  44. I love love love the brushed nickel finish. LOVE.

    Don't hate me but I recently found an ORB light fixture on clearance at Lowe's for $17. Bought it and sprayed it in a stainless steel paint. LOVE it!

    And Bub's room... love. Our bathroom in our last home was navy and white and it was stunning! So crisp and clean looking all the time.

  45. Hmmmm, ORB has been around now for quite awhile. I'm actually seeing quite a lot of shiny brass in high end magazine photos. It's due to cycle back just about the time we all get ours painted! ;-)

  46. I am 100% pro mixing finishes. When everything is the same it becomes boring and loses it's charm. I also mix wood finishes. My favorite rooms are ones that look like the items have been collected over time not onces that look like you just walked into a showroom and bought the matching set they have on the floor. Things shoould work together but not match.

  47. All of the prints are beautiful. I could totally design a room around them. I like Ruby Kilim tablerunner the best because the colors match my existing decor...but it would be hard to choose!!

  48. My house is a huge mashup of different finishes, but it's so expensive to change! The door knobs were all brass, but I've changed out 2 exterior knobs and installed 1 inside (the house came w/o a knob on the bedroom door!) in satin nickel. I am slowly working on changing them all out, but it's so expensive! I wonder how it would look if I spray painted the remaining knobs until I come up with the funds to exchange them. I am almost regretting using brushed nickel, because I have really come to love ORB lately. ORB might also fit better in with the period of my house (1900 shotgun), but it's not worth replacing over $150 worth of doorknobs and deadbolts for a color!

    I have a brushed nickel faucet in my bathroom, and chrome in the shower. I would LOVE to change that out, but I'm trying to wait until I rip out the entire bathroom. I hope that day is sooner than later, because I am really not feeling cracked tile. My kitchen is now a brushed nickel faucet with stainless steel appliances and ORB knobs on the cabinets. I think it looks fantastic. I don't even notice that the finishes don't match. I really hate when everything is too matchy-matchy.

    However, I am excited to get my hands on some ORB paint. I have a brass light fixture that needs a coat of paint, stat! :-)

  49. Everything in out house is silvertoned: brushed, satin, nickel, chrome, etc. As long as it's silver I don't care.

  50. Love your site!!! Question so do you think you could spray those brass lights(like the ones you have the red no target sign)with the ORB? I so want to do this but wondered about the heat from the light? Just wondered. Thanks7

  51. Where did you get your black sink?

  52. I am a satin nickel kind of gal, but having said that I do have some chrome (spare bathroom and living room lamp finials).

    There a few bits of copper-ish tones in some of my accessories scattered about which helps my rooms not be so one dimensional.

    I have a strict NB (No Brass) policy. Thank goodness for spray paint!

  53. I am so happy to have found your blog today! I was searching for info on hardware and after reading this entry saw your picture of the fireplace! What a great idea to paint the brass! You just saved us $500 on new doors. Thanks so much. I'll be checking your blog often now.


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