While metal fixtures, finishes, and detailing can shine all year long, there’s one that seems to be everywhere this fall: copper. We turned to the experts to find out why copper, bronze, and warmer metals like them are the perfect alloy for the season, and how to use them the whole year through.
Meet the Expert
- Ted Bradley is a designer and light sculptor.
- Leia T. Ward is an award-winning luxury stager and the founder of LTW Design, a staging design firm.
- Gigi Landau-Royals is the founder and creative director of Savill Royals, an interior design, staging, and styling company.
- Amy Hillary is a content creator for Wall Sauce, a company that sells murals and wall art.
- Jade Joyner is a co-founder of full-service interior design firm Metal + Petal.
- Anna Ambrosi is an interior designer at Into the Garden Room, a service that creates luxury multi-functional spaces.
Leia T. Ward of LTW Design agrees. “Copper is the perfect metal for the fall because of its warm amber tones,” she says. “As we begin to settle into winter and pull out our comfy throws, we are in search of pieces that make our homes feel cozy. But copper looks great year-round, and is a welcome change of pace from all of the brass we've been seeing in homes lately.”
“Copper, with its earthy russet tones, offers warmth and a cozy feel,” adds Gigi Landau-Royals of Savill Royals. “Incorporating copper in your decor is a great way to bring warmer tones into your room. Unlike stainless steel, chrome, and even the high shine of gold, copper lends a warmer, softer aesthetic.”
Along with its related metals, like brass and bronze, copper is known for developing a patina. This is a thin layer of tarnish that’s caused by age and exposure—and as Ward explains, is all part of copper’s charm. “Most metals are cool and stark looking, but copper is the exact opposite,” she says. “[It] develops a beautiful, nice patina over time.”
Landau-Royals agrees that this is part of copper’s charm, and it allows for more adaptability than other metals. “You can either keep your copper shiny or enjoy the different tones that develop over time,” she says. “Copper will eventually develop a greenish-blue layer through oxidization, taking on different color tones as it ages. This is a natural process, similar to iron rusting, and the result is unique to each individual piece—something we as designers really enjoy.”
How to Use Copper at Home
Play With Compatible Colors
“I recommend using copper for accents against cool colors and whites for balance,” says Bradley. “You want a pop of warm color without it taking over.”
Amy Hillary of Wall Sauce prefers to set her copper against a full spectrum of shades: “Colors that go best with copper are creamy white, milky coffee-browns, burnt-orange, emerald-green, and even turquoise!”
“[Copper] offers year-round versatility,” adds Landau-Royals, but she advises that it’s all about how you pair it. “You can zing it up with bright colors, tone it down with neutrals and wood, or, for an edgier industrial feel, you can pair it with concrete or by using it alongside black.”
Remember That a Little Goes a Long Way
“The trick to this trend is to choose a select few items instead of going [into] copper overload,” says Hillary. She suggests mixing both metallic accent pieces and copper tones to pull the room together. “[A vintage copper jug] can look perfect on a kitchen window sill or kitchen table. Fill it to the brim with long-lasting dried flowers in cream and brown tones to marry well with your copper jug. [Then, choose] a brassy toned wallpaper. [This] is the easiest and most statement-making way to add copper into a room.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Metals
Jade Joyner of Metal + Petal doesn’t just agree that copper should be used sparingly—she says it’s a must. “Use a light hand. Don't do copper everywhere. Mix it in with other metals,” she says. But what metals work best?
“Copper, bronze, and brass all share a common ingredient: copper,” Bradley explains. “The warm color in bronze and brass comes primarily from copper balanced out with cooler metals. And when you add a patina to either of those metals, such as antique brass or oil-rubbed bronze, it's actually the copper in the metal that's reacting with elements to create the beautiful color.”
Ward is also pro mixing metals—but with some rules in place. “I am a fan of mixing metals as long as they are the same within the same sightline,” she tells us. “For example, all lower cabinet knobs can be nickel, and then if you want a light fixture above an island in a different metal, it works. I’m not a huge fan of matchy matchups where all metals are one tone in an entire house. I believe if done right, they can be strategically layered to give depth to a space.”
Start in the Kitchen
If you’re unsure of where to begin, Ward suggests the kitchen: “Copper accents work best in kitchens, and you don't need to incorporate a lot of copper to make a big impact. For example, I love a copper teapot on a modern stove.”
Joyner agrees. “Copper is such a cool metal as it patinas and completely changes its look,” she says. “I love to use it on kitchen hoods. Copper can add such character to a home.”
Try It in the Bathroom
Anna Ambrosi of Into the Garden Room agrees that, while the kitchen is a great starting place, so is the bathroom.
"Copper is an often-overlooked material, so adding copper elements into your interior design can be incredibly impactful. I particularly like it when it's used in ways that maximize some of its best qualities, such as its antimicrobial properties,” she explains. “This makes it a great choice for bathtubs, sinks, or even worktops, [while] giving them a timeless and warm-glowing look.”
Take It Outside
While the kitchen and bathroom are two great spaces, Joyner tells us that copper is also great for exteriors: “Copper lanterns on the exterior of a house is such a classic look. It's a warmer metal than just black or silver and a lot more classic than gold/brass."
Expensive to Buy, Easy to Maintain
One thing to consider, Ambrosi says, is the cost. “[A] downside could be the price, as copper doesn’t come cheap,” she says. “However, you can make use of it more cost-effectively with smaller copper details on things like handles, lamps, and sockets to add nice elements of warmth to your home.”
On the upside, “there are some very natural ways to clean copper so that it ages well,” she says. “These include popular items in our pantries like ketchup, lemon juice, and baking soda, so it definitely isn’t a demanding material to take care of.”
Landau-Royals agrees that proper maintenance is key: “Excessive polishing or using abrasive cleaning products can damage the surface, so cleaning with warm soapy water, rinsing, then drying with a soft cloth is often all that is needed. A natural cleaning solution using lemon juice and equal parts salt and baking soda is a popular solution for cleaning copper.”
No matter how you use copper, Landau-Royals advises you to commit: “I believe in going bold or paring it right back. Copper lends a warmth and opulence, whether you’re going for an aesthetic that is traditional or contemporary.”
Grass, Gregor et al. “Metallic Copper as an Antimicrobial Surface.” Applied and environmental microbiology vol. 77,5 (2011): 1541-7. doi:10.1128/AEM.02766-10