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Mixing Metals: How to Update a Brown Kitchen by adding Brass

By 09/17/2015January 4th, 202037 Comments


Recently, I decorated my lovely client Barbara’s main floor area including the living room, master bedroom and dining room. You saw a sneak peek of her living room here and I’ll show you the rest of it shortly.


Barbara built this house with her husband 5 years ago ago. He wanted a wood stained kitchen and although she’d love to have a white kitchen now, she wasn’t prepared to paint it in this phase of the decorating project.

Her biggest complaint was with the pendant lights, they created a lot of visual glare and she wanted them replaced.

Also, she needed drapery to block out the sun in the wintertime when it slanted through the windows.


Since we were introducing gold accents in her living room, I suggested repeating it here in the pendants and the drapery hardware.

To effectively combine metals, they should be repeated at least twice

It would not have looked right to simply install brass rods or just the brass pendant lights alone.

The hardware could also have been switched out to brass but Barbara choose to spend her decorating budget on other items.


The shade (below) also comes in a cone shape but we chose this one because it repeated the shape of the rounded stainless hood fan.


The shade comes in several different colours as pictured in photo (source)



Barbara loved the way the curtains softened the look and feel of the kitchen and also muffled the sound.

She was annoyed that the builder had not installed moulding that was all the same height (above the french doors) but when the drapery was installed, it took the attention away from the different heights so you barely notice it now.


When I styled the kitchen, I brought in some warm wood tones with cutting boards that could double as cheese trays and two wooden bowls.


Photography by Tracey Ayton

Tracey snapped these photos of my buckets with roses and hydrangeas I brought from my garden on photo shoot day!

Here are two more kitchens that have successfully mixed metals:



Here the lighting and hardware is brass and the appliances and faucet are stainless.


Here the pendants and faucet are brass. source


1, 2, 3, 4, 5

I love how brass warms up a white kitchen and makes a brown one feel updated! Definitely easier to keep it to hardware and light fixtures rather than faucets.

Have you added brass to your interiors yet?

Register now for the next Specify Colour with Confidence workshop and you too will be transformed by the way you see colour!

“Maria’s Specify Colour with Confidence™ workshop changed my business completely.

Before Maria’s class I would help my decorating clients choose color more by default than anything else.

After Maria’s class I had the self-confidence and knowledge to refocus my business to making color my [primary] focus.

I had taken two previous color courses and ended both of them more confused than when I began. Maria’s True Colour Expert™ [course] was the first training that explained undertones and showed me the exact steps needed to pick the perfect color.” Linda Holt, TCE™ Principal, Linda Holt Interiors

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83 pins


  • The kitchen really does look updated with the new pendants – they are a great choice. Also, the curtains make a big difference. To further mask the uneven trim, she could put matchstick blinds hung right under the rod, and open enough to cover the top of the windows so you don’t see the trim.

    Brass is looking so fresh now! Speaking about mixing metals, I’d love to hear your thoughts on mixing chrome and nickel. I never do because chrome is cool and nickel is warm.

    • KA says:

      Very nice kitchen before and especially after. With the drapes, I definitely don’t notice the molding difference.

      I’ve mixed polished nickel and chrome in a bathroom as long as they aren’t next to each other. Like the chrome faucets in the tub/shower practically no one uses, but polished nickel on the sink faucet and gorgeous pulls and toilet paper holder.

      Speaking of pulls, I think she made the right decision not to change them. She has a lot, they’re big and it probably was better spent on the other parts of the project.

  • Erika Ward says:

    i just had one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments. This is gorgeous Maria. Well done!

  • Debbiecz says:

    A wonderful update to a kitchen that appears to have good flow. The trim issue makes me appreciate our contractor, slow as molasses but he would stop us to “visit” about such issues. And for the most part, he was spot on. With a smile I would ask if the high chair is still used by the white curtains…imaging spaghetti soaked hands grabbing the panel.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, well the high chair is for her grandchild and I haven’t seen it since so maybe she’s outgrown it 🙂

  • Maria, this post makes me so happy. I have a leaky kitchen faucet and I keep thinking that I’m an incompetent adult that I am not replacing it.

    BUT IT’S BRASS. Or looks sort of like that. So I am really happy that I am not remiss about hold repairs but actually on trend and a brilliant decorator.

    Thank you.

  • Susan griffin says:

    your blog is amazing, and teaches so much! Love the drapery hardware, can you share your source?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Thanks Susan! Yes they came from Textile Trimmings in Vancouver, they sell to the trade only.

