Polished or Patinaed, Brass Is Proving Its Staying Power
Seven ways to use the modern metal.
Updated Jan 3, 2023 10:41 AM
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Brass of the past often conjures up images of dated étagères or the high-shine legs under glass tabletops you might find in a trapped-in-the-’90s (and not in a good way) living room. Today’s brass, however, is more timeless. The metal consistently makes appearances across collections from high-end designers (such as Kelly Wearstler and Jenna Lyons) to highly accessible stores (think: CB2 and Target), making itself at home just about anywhere. Even in all its glossed-up glory, the polished variety can stand the test of time with smart styling, and if you’ve ever seen the unlacquered options in action, then you already know how that patina only gets better with age. Ahead, we’ve pulled together the best examples we’ve seen of how to decorate with brass in a way that never gets old.
Make It Matte
High-gloss brass can often feel very 1989 (or even 1889). By its innately lavish nature, the material commands attention, so you don’t always need the extra reflection (but more on that, below). A matte or unlacquered finish will age beautifully over time, adding texture and color variation to your fittings and making each piece unique.
Mix It Up
Similar to fashion and jewelry design, mixed metals are of the moment. At home, pair brass with rose gold, copper, or black for a complex and varied design. The addition of golden-hued pendant lamps or cabinet pulls in a chrome kitchen can instantly update the space without a major investment or elaborate renovation project.
Try Black and White and Brass
Brass has the ability to warm up any space that’s mostly graphic black and white, especially when the metal’s appearance begins to soften with a little age. But if you’re looking for a bit more personality, brass also pairs well with colors like turquoise, emerald, and cobalt, as well as deep, cool grays.
Marry It With Marble
Nothing says French bistro more than the classic combination of brass and marble. Add a warm croissant and you’re instantly transported to a European atmosphere.
Put It Everywhere (in Small Doses)
If you’re not ready to commit to a large-scale installation, the material makes a more subtle statement when scattered throughout your home. Cabinet knobs, thin legs on a bar cart or side chair, and delicate tabletop accessories all feel fresh in brass. This technique ensures you don’t overwhelm a space with too much of a good thing.
Make a Bold Statement
Implementing brass can already be a bold move, but it becomes even more impactful in a single, large dose. Try using a less conspicuous metal for small details and a simple color scheme throughout, and leave the brass element for one central, knockout piece. In this case, a gleaming finish on a large chandelier, range hood, or solid brass table can work to your advantage.
Nurture It With Nature
An organic, textured interior filled with whitewashed oak, painted brick, or raw linen pairs well with this alloy. Verdant plants add contrast, while whites and creams set a sophisticated backdrop that gives brass the opportunity to grab the spotlight.