Brass is making its way back into home furnishings
Embrace the Class of Brass!
Believe it or not, brass is making its way back into home furnishings! So far, the comeback is a bit leisurely and certainly not robust, but have confidence in me—brass is on the way back. The reign of oil-rubbed bronze, nickel, polished nickel and, of course, pewter is most definitely here to stay. But, like many of my fellow designers, I believe the metals we have entertained for decades need some spicing up. You had to know brass would be rediscovered sometime soon. It's the same old silly cycle: We don't like brass…we rediscover brass…we adore brass again. We are sometimes so fickled in design that it makes me laugh out loud.
First, let me say that I'm not talking about that oh-so-shiny, almost-plastic-looking finish of those multi-branch chandeliers that were all over the place during the 1980s. I believe it is safe to take down those brilliant little bad boys and relegate them to your garage sale or donation pile. Sometimes design trends are just foolish, and following them can lead to really silly ideas. I think we should take an oath to review, consider and evaluate trends, and be logical and thoughtful about which ones work for us. I think Billy Baldwin said it the best: "If I find that something I am doing is becoming a trend, I run from it like the plague!" (A little tip, however: Recently, a friend very successfully painted her 1980s bright brass chandelier with a primer and then spray paint and it looks divine! So maybe give that rather tacky chandelier another chance at life in a new finish. French gray could look divine in a red dining room!)
Now that we've dealt with our tacky 1980s brass, let's look at what is coming back. The first sign of the inevitable return of warmer metals was the appearance of copper in bathroom and kitchen cabinet hardware as well as plumbing hardware. Some newer more modern finishes are making an emergence within the brass world. You'll spot finishes with a realistic patina, even tarnished, duller in tone, with a deeper depth to the metal, oil rubbed, as well as distressed, and antique brass that is convincing. Given the beauty, why did we ever grow such a disdain for classic brass?
Granted, I never cringed at the sight of brass like some do. I personally find it a splendid metal to live with, and I comingle it often with all sorts of other metals. I wouldn't dream of disposing of any of my Baldwin Brass candlesticks from the 1980s! The assortment of sizes, shapes and heights are just the thing for a romantic candlelit dinner and the perfect blend of mantel accessories. Right now my home features brass lamps, brass-based hurricanes, a brass rail on my side table, a brass candle snuffer and brass furniture hardware. Guess what? I really never stopped using this handsome metal. We should give these beaming bright metals more credit and appreciation!
A Look with a Legacy
I definitely believe that brass is the perfect metal to use in some homes, including interior door hardware as well as in small doses for plumbing hardware, like perhaps the powder room. What homes? I'm referring to those homes we used to call "Early American," I now lovingly call them the "God Bless America Homes" or "Connecticut Homes." These homes are steeped in tradition and feature the most charming and pleasant street appeal. A vast number of homes along the upper northeast coast have these types of exteriors, which say "Welcome!" These homes may still maintain a handsome brass kick plate and hardware on the front door that gleam like jewelry from the street view. In keeping with this era of home, you may find original brass hardware on pristinely painted interior doors and perhaps in the classic egg-shaped doorknobs with possibly escutcheons (the plates around the doorknobs) in polished brass. I often drive up and down the streets of Augusta and look with affection on these wonderful "Leave It to Beaver" homes that almost smile with contentment at their presence along the tree-lined streets, housing blissful families inside. Brass was part of these lovely homes when they were built, and being true to the era and distinction of a home is a very important aspect of their design and history. When it comes to updating a home's interior, respect its style and history. Updating everything to current trends isn't necessarily right or proper.
Take a good, long, careful look at the interior of our country's White House and you will see that brass and gold finishes are still very much a part of a noble look! After all, it is the People's House and it is maintained as a symbol of our great country! My, shall we all stand and sing our National Anthem!? I did just have a God Bless America moment! Actually, that is a good thing, as Martha might say (Stewart not Washington)!
Brass is a part of our legacy and it very much needs to be appreciated for the radiance it bestows on our interiors. So, my dear friends, start searching for the brass candlesticks, vintage brass wall eagles, floor and table lamps, Federalist style eagle mirrors, brass andirons, cachepots (large bowls) or trays that will give your home that extraordinary touch of class. In fact, I am going to coin a new phrase: "Brass is class!" Whether you are designing your home with an English interior, American cottage or an ode to Ralph Lauren, brass adds that touch of history and elegance to a home's interior.
So I will leave you on this lovely Saturday with an adventure—a scavenger hunt in search of aged but lovely home accessories. Think brass! Start picking up these pieces before everyone knows it is the next wonderful home treasure! Shhhh, it will be our little secret!
See all of you charming and wonderful people next week!
Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She accredits her mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for her intense interest and love for design.
She has taught interior design at the college level and operated her private design business since 2001. Look for her new book soon!
Jan welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org