How to Mix Metals in the Kitchen

A kitchen contains multiple metal parts. From light fixtures to cabinet knobs, the space includes a plethora of opportunities to feature gleaming metal finishes. How can you make it all blend? For many homeowners, this is a challenging task. The good news is, contemporary kitchens allow for mixing metal finishes in the kitchen.

In the past, mixed kitchen hardware was not in style. Designers frowned upon a combination of finishes and recommended a uniform approach to kitchen hardware and appliances. This has led many homeowners and designers to ask: Can you mix hardware in the kitchen? Yes, today’s designs allow for a lot more freedom to mix metal finishes in the kitchen. In fact, designers recommend using more than one metal. This mix creates a more appealing design than repeating the same metal in every aspect of the room.

more than one metal

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Still, the homeowner must mix metals carefully to achieve an attractive result. Following are the do’s and don’ts of this process. By using these basic guidelines, homeowners and designers can create a beautiful blend of metals to produce a stunning and inviting kitchen. A good place to start is a review of where metal hardware is located in a kitchen and the various options available for these finishes.

Where Can I Mix Metal Finishes in the Kitchen?

A quick glance around any kitchen will reveal several features that require a metal selection. Each offers the opportunity to choose a finish that will complement the surrounding aspects of the space. The most common include:

Appliance pulls — It’s easy to overlook appliance pulls. They are integrated into the appliance and are often low on the priority list of appliance features. However, the right selection can transform the look of an appliance. A carefully chosen pull enhances the appliance and helps tie kitchen hardware with appliances and other aspects of the kitchen.

For panel-ready refrigerators and dishwashers, the pull should complement the front of the appliance and offer good functionality. Top options include bronze, nickel, stainless steel and brass. Comfort and ease of use are also important qualities to consider when choosing an appliance pull. They must also be sturdy, since they will see daily use and must withstand rough treatment.

Cabinet knobs and handlesCabinet knobs and handles may seem like a minor feature, but they have a huge impact on the overall finish. They also allow homeowners to insert creativity and personality into the details. A whimsical shape or elegant design helps guide the design structure and overall feel of the kitchen. Homeowners can choose from nickel, brass, stainless steel, bronze, glass and crystal for their cabinet knobs and handles. Each offers a unique look to blend or contrast with the other metals in the room.

creative cabinet knobs

Cabinet hingesHinges are the least noticeable metal finish in the kitchen, but should not be overlooked. Homeowners should carefully choose them to match the color of the cabinets, as well as the other mixed kitchen hardware. Some hinges are more prominent than others, so it’s important to keep in mind where the hinges will be most visible. As you select the metals for various kitchen features, note their proximity to cabinet hinges to create a pleasing visual flow of metals. As with other kitchen hardware, cabinet hinges are available in many standard metals, including brass, nickel, bronze and stainless steel.

Light fixtures — Because they are usually prominent, these fixtures play a large role in shaping the design of the kitchen. If a kitchen features hanging light fixtures, it is especially important to select a good mix of kitchen hardware to complement the metal in the lights. For recessed lighting and other unobtrusive options, the finish is less noticeable, but still important. Light fixtures typically come in nickel, copper, brass, bronze and stainless-steel finishes.

Faucets — Homeowners often experience difficulty in choosing a faucet because of the number of variables involved. What metal finish will mix well with the rest of the kitchen? What shape and size will work best? What features should it include, such as hands-free operation or detachable sprayer? To narrow down the options, it can prove helpful to decide the most desirable metal finish, then choose a faucet that is available in that finish. Faucets are usually available in either nickel, brass, bronze, copper or stainless steel, and some offer glass or crystal accents in the handles.

What Types of Metal Can I Use in the Kitchen?

