Tips & Tricks: Choosing Finishes

Leah Dunne, kitchen and bath designer at Kate Roos Design, spills her strategies for selecting interior finishes

Photo by Andrea Rugg

If you’re an interior design junkie, you already know that design palettes are trending warmer. You might wonder, though, how has this shift impacted finishes for lighting, hardware, and plumbing? Brass accents are certainly still gorgeous with rich browns, berry reds, and pale pinks, but this year, we are seeing small bits of brass paired with iron, polished nickel, or bronze finishes (instead of it being dominant) to balance a cooler palette.

Leah Dunne

Photo by KME Photography

The cliche of “mixed metals” in the design world has been used to the point where it has nearly lost all meaning. However, done right, a combination of finishes tends to be the most timeless choice and creates a collected, complex, and visually rich look.

If you don’t have a designer to guide these selections, it can be tricky to know if you’re hitting the mark. And certain finishes, even used sparingly, can completely change the feel of a space. Try these strategies when selecting finishes on your own:

1. A good place to start is with two to three metal finishes in any given room. Try a combination of polished nickel, brass, and bronze in a traditional or transitional space, or flat black with chrome or brushed nickel in a clean, bright, or contemporary space.

2. Create repetition with each of your chosen finishes. If you have a stainless faucet in your kitchen, is there a stainless appliance to help tie it in? If your living room chandelier is brass, are there other brass elements in a furniture foot or an accessory? If a finish is higher in contrast (flat black on bright white, for instance), it might only repeat once to keep the space from looking busy.

3. Blend a combination of finishes by relating them to other types of materials. Brass looks great with warmer wood components, and iron or bronze accents complement spaces with other elements of visual weight, such as a stone fireplace, rich upholstery, or dark countertops.

4. Pay attention to the way finishes are dispersed throughout a space. Are there areas where there appears to be one dominant finish or is each fairly balanced throughout the space? Think about it like a bite of layered cake—you want the perfect combination of cake, frosting, and ice cream in every bite.

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