The Brass Facts: The Modern Renaissance of a Longstanding Finish

DesignPerspectivesBrassFacts

Brass is back, and better than ever. Unlike the shiny, too-bright brass of the 1980s and early 1990s, today’s brass is more subdued and nuanced with patina, creating storied, sophisticated looks that are posh, polished, even opulent, without being ostentatious.

It’s no secret that interior design trends often follow in the footsteps of runway fashion, and brass certainly made its way down the catwalk before making its return to home finishes. As interior metallics continue to parallel looks from the apparel and accessories market, we’re seeing brass appear in decor throughout the home, from bath fixtures to lighting, fabrics, and, of course, tile.

Some design aficionados would say quality brass furnishings never truly went out of style, while those elements of lesser quality wore out their welcomes due to being more difficult to clean and maintain than the popular stainless steel, chrome, brushed silver and rubbed bronze of late. Often, in order to combat such maintenance issues, earlier brass was lacquered. This made it easy to clean, but kept the surface looking unnaturally shiny and perpetually new-minted. Modern designs are more focused on incorporating innately beautiful raw metals that develop unique patinas with age, growing more visually attractive over time.

Always a contrast to the cool tones of silver and aluminum finishes, brass’ warm metal appeal speaks to a multitude of cultures and international design styles—Moroccan, Italian, English—and offers a soft, glowing quality that helps a space feel more inviting. A tendency towards patina and aged metallics allows for a cohesive interplay of subtler and more natural tones, rather than strong pops of faux-gold yellow. The return to brass is less concerned with bling and perfect finishes and more interested in elegance and aged sophistication.

Even if you don’t want to part with the cooler, silver tones prevalent in decor over the last decade or more, you can easily blend in the brass. With their non-competing patinas, today’s brass interpretations readily complement other finishes, adding depth and interest even when used in simple accent pieces such as lamps, candlesticks, mirrors or picture frames. So whether you’re looking to add just a touch of polish, or make a grand, on-trend statement, look to modern brass for a gleam of go-anywhere warmth, glamour and elegance.