Depending on your taste, budget and hardware availability, you can choose a variety of metals to use in the kitchen. The most common metals for kitchen hardware and appliances include:

  • Brass — This metal offers a unique gold color and provides a high-end look. It doesn’t tarnish easily, making it a low-maintenance option. This metal is good for light fixtures, knobs and faucets. Brass hardware pairs nicely with white cabinetry.
  • Stainless steel — This is one of the most common kitchen metals. It’s popular in contemporary-style kitchens for its clean, sleek appearance. It is also strong and durable. Stainless steel is particularly trendy for appliance finishes. According to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, 72 percent of homeowners listed this finish as their top choice for appliances.

use stainless steel

  • Copper — Copper has a distinctive reddish-gold color that makes it stand out more than brass. It’s a good choice for statement pieces or accent items. It stands out nicely from white cabinetry if used for pulls or knobs. It also pairs well with deep, striking wall colors. This option offers a high-end look, but it is more expensive and higher-maintenance.
  • Wrought iron — This metal is a good option to create a rustic-style kitchen. Its dark color works well with both light and dark cabinets. Wrought-iron pulls and knobs are perfect for farmhouse or Mediterranean kitchens.
  • Nickel — This metal offers the gray color of stainless steel without the shine. Typically brushed or satin, nickel is durable and attractive. Its versatility makes it a popular option for contemporary kitchens.

Within each category of metal, homeowners can choose various finishes, which increases the options for mixing metal finishes in the kitchen. The most common metal finishes include:

  • Polished — Metals that are polished are shiny and sleek. It gives the metal a refined look, but it also makes it harder to keep clean. Fingerprints show up easily.
  • Brushed — A brushed finish includes brushstroke lines that make the metal look smooth, but not shiny like polished metal.
  • Antiqued — For an older, statelier appearance, choose antiqued metal. It is darker and is unique, so be sure it matches the overall style of the room.
  • Satin — Similar to brushed, a satin finish makes the metal more opaque. However, the finish is smoother, without lines.
  • Oil-rubbed — If you see the term oil-rubbed bronze, this refers to a chemically darkened bronze designed to simulate aged metal. It is usually a very dark brown or blackish finish, and may or may not have coppery or brassy undertones.

common metal finishes

7 Rules of Thumb for Mixing Metal Finishes in the Kitchen

Once you’ve determined which aspects of your kitchen will feature metal finishes, the next step is to learn the basic guidelines for mixing metal finishes in the kitchen. While most design rules are made to be broken, in many cases, it’s good to start with some basic guidelines. Here are five tips to answer the popular question: How can you mix hardware in the kitchen?

  1. Mix carefully. Design the metals in your kitchen so they look planned. Pepper the metals around the room, so it looks intentional. A single gold piece in a sea of silver may look accidental and create a clashing effect, rather than a nice blend of metals.
  2. Use visual planes. Consider how viewers will take in each metal visually. Keep everything in each horizontal plane the same, since they will be seen together. For example, choose the same metal finish for all light fixtures. Then, choose another finish for faucets and knobs that are on the next visual plane.
  3. Apply the 2/1 rule. This design trick involves using one metal as the main finish by repeating it. This is the “two” side of the rule. The “one” side of the rule represents an accent metal you use just once. An example is a light fixture over an island with a brass finish in a kitchen with nickel light fixtures elsewhere.
  4. Pick a favorite. Choose one metal as the dominant finish. Use this for roughly 70 percent of the metal hardware in the kitchen. Use a secondary metal for the other 30 percent. This balance of mixed metals brings structure and appeal to the space. As you mix metal finishes in the kitchen, keep in mind that silver tones are often brighter and more noticeable than gold ones, so silver hardware can easily overpower gold fixtures.
  5. Set the temperature. Different metals offer various levels of visual warmth. Gold and brass are warm metals, while silver and chrome are cold. A healthy mix of kitchen hardware includes some of each to achieve a comfortable temperature. If you choose a cold metal for your dominant finish, accent the kitchen with a warm metal. Often, a light fixture of the contrasting temperature is a good option to achieve a healthy equilibrium.
  6. Match your style. Consider what the overall design of your kitchen will be. Do you want to achieve a Tuscan style? Arts and crafts? Contemporary? Based on this goal, choose mixed kitchen hardware that lends to the look you desire. For example, chrome conveys minimalist, while oil-rubbed bronze oozes old-world ambiance.
  7. Keep it simple. Ultimately, you want a kitchen you enjoy. Don’t overthink it. Choose metal hardware for your kitchen that suits your style. If it breaks a design rule or two, but you are happy with it, what’s the harm? Look for finishes and fixtures that make you want to spend time in your space.

