For decades, stainless steel and chrome finishes have dominated the design industry, leaving one of the formerly trendiest metals – brass – in the dust. Over the course of the past few years, however, brass has been making a slow and steady comeback, reasserting itself as a fun finish for everything from light fixtures to cabinet pulls.
Brass was a shiny staple in houses designed in the 1970s and ’80s, but the brass that’s making its way back into homes isn’t as bold as its popular predecessor 40 years ago. Instead, it’s being integrated in a matte finish, making a subdued statement on hardware and accessories across the country.
“People have tired of the stainless and brushed nickel trends,” says Kathleen Matthews, interior designer at Savvy Surrounding Style in Ladue. “The brass we are seeing today is a softer brass than before; most brass pieces are an unlacquered brass or a soft gold.”
Lauren Sweet-Schuler of Castle Design in Clayton believes brass is making a comeback because of its warm tones and how nicely it complements warm gray tones.
“I’m seeing it incorporated in many ways,” she says. “It starts in small doses and makes its way into every room.”
To reintroduce brass to your home, Sweet-Schuler recommends starting with a smaller space, like a powder room mirror or faucet hardware. Homeowners then can move on to bigger household components like a dining room chandelier. Sweet-Schuler also recommends mixing up its uses from room to room to keep it visually interesting.
“Maybe it’s hardware on a cabinet in one room and a large vase in another,” she says. “There are great ways to use it in any space.”
Matthews recommends keeping the finish subtle and staying away from the polished brass of the ’70s and ’80s to avoid a dated look. She encourages pairing today’s brass with jewel tones like a rich, dark green or a regal navy for a classic look. It can also be paired with marble in accent furniture pieces.
“The organic vibe of marble and the more industrial feel of brass can result in a dramatic cocktail table or dining room table,” she says.
Lisa Davis, visual merchandising specialist with KDR Designer Showrooms near Maryland Heights, suggests pairing brass with everything from acrylic to more natural elements.
“My personal favorite is brass and acrylic, mixed together, or wood and brass for a more rustic but elegant feel,” she says.
Like Matthews and Sweet-Schuler, she’s seeing many clients starting to introduce brass into their lighting fixtures and home accessories.
“It’s an easy, inexpensive way to incorporate brass in any space, and a little goes a long way,” she says.
Although pendants and cabinet hardware reign as the most popular brass accessories right now, Matthews suggests a few unexpected ways to bring brass into your home. A modern bar cart? Yes, please.
“The finish makes the bar cart a little unexpected but also takes a functional accent piece to a new level,” she says. “A metallic brass finish is also being used in wall tiles. These tiles would make a dramatic and memorable backsplash in a residential bar area.”
Whether through subtle touches or dramatic elements, brass can be installed throughout the home as an eye-catching and striking design element. Its new matte appearance is making its way into brands across their entire line in modern, state-of-the-art pieces.
Sweet-Schuler advocates for the metal – but in a smart way.
“Brass is a finish often found in older homes,” she says, “so updating with the new matte brass finish still feels cohesive with exiting elements, while staying on-trend with the new warmer version.”
Only time will tell how long the fad continues its resurgence in the design world, but for now, designers like Matthews are enjoying its revival.
“Having been in design in the ’80s and ’90s, I was sorry to see [the brass trend] fade away,” Matthews says. “The resurgence of the unlacquered brass and gold tones is exciting! I encourage clients to add at least a few accents of brass to add an understated warmth.”
Castle Design, 7707 Clayton Road, Clayton, 314-727-6622, emilycastle.com
KDR Designer Showrooms, 11660 Page Service Drive, St. Louis, 314-993-5020, kdrshowrooms.com
Savvy Surrounding Style, 9753 Clayton Road, Ladue, 314-432-7289, savvyladue.com