  • Maureen says:

    Interesting post! I’ve been dealing with mixing metals in my very slow, one step at a time, bathroom re-do recently. I didn’t have an overall vision of what direction I was going, so I decided to pick one thing that I really liked. That turned out to be this wall sconce:

    which is a combination of antique brass and a weathered black metal. Not exactly metal finishes I could find easily in faucets and other hardware. So I decided to go with satin nickel for the faucet, cabinet pulls, towel rod, etc. To introduce that gold color that is in the antique brass, rather than using it in a metal, I’m trying out accessories (art work, etc.) that have the color gold in it. I’m also repeating the black in accessories as well. (Luckily, since the brass is in a lighting fixture, when the fixture is on — which is always when you are in the room, because it is a bathroom — the brass parts are somewhat shaded, since the lighting falls elsewhere, not on the fixture itself, so it doesn’t scream brass.) Do you think that will be ok?

  • Beth Amos says:

    Five years ago, we were told that in order to sell our house we needed to replace all of the brass lighting. We did that and the house sold quickly. Now brass is back..
    What a hoot!

    • Rory says:

      I’m not sure I will ever like brass again. I don’t think I ever really have. I certainly don’t like mixing metals. Good thing I’m not a trend follower. 🙂

  • Jo Galbraith says:

    Simple changes make a big difference in the re-decorated kitchen – it now looks beautiful! I added a brushed gold light fixture in my dining room and love it!

  • Cherie says:

    I have brass chandeliers and sconces, as well as some beautiful brass accent pieces like candlesticks, pedestal bowl, etc. I came very close to changing out all the brass a few years ago when everyone was proclaiming that brass was dated. Now, it’s back and considered “fresh” which I find amusing. Now I am loving my brass lighting and accessories again, which are warm and also go so well with my warm colors and wood. No wonder I love this post! The changes in this kitchen do wonders, Maria. I bet she’s loving her kitchen now.

  • Karen says:

    What do you think about brass hardware on white kitchen cabinets? Does it work?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes I think it warms up a white kitchen! I would keep the faucet chrome or brushed nickel and mix them up!

  • Karen says:

    Brass and copper are rich metals that always add warmth and depth and interestingly, a timeless quality that makes a home look like it has rich heritage… Like grand European homes and castles. One can change fabrics and colors, but the metals and wood add the feel of quality. Accent pieces with painted and bright trendy colors can either be a cheerful punch or increased to show a personal style, but brass, silver plate and copper show generationL heritage and quality… I think it shows family values of investing in things that last generations… And the mixture of warmth and quality because of it.

    • SDC says:

      Well stated Karen. Brass is and always has been in style. What went out of style were the flimsy and extremely cheap brass plated stamped metal lighting fixtures and hardware that came on the scene in 1960’s and proliferated well into the 1990’s. Worse, the cheapest of these didn’t even bother with brass plating but employed brass-like colored coatings and lots of shiny lacquer in a poor attempt to emulate solid brass.

      The same has happened with the oil rubbed bronze trend. Most of it being sold isn’t actual bronze but rather cheap metal, often flimsy stamped steel, painted to mimic (and poorly at that) actual oil rubbed bronze.

      If you have this type of type of cheap brass plated hardware, by all means replace it – hopefully with something of quality. But make sure you know what you’re replacing.

      I live in a charming development of homes that were all built in the mid-1930s. The original hardware and lighting fixtures are all solid brass. Last year, my neighbors put their home on the market and were advised by the real estate agent to replace all of the original lighting fixtures to make it “more current”. My neighbors went to the local Home Depot and came back with an array of “real estate agent” approved but poorly made replacements. Who could blame them – they were selling so they didn’t want to spend much and after all, their real estate said it was needed. Having heard about this, I intervened and convinced (and helped) my neighbors to clean their existing fixtures while preserving the original patina. I helped them do the same with their front door hardware. Interestingly, at their only open house, the first three prospective buyers through entered a bidding war. All of them specifically mentioned how beautiful the light fixtures were throughout the house.

      QUALITY brass fixtures and hardware are as classic and timeless as QUALITY white kitchens.

  • Gary says:

    I enjoy seeing your work and the feedback.

    Our 15 year old home had original floral hardware in the kitchen with shinny brass pulls and door knobs.

    We were advised to get the house market ready by replacing the wall paper with paint and all knobs with brushed nickel.

    While we like the new look better than the original if we list the house in 2 years will we find the kitchen isn’t considered updated?

    • Maria Killam says:

      It would be hard to find an 80’s door knob or faucet that looks current today. It’s like fashion when it comes back around, it’s never the same as when it first came out 20-30 years ago, there’s always an update that makes it look and feel current. I don’t think we all need to run out and install brass in our homes in order to make them feel more current.