warm cold metals

The Do’s and Don’ts of Mixed Kitchen Hardware

As you follow the general guidelines for mixing metal finishes in the kitchen, you should feel free to customize your selections to match your taste. However, it’s good to know a few basic do’s and don’ts as you mix your metals. By following a few principles, you can create a space that matches your taste and looks great, too.

Do: Go for dominance. Choose one metal finish as your dominant feature for most of the metal hardware in the kitchen. Then, select one or two accent finishes.

choose metal finish

Do: Keep colors in mind. What is the color palette for the rest of the room? Consider the walls as you choose your metal hardware. Warm metals such as brass and copper mesh well with warm hues such as reds and browns. Cold metals such as silver and chrome are best with cool tones such as blue and green. These guidelines are also helpful if you ever consider repainting the kitchen. Choose a color that works well with the mix of metals currently in the kitchen.

Do: Use metal elsewhere. Mixing metal finishes in the kitchen can involve more than hardware and appliances. Picture frames, wallpaper and artwork can incorporate metal finishes as well. Use this additional décor to achieve a balance of warm and cool finishes. Draw the eye to various parts of the room with metallic pops that complement the kitchen fixtures.

Do: Choose top quality. When selecting kitchen hardware, the finish is not the only thing that matters. While you want something attractive, you also want something that will last. If the cabinet hardware mixes perfectly with the faucet, but the knobs fall apart in a year, it’s not worth it. Choose hardware that looks good, but will also stand the test of time.

Don’t: Make metals compete. Go for matching and symmetrical as you mix metal finishes in the kitchen. Don’t make metals compete for attention. Integrate them with other features, so they add to the balance of the room’s décor, rather than detracting from it.

dont over do it

Don’t: Choose multiple metals. Most kitchens look best with one or two metals. A third metal as an accent is possible, but don’t go beyond this. A mash-up of all types of metals will look unplanned and chaotic. A dominant metal with one or two accents achieves the pleasant mix of metals you desire.

Don’t: Make it too cold. Remember the temperature we discussed? As you select various metal finishes for your kitchen hardware, don’t forget to include both warm and cold choices. A dominant metal that is cold, accented by another cold metal, with a third cold finish for the final details produces a cold kitchen. Mix in a warm touch to achieve a good temperature balance.

Don’t: Ignore texture. In addition to various metal options, kitchen hardware is also available in different textures. Matte, polished and hammered finishes each have a distinct look and feel. You don’t have to choose the same texture for every piece, but choose textures that mix well.

Step-by-Step Guide to Mixing Metal Finishes in the Kitchen

You know the options. You have the guidelines. You’ve learned some do’s and don’ts to mixing metal finishes in the kitchen. Now, you’re ready to make your selections — or are you? For many homeowners and designers, it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re in that boat, follow these steps to get the mix you want.

start with feature piece

  1. Start with a bit of inspiration. Do you love your current light fixture? Have you found a set of delightful cabinet knobs? Start with something you know you want to feature in your kitchen, and work from there. Look for pieces that will accent the items you want to include.
  2. Stick with one or two. Remember, more than three metal finishes in the same room creates too much chaos. If you’ve chosen one item to start with, look for other hardware and fixtures that are available in the same finish. Then, choose a complementary metal to use as your accent finish. This narrowing process will help you eliminate many of the options for an easier selection process.
  3. Add the finishing details. Once you’ve completed your hardware selections, move on to additional décor. Pull it all together with accessories that highlight the metals you’ve chosen and complete the balance of temperature and texture you desire.

What Works When Mixing Kitchen Hardware With Appliances?

