Decorating with metallic accents has been a trend steadily on the rise, but when it comes to execution, there’s a fine line between looking chic and looking sci-fi (looking at you, metallic wall finishes). However, when done right, metallic accents can elevate your space.
"Metallics have been in now for several years and there are no signs of it going away anytime soon!” says Amy Youngblood, owner and principal designer of Amy Youngblood Interiors. “From wallpaper, fabrics, lighting, and accessories, metallics are a great way to incorporate some glam and sophistication into your space.”
Read on for expert tips for incorporating metallic finishes into your own home—without veering into the Space Age.
Use Metals to Add Warmth, Fun, and Intrigue
As HomeGoods Style Expert Beth Diana Smith tells us, “A metallic can be anything that has the sheen or shine of a polished metal. It’s a rather flexible finish that can be used to add a bit of fun or visual intrigue to any space or style.”
“I like using metallics for special wow-worthy pieces. Think a large metallic-framed mirror in a foyer or dining room, a glossy brass dining table, or even an intricate light fixture,” says Smith. “On a smaller scale, you can play with metallics through decorative accessories like vases, trays, and objects. Try mixing pieces like a glossy black vase with a matte brass vase on a tabletop for a chic, clean, and modern look that still feels textural.”
If you use the right metallic accents, Jennifer Hunter of Jennifer Hunter Design notes that this can enhance the warmth of a space. “We love incorporating metallics into our designs, as it adds that extra layer of warmth,” she says. “One of our favorite uses is through mercury glass accessories. We love the nature of mercury glass because it adds a subtle flare, but has a very vintage feel.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix and Match
Decorist designer Katy Bryne is fully on board with mixing and matching metals. “The biggest thing I’d love for my clients to know is that mixed metals really are trendy! I always get hesitation when I bring this up,” she says. “You do not need to have everything match—thatss actually a major design mistake. Mixing metals gives your interior more depth and interest. Loosen up, girl! Not everything needs to be brushed chrome!”
Youngblood wholeheartedly agrees. “I get asked a lot if it is okay to mix metals as there are so many,” she says. “My answer is yes! Ideally, when mixing, space the metallic items around the room and pick up [either] another color or [the] same metallic. This will help balance out the room.”
The key to picking which metals to mix, says Youngblood, is to make sure the difference is obvious. “When choosing bathroom or kitchen plumbing and lighting fixtures, don’t pick finishes that are so close together that they look mismatched,” she says. “For example, if your plumbing fixtures are brushed nickel, mix with a dark or blacked finish, not a polished nickel."
Andi Morse, founder of Morse Design, agrees, too, but only if styled correctly. “My rule of thumb is to keep the same metal finish on each eye level of the space,” she says. “It helps give the room a pulled-together look and prevents a mish-mash feeling.”
Balance Metallics in Bathrooms
Caron Woolsey, founder of CW Interiors, notes that the bathroom is the one room where mixing and matching metallic finishes should be approached with caution.
“The key to decorating with metallic finishes in a bathroom is all about balance and understanding the undertones of each finish,” she says. “Like makeup, it’s important to pair the correct tones together. Cools with cools and warms with warms. The cools are chrome, brushed nickel, and the always-neutral black. The warms are brass, bronze, polished nickel, and, again, the ‘universal donor,’ black.”
“Note that brushed nickel is very different than polished nickel, and they do not belong together,” Woolsey adds. “And though chrome and polished nickel are both shiny and seemingly silver, polished nickel has a warmer undertone and should never be mixed with chrome.”
“I like to use metallics in smaller doses, such as wallpaper in a powder room, accent pillows, tile, and even accent furniture, just to name a few,” says Youngblood. “One thing to watch is not to oversaturate your space with them, as it will look overwhelming to the eye.”
Byrne suggest starting with beginner-friendly metals. “If you’re a beginner at mixing metals, matte black and brass are my favorite starter combination,” she says “This can be done with a bold mirror and table lamp, hardware, or even a cool table! Don’t be afraid to take a risk.”
Vary Your Materials
Incorporating metallic accents doesn’t mean everything has to be hard and shiny. In fact, your room should be infused with a range of textures.
“Make sure to vary [your] materials,” explains Youngblood. “For example, if you choose a metallic tile backsplash, go with a fabric shade or even glass light fixtures.”
“Using wallpaper with metallic running through it is a great way to incorporate metals into the space,” adds Morse. “I love the idea of using metallics in a more subtle way, with pillows and accessories such as trays and vases.”
Claire Barilla, interior designer at Brightwater Interior Design, takes the same approach. “[Consider] adding metallic wallpaper to the ceiling of a foyer or adding metallic trim to window treatments. These are great, almost unexpected ways to add a bit more detail to a space without going overboard.”
“Custom window treatments are one of the best ways to elevate a space,” she adds. “Adding a border in a metallic tape to an otherwise plain Roman shade will add interest, and this can be done with even stock shades to give it the look of custom.”
“Ceilings are the forgotten plane in a lot of spaces, but adding design interest to the ceiling is one of the best ways to bring personality to a room,” notes Barilla. “Using a metallic grasscloth on the ceiling adds texture and dimension, and you don’t have to worry about the wear and tear you may otherwise be concerned about on a wall application.”
Start in the Kitchen
If you want to start incorporating more metal but aren’t ready to decorate your softer spaces, Allan Ben, founder and creative director of Art and Cook, suggests starting in the kitchen because it’s likely you’ll already have plenty of metals to work with in the space.
“These days, most kitchens have stainless steel appliances, giving most kitchens a base of cool silver tones,” Ben explains. “Ways to mix in other warmer metallics are by adding items like a gold paper towel holder, or maybe some all-metallic utensils to hang on hooks above the countertops. Placing fruit bowls that might be made of glass but have a brass base is equivalent to a cake stand that has a metallic base. Anything that goes on the countertop can be found in metallics, whether it’s canisters or perhaps a marble mortar with a stainless steel pestle.”
Woolsey agrees, but recommends maintaining some sort of equilibrium. “For more permanent finishes, like faucets and light fixtures, balance is still key. These finishes should complement each other, since they will likely exist together for a significant period of time,” she says. “As long as other finishes are mixed in with balance, you can add any that you choose. For instance, you would not want a room full of brass with a single silver element; but you could have a black light fixture, brass lamp, antique silver tea set, and bronze-based table. If you love the gleam of polished nickel or chrome, couple it with glam and glossy elements like crystal and lacquered furniture/cabinetry. The finishes are evocative of the mood you wish to set, and your selections should follow suit.”
If you’re working with metals that are already in place and can’t be changed, Ben has a few suggestions for pairing finishes: “The best is to match by brightness, so if you’re doing a bright rose gold, you can match it with some bright/light gold and/or chrome silver. If you’re going for a more brass look, then copper or brushed silver might work better to match.”
Consider Your Color Palette
When it comes to incorporating metallics, your surrounding color palette is as important as the metal finishes themselves. “Golds go well with pink, green, dark navy, black, and warm or bright white,” says Ben. “Silver pairs with a variety of colors, but some colors pair better with a chrome silver than a brushed silver, like white and sage green.”