6 Rules Designers Say You Should Follow or Ignore When Mixing Metals in a Room

 a white kitchen features multiple metals

Mimi and Hill / Photo by Toni Deis

We see spaces that incorporated mixed metals all the time, but it’s important to understand that while encouraged, this is done quite intentionally—and when executed correctly, a variety of finishes can majorly elevate a room. So what are the key rules to keep in mind when mixing metals in your home? Here, eight designers chime in with their tried and true tips. 

Don’t Stick to One Type of Finish

“To me, rooms or spaces that use the exact same finish on all of the metals can appear too one dimensional or flat,” designer Shannon Claire Smith said. “Mixing metals and tones can give the space depth and interest.” 

Designer Cynthia Vallance agreed. “Mixing metals is a must have when I approach any room and creates the ‘ah-ha’ moment,” she noted. In general, too much matching is a designer faux paus. “Much like my aversion to matchy matchy furniture, mixing in any area, whether it is furniture, metals, fabrics is a routine I follow wholeheartedly,” Vallance added. 

As a bonus, mixing metals may make a home—even a brand new space—appear more curated and collected. “Combining different metal finishes and sheens gives the impression that a design evolved over time,” designer Killy Scheer said. “It’s a great way to create depth and a look that feels collected rather than pulled straight from a catalogue.” 

Think Opposites

an office area features multiple metals

Mimi and Hill / Photo by Toni Deis

But those who are looking to add some intrigue to their space may not know where to begin—and Smith shared some helpful hints. “If you're stuck with how to proceed, just think: opposites attract! I like a mix of opposite tones: brass and bronze versus brass and copper, for example,” she said. And don’t worry if you feel that the selections you’ve landed on are too opposite—it probably means you’re onto something! “The more different the tones are, the more purposeful it looks,” Smith said. “This isn't an absolute rule that can never be broken, but it's a great place to start if you're new to metal mixing!” Scheer agreed. “If mixed metals are too close in color and finish, the end result could look like an error,” she commented. “If one metal is satin nickel, perhaps the other is a polished brass so it’s clear that the intention was to create a contrast.” 

Use Multiple Metals—But Be Intentional

And the good news is that you’re more than ok simply sticking with a handful of metal types within a given room and calling it a day. “While there is no hard fast rule, I end up curating two to three metals, select a dominant one that will carry the space, and then place the remaining metals accordingly, typically on the same plane of a room or as accents,” Vallance shared. 

The key is being intentional during the mixing process. “In order to mix metals properly in a space, there needs to be a sense of purpose to each metal presence,” Mimi and Hill designers Miriam Silver Verga and Hillary Kaplan explained. “Our rule of thumb is that each type of metal should be seen in at least two places in a room, excluding appliances.” 

Stick With One Type of Metal Per Piece

Despite the advice designers share above, it is important to note that there is such a thing as too much metal mixing—designer Teri Clar explained when this can be the case. “Mixing metals within one room is great, but mixing metals on one piece inside the room is where to draw the line,” she stated. “If I have black door handles, let’s keep the robe hooks on the back of the door black as well, even if your sink faucet and pulls are brass.” 

a bathroom features multiple metals

Cynthia Vallance

Make Your Dominant Metal Easy to Match

This is key when selecting multiple fixtures, such as in the case of a bathroom, Scheer said. “Chrome looks basically the same no matter the manufacturer, whereas oil rubbed bronze can vary,” she explained. “In that case, chrome would be your dominant metal and oil rubbed bronze can be an accent, so you can be sure to have all oil rubbed bronze pieces come from the same manufacturer, which will mean the finishes always match.” 

Pick Metals That Match The Vibe of a Room

As designers noted above, one must be thoughtful when selecting metals for a given space, and this includes considering the room’s use and overall feel. “In dressier spaces like the primary bathroom or powder bath, I prefer to do brass regardless of what is used for the rest of the house,” designer Mary Patton noted. And on that note, designer Brittany Farinas offered a tip when working with this finish. “When utilizing brass in a space, try to incorporate another element that has the same warm undertone to achieve harmony in the space,” she commented.