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Mixing Woods & Metals

There are a few frequently asked questions that we've heard from clients over the years. Two of which are:

Is it ok to mix the finish of your metals?

Is it ok to have two or more different wood species in a space?

And then after we give our positive assurances, the next question is always and inevitably, HOW?

Take the above project, our Rancho MCM home. Imagine if all the wood, from the ceiling to the countertops to the window trim to the floor, was the same tone, the same color. It would feel flat and lifeless. As people, our interior environments feel best when they reflect the natural world around us- think how great and transformative it feels to bring a healthy, happy plant home. Nature is layered with patterns and colors...and it's okay for your home to be the same.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by too many different tones, that's ok too! There are ways to bring in diversity and interest through textures. For example, our Hawthorne Modern project has a minimalist great room with lots of similar hues. However the monochromatic look still feels alive and fresh. The floor alone offers a variety of tints and shades while the leathers of both the stools and the sofa play on the same spectrum of warmth in new materials. The cabinets in the kitchen and the fireplace are a rift-sawn white oak, a much tighter grain than the floors or the coffee table though they all share the same species. The ash of the dining table is the lightest tone of all, amplified by the natural light streaming in through the windows.

Our Mt Tabor Basement project combines multiple shades of wood. The floor is a darker LVP, grounding the space and providing a depth that wouldn't be found with a lighter, more airier option. It still has movement vs. a solid tone which provides interest. The game table and chairs as well as the walnut side table pick up the tints and shades of the floor. The room divider is lighter as this piece has substantial visual and physical bulk and anything darker would potentially feel too heavy and invasive. If you were to take the warm woods of this room from the darkest point to the lightest, everything would be in the same warm caramel color though there are different species of woods represented here. It's almost following the same monochromatic rules as the Hawthorne Modern project but it goes further in both light and dark directions including all the shades in between.

So to recap on woods, yes it's ok! More than ok! Mixing creates diversity and liveliness. When in doubt, remember being a kid, playing with paints and watching your deep reds turn deeper with the more black and conversely, adding white allowing for beautiful pale blushes. Selecting different shades, textures or even cuts of wood of the same or similar hue is a good starting point for layering woods.

Mixing metals follows the same trajectory as woods: it allows for a space to be charismatic and dynamic. The butler's pantry area in our Alameda Ridge project mixes brass and black with its hardware, lighting and windows. The inclusion of brass brings a much welcome warmth and depth to the cabinetry rather than having all black finishes.

Our NW Nob Hill House has gorgeous cherry cabinetry accented with contrasting black hardware. However, the delicate faucet and pendant both have light touches of brass, picking up on the warmth of the cherry and not over-playing the darker hues of the black. The fridge and range are in stainless but viewed as a neutral, just the way jeans can be a neutral in fashion.

Like all materials, a decision should be made about finishes after all samples are in hand. Reviewing items together can make all the difference. In this same project, the primary bathroom finishes were all selected as matte black, from hardware to lighting to plumbing, due to the overwhelming warmth of the vanity wood. It was such a strong statement that it could handle the contrasting black accents.

One helpful hint to mixing metals is look at the components of your kitchen or bathroom as 'friend groups.' The best of friends have things in common but also provide contrast to keep things interesting. In the Mt Tabor Basement, the vanity is viewed all as one group while the shower is another. Brass lights, faucet, and a mirror connect with the warm wood of the vanity to be the star of the bathroom. The small black vanity knobs fade away to not attract attention and the polished nickel shower fixtures also blend into the background. Nickel is a great pairing with brass as it still has warm undertones but is its own separate entity. It might be a little overwhelming in this small guest bath if the shower system was also brass. It's ideal to have a spot for your eye to rest.

Similar 'friend groups' are found in our SW Modern Home's primary bath. This time our groups are divided into type rather than location: all bath fixtures are in polished chrome and all lighting, windows and accents are in matte black. The vanity hardware and the mirrors are seamless which provide a fun pop of contrast for the black. Ideally your eye moves from the sculptural lights to the black-framed gorgeous view outside to the wood vanity inside. The faucets, counters and walls allow light to bounce and reflect.

If you're looking for a challenge, you can mix up your metal 'friend groups' even more. For example, our Council Crest MCM bathroom has a matte black tub faucet paired with matte black mirrors. Not necessarily a friendly couple you would initially think goes together but like Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, it works! The black faucet creates a defined moment for the tub and the black mirrors provide lovely contrast for the brass lights and accessories. Brass on the vanity hardware and faucet melt away, giving an overwhelming soft and gentle feel to the space.

When in doubt, play matchmaker with your metals and decide where you would like the focus to be in your space. Is it the view outside your kitchen window? The antique vanity mirror or new cool sconces? Is it your awesome walk-in shower that you can't WAIT to use? Once you decide who should be the star, then you can start pairing friends together as supporting cast members, based on type, location or where contrast may be most appreciated. Gather your materials and review everything together when making decisions. Break out your color pencils and create a small sketch! Build a mood board in Google slides or Photoshop!

There are so many rules and guidelines found online and in design resources that sometimes it can feel overwhelming and 'safer' to not take any chances. There are countless ways to design a room, to mix woods and metals and we want our clients to enjoy what they enjoy without worrying that they are combining elements the 'wrong' way. If you need more guidance, we are here to help!

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