How to Mix Woods and Metals in Home Decorating

Have you ever walked into a home where every single piece of furniture matches — the end tables, the dining table, the buffet, even the legs on the armchairs? I have, and let me tell you, it leaves a lot to be desired. While a matchy-matchy room may look great in a catalog, its appeal doesn’t translate in real life. In fact, it looks bland, boring, and totally forgettable.

After all, beauty is in the imperfections — patina on copper, an eclectic mix of patterns and accents, meshing furniture that shouldn’t go together but somehow does. Which leads me to this: In decorating, there are but a few general rules you should follow, and making sure your woods or metals match shouldn’t be one of them. Besides being terribly outdated, the rule also leaves your space looking more hotel than a home. And really, who wants that?

But figuring out how to seamlessly mix woods and metals isn’t always intuitive. Seeing a brass pendant and silver drawer pulls in the same room may feel wrong at first. Luckily, several designers have offered up some stellar recommendations on how to pull it off at home. Here are some of my favorite tips — read on and get inspired!

mix woods and metals
Mix woods and metals Image via

Limit a room to three wood tones

When it comes to mixing different woods, Lonny.com’s Kristin Hohenadel has the perfect formula: Start with a few tones and balance them throughout the room (read: don’t place all your dark furniture in one corner — it’ll make space look heavy).

“Once you have your anchor pieces in place, you can experiment by swapping out a walnut coffee table for a distressed-wood piece or adding a driftwood lamp or a bamboo pendant light for another layer of interest,” Hohenadel writes.

To take the focus off of mismatched pieces, add contrasting elements in between them, like Lucite chairs or a chrome-accented nesting table.

Choose and mix woods and metals

Blending metals requires the same rigorous editing as wood. I love Hohenadel’s suggestion about choosing one dominant metal and one contrasting metal to accent: “If most of the hardware finishes in a kitchen are oil-brushed bronze, that row of copper pots will add a warm glean. In a kitchen full of stainless steel appliances and restaurant-style countertops, a vintage chandelier in bronze or gold will add warmth and unexpected charm.”

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Have a room of gold-toned pieces but want to add a cool steel framed mirror? Make the mismatch look intentional by displaying a few other silver-toned pieces, says Jadyn Senior, a designer, and blogger at Dutch.British.Love. There’s no need to go big here — smaller items like frames, trays, or lamp bases can get the job done. (This trick works for wood as well.)

Fudge with fabric

You can also use textiles to balance out an odd-man-out piece. I’m a big fan of this workaround from Lindsay Ballard at Makely School for Girls: Upholster or paint another item of equal visual weight in a similar shade — it will tie in the mismatched piece with the rest of the room.

Sometimes it’s OK to match

Let’s face it — there are a few instances where matching woods or metallics are needed to keep the rest of the room from looking chaotic. Kristi Linauer, Addicted2Decorating’s designer-turned-blogger, swears by matching the hardware on doors— brushed nickel doorknobs and brushed nickel hinges, for example. Otherwise, “it’ll end up looking like you purchased whatever hardware you could find in the clearance bins,” she writes.

Meanwhile, blogger Sherry Petersik of Young House Love advises consistency in small spaces, like a half bathroom. “That’s just because things that close can look less layered and balanced in different tones,” she writes. “The last thing you’re going for is an I updated half the fixtures but left the rest so they don’t match effect.”

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