Some homeowners and designers know where to get started, but then they get stuck. For instance, you may know you want to keep the brass light fixture over your island, but you don’t know what would complement this finish.

Part of the debate is which metal to use, and part of it is what finish to choose. Even within each class of metal, various finishes offer contrasting looks. From brushed to polished, finish options create multiple new categories of options. The choices can become overwhelming.

To narrow it down, the following combinations work well for mixing metal finishes in the kitchen. For example, if your appliances are black, polished chrome is a good option for cabinet hardware. Other attractive combinations include:

  • Aged brass with polished chrome
  • Polished nickel with aged brass
  • Brass with satin nickel
  • Oil-rubbed bronze with polished nickel
  • Black with aged brass
  • Satin nickel with oil-rubbed bronze
  • Polished chrome with brass

Apply Mixed Kitchen Hardware Principles to the Rest of the House

The kitchen is the heart of your home. Whatever you do here should carry over to the rest of the house. Are you making plans to remodel the bathroom? Choose similar metal finishes for that space. As you mix metals in the kitchen, you want to stick with two or three choices. Use the same two or three metals for other rooms. Create a consistent flow of metals throughout the home. This applies to light fixtures and other accents as well.

metals in home

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If you’re having trouble deciding on selections for your kitchen, consider the other rooms of the house. While each room can have its own look and feel, it is a good idea to match your metals to the overall style of the home. If other spaces are filled with brass, consider using this as the dominant metal in your kitchen.

Don’t overlook the exterior of the home in your design process. Railings, lighting, mailboxes and other exterior features can help guide you in creating a uniform style throughout your property.

Breaking All the Rules

Homeowners and designers may follow all the guidelines for mixing metal finishes in the kitchen and produce a space they don’t like. How? If this happens, they probably didn’t personalize the process. It doesn’t matter if the room would win kitchen-of-the-year awards or is magazine-cover-worthy if the homeowner doesn’t want to live in the space. That’s why it’s important to know when to break the rules.

When you are in love with one metal. The general rule of thumb is to mix two metals when designing a kitchen. However, you may have a strong preference for one type of metal. If this is the case, you can still mix metal finishes in the kitchen. Simply choose different finishes of the same metal. Select matte cabinet pulls and polished faucets. Mix vintage gold with newer gold. Even with one metal, the possibilities are nearly limitless.

When you have plans for future remodeling. When planning your kitchen design, it can be helpful to look at the other rooms of your home, unless these rooms will be changing soon, too. If your bathroom is next on the list, don’t worry about matching the metals currently there. Choose finishes you love for the kitchen, then follow up with similar selections when you remodel the bathroom.

When you feel like it. Some designers point out the first rule of decorating is that you can break almost all the rules. The space is yours. Act like it. Follow design guides, or don’t. The goal is surroundings you love, so make design choices that get you there.

How Cliffside Industries Can Help You Mix Hardware in the Kitchen

The final, crucial step in mixing metal finishes in the kitchen is choosing a trusted manufacturer to supply the products. You may create the perfect design, but it will fall flat without quality hardware to back it up. Professional know-how is key to putting the final touches on a kitchen design.

Most homeowners realize this need for expertise, as evidenced by the 2017 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, which found 88 percent of homeowners hire professionals to complete their kitchen renovations. Of these, slightly more than half sought the assistance of general contractors. Other professionals they tapped included design specialists, interior designers and architects.

hire a professional

When it comes to hardware expertise, Cliffside Industries is unparalleled. We offer more than 15,000 quality items from suppliers around the world. Our key service advantages include:

  • Solid materials
  • Improved durability
  • Superior quality
  • Industry-leading customer service
  • Traditional styles
  • Time-tested hardware designs
  • Finishes on solid brass hardware up to 300 percent more durable than zinc hardware finishes
  • Free ground shipping for orders over $800

Contact Cliffside Industries for quality kitchen hardware that will add beautiful finishes to your kitchen and will stand the test of time. Reach our knowledgeable hardware team today at 717-627-3286.

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