5 Mistakes People Make When Mixing Metal Finishes & How to Fix Them

Kim Lewis
by Kim Lewis

Today we are talking about mixing metal finishes. Can you mix metal finishes in the same room in the same space? The answer is yes, but there are five don'ts that I stick to when mixing metals. If you're going to mix metal finishes, you want to make sure you're doing it in a very well-intentioned manner.

Mixing metal finishes

1. Don't mix more than two or three metal finishes at a time

In mixing metal finishes, two works really well. Sometimes you can get away with three. Don't ever do more than three mixed metals in space unless you're just like that's what you're going for. It can be very overwhelming.

If I start mixing more than that, it just makes your eyes bounce too much. There are too many things going on. It looks unintentional. So that's the "don't" rule number one.

Choosing metals to mix together

2. Don't use two mixed metal finishes that are similar

Don't put mixed metals together that look alike. For example, I do not Like mixing matte black and oil-rubbed bronze. These two are too similar. There is not enough contrast. So number one has to do with the color. Number two has to do with the contrast.

If you're going to go with a matte black, balance that out with something that contrasts it. For example, brass looks really nice because those two are very different. Or a polished chrome because, again, those two are very different. You can even do rose gold and black or polished copper and black.

Or let's look at whether you can mix silver and gold. I get that question a lot, too. The answer is yes, but I don't do it very often. It's not my favorite thing, but if you're going for an upscale, luxurious look, there are moments when you can mix these two together. What you don't want to start doing is mixing satin chrome and polished chrome.

Mixing metals and textures

3. Do not mix textures

When you're mixing metal finishes, stick to one texture and let that one be the hierarchy. Let that one be the most profound.

For example, if you're going to do a copper apron front sink in your kitchen and say you want that to have the hammered texture look, that's great. Let one finish have a texture. Finish a textured look in your metals. But after that, everything else should be smooth or polished.

Say you're going to have a copper-hammered kitchen apron front sink. Everything else in that space should be a simple copper or a polished or satin finish. Don't do any more textures. So one texture, no more.

Mixing metal finishes in the bathroom

4. Do not mix finishes within the same functionality

I get this question a lot: "I'm redesigning my bathroom. Should my sink faucets match the shower faucets?" The answer is yes if it is serving the same functionality. It's a plumbing fixture. Just go ahead and pick the same finish. If we're doing a matte black faucet, go ahead and do a matte black shower faucet or bathtub faucet. That way, all the finishes within the same functionality serve the same thing, and they're all the same that way. It looks intentional.

My fear is when you start mixing within the same functionality. Say you do a black faucet, then switch to a chrome shower faucet. It looks like a mistake. It doesn't look intentional. So that's the key. When you're mixing metal finishes, it's fine to do so, but you want to think through it and be very intentional because it very quickly can start looking like an accident or a mistake.

Mixing metal finishes in the kitchen

5. Do not just mix in one extra finish in one form

For example, say it's your kitchen you're doing. Say we're going to go with a satin or a brass brass. So you're going to do a brass faucet. You're going to do brass cabinet hardware. You're doing a brass light fixture. You just kind of like this monochromatic. You want all the metals to match, but then you go in and order a pot filler. And that pot filler on your mounted wall is chrome. That is going to look like a mistake. It's going to look like you didn't order the right fixture.

So if you're going to mix metal finishes, give it a splash in a couple of areas so that it makes it look like you thought through this, and it makes sense.

Cabinet hardware is a great example. If you want to mix in a different tone of a metal finish, cabinet hardware is such a great place to do that. Maybe you want the timeless look of polished chrome, and you just think, you know what? I know I won't grow tired of that. But my cabinet hardware, I don't want the smudgy. Polished chrome can show fingerprints really badly.

If you don't want that happening on your cabinet hardware because you're touching those pulls every day, definitely mix in a matte black or something like that, and then your cabinet hardware can certainly be a different tone of a mixed metal, and that absolutely works.

Now, if you're designing a very small space like tiny homes, schoolies, or Airstreams, I'm a fan of letting one finish be the dominant, and it's okay to just do one metal finish. If you love matte black, go for it. If you love brass, go for it. You don't need to mix in metals.

Mixing metals, I think, works best in larger spaces. It does elevate a space. It gives it depth. It can make it feel more refined. It can make it feel more upscale, more luxurious. There's nothing wrong, though, with sticking to one metal finish.

Mixing metal finishes

So, is mixing metal finishes okay? I say, yes, but there's a big but. You want to do it with a lot of intention. Have you mixed metal finishes in a room in your home? Share your designs in the comments below.

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2 of 4 comments
  • Tracy Tracy on Sep 13, 2023
    Just keep in mind that this is decorating and designing advice. If you don’t care to follow it, then don’t, but I think it is excellent.
  • Benesse Benesse on Nov 26, 2023
    Good advice for those who are in doubt. Can't go wrong following it. HOWEVER, if you know what you like and don't mind taking a chance, go for it, it's not like you won't be able to change it later. Yes, it'll cost you but if you are happy to do your thing, that's all that matters.