  • Deborah Merriam says:

    Beautiful work, Maria! I hope you’ll follow up on this post with one about the copper finishes that are coming into fashion again, and when they do and don’t work. 😉

  • I’m convinced now to use the drapery panels I’ve been debating about using in my dining space adjacent to my kitchen. To me, Maria, this is even a more dynamic change. Kitchens have such a hard feel that the addition of drapes is a clearly soothing element! Also happy to see gold returning to the metal mix now– think what’s so cool about that is that it’s “Warm color/ cold surface”. Kinda like jeans + a frilly shirt…..contrast again! Glad to see your “outside of online”work again , Maria!

  • Beth B. says:


    Lovely kitchen updates! Wouldn’t you say though, that the brass that is on trend now is NOT the same as that of the 70’s and the 80’s? That was very bright, shiny and, well…brassy. Now it has that warmer brushed and more sophisticated look I think.

  • Fran says:

    Wow! What a difference the brass makes! Really warms up the space. Great job, as usual, Maria! 🙂

  • Sheila says:

    Once again, you have an uncanny sense of timing. I have a very similar kitchen (bought the home 6 months ago). Now that I have been in the space, I want to lighten it up. Those brass pendants are the answer!! I will have to find a second item to repeat the brass — but that is the fun of making the space my own. Thanks for your sound advice, once again!
    P.S. I like your visual triangle for the photos 😉

  • karla says:

    Beautiful….Stainless has been around so long that is seems to have become a neutral. I like the idea of mixed metals, though some purist’s shuddered when I did not toss my brass hinges, knobs, and fireplace accessories and screen when I added Stainless and brushed nickel when I did a kitchen remodel. I think I will bring out some old brass stuff I stashed.

  • Alex says:

    Simple and lovely update!

  • Betsy OShea says:

    Mixing metals is tricky which is why as Maria points out, you must repeat the secondary metal so it looks intentional. I do however think that using three would be too much. One tip not mentioned here is the genius of metallic SPRAY PAINT! I used it on my front porch to unify the older copper fixtures w the new wrought iron. Now, all black on warm light gray exterior. I also spray painted my kitchen high hat light canisters white. They were ugly black. I’m getting the nerve to spray paint my beautiful Orb DR chandelier too. Now I have dark bronze and older (not shiny) brass in my LR/DR. Yet in kitchen I have nickel and stainless. They were obviously decorated in two different decades. Wish they flowed better but alas, when you’re not made of money this is often what happens. Get out the spray paint!

  • mrsben says:

    Excellent advice Maria. Love the upgrades used in your client’s kitchen. Pout … re the curtain rods why is so much of the nice stuff ‘to the trade only’? Back to the subject of mixing metals, am currently introducing polished nickel for two of my bathrooms. As have two more to go, will do the same as the rest of the home basically has variations of brass and I not about to change everything. For the bathrooms shall introduce brass again but on a much smaller scale which will be more in accessories like in picture frames, feet on a vanity stool, on soap dispensers etc. -Brenda-

  • Leslie A says:

    Beautiful! Can you share where you bought the gold & glass pendants / gold sconces in the kitchen with white tile back splash?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Leslie,
      That’s not my kitchen so I don’t have that information.
      Sorry I can’t help,

  • Glenda Isaac says:

    Wow, what a change! Thanks for the inspiration. I’m thinking of spray painting my nickel pendants (less expensive obviously) but wonder what to do with the canopies. Yours look black, should I do the same?

  • Tammy says:

    Rustoleum makes an amazing spray paint that would allow her to cheaply change that kitchen hardware too 🙂

  • Great post Maria! You never disappoint !

  • Noelle says:

    Definitely brightened up the space, but the lighting is very different as well. Was the “after” picture taken at a different time of day or is it professional photography lighting that I’m seeing?

  • Pam says:

    Not right on subject, but I noticed the flooring runs on an angle. I really like the way that works to visually expand the space.

  • Sheri Wible says:

    I’m a new follower, and I’m consuming your information as fast as I possibly can.

    We just moved into a new home that needs a lot of updates. I want to make timeless choices.

    I’ve read your blogs on mixing metals and also about using brass to update brown cabinets.

    I have brown cabinets which I plan to keep. We also have a copper vent hood over the cook top.

    My appliances and kitchen sink are stainless steel. The door handles, hinges, and light fixtures throughout the space are oil rubbed bronze.

    I would like to update the cabinet and drawer pulls. Should I look for antique copper drawer/door pulls? There is nothing else with copper in the entire room. I love the idea of brass. Should I add brass? If so I would have four metals in the space. Maybe I should repeat the copper with decor and go with polished chrome , brass, and oil rubbed bronze throughout the home.

    A few additional details, I plans to replace the backsplash with a light neutral subway tile. I will also repaint the walls.

    Any guidance is greatly appreciated.

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