Give credit to brass for the gleam in your eye this Thanksgiving. The often-overlooked metal will infuse any space in your home with a bit of shine, if used correctly, said Patrick Madden, buyer/stylist/merchandiser for Madden-McFarland Furniture & Design Boutique.
“Whether you are using a shiny, reflective brass or a brass with a patina, both will give you a strong impact for your home,” said Madden. “The acquired, aged brass gives a look of warmth and almost a sense of the past. … The shiny, reflective brass gives you a crisp, clean look.”
The hearty metal has a glow that mixes well with the warm, rusty hues for fall on mantels and tabletops, but the glow doesn’t have to be too bright in today’s homes, said Ilianna Rafie, marketing strategist at Trapp and Company.
“Many baby boomers still think of brass as the shiny, cheap-looking finish of bathroom fixtures from the ’70s and ’80s,” said Rafie, who suggests mixing brass with copper and silver for a contemporary, metallic feel. “Today’s brass is more elegant and comes in a broad array of finishes.”
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Trapp and Company is devoted to brass year-round, said Rafie, and the store’s entryway on Main Street echoes its glowing sentiments about the metal. Rafie and the Trapp team introduced three oversized “caged lanterns” to greet customers with their simple, modern shapes and elegant brassy finishes. Combined with a bevy of brass elements throughout the store, Trapp and Company illustrates that brass can lend class to almost any room or occasion.
Debbie and Paul Stevermer have lived in Central Hyde Park since 2008. They bought a home in dire need of repair that was built in 1909. Along with acquiring an eight-foot hole in the sitting room ceiling and missing columns that were reportedly used as firewood, the Stevermers counted five original brass light fixtures in their bounty. With elbow grease in their family genes, the pair polished the entire home and the fixtures to make them function in a new century.
“We decided to keep the brass fixtures, because we needed something with life to counterbalance the dark wood,” said Debbie, of the home’s original dark wood moldings, floors and columns that remain sans paint.
Debbie thinks that finding the home was fate. For instance, she chose to paint the dining room ceiling a metallic gold prior to peeling back the layers of old wallpaper in the room to reveal gold leaf in several spots. As the Stevermers uncovered more of these pieces of the past, they tried to stay authentic to the home’s original design aesthetic.
“Paul likes to say that I lie naked on the floor in a room until the house speaks to me,” laughed Debbie, who believes that any spirits that roam their halls are happy with the home’s restoration.
The gold leaf, gold ceilings, brass fixtures and antique finds in the Stevermer home are reminiscent of the past. However, the Stevermers have combined these elements with modern furnishings to create an eclectic collection that works with all metals.
Apt entertainers and local philanthropists, the Stevermers love to share their home with others. Debbie already set their dining room table for Thanksgiving with brassy chargers that are on trend and old-fashioned at the same time, a mixture that is similar to the shiny alloy on spotlight in home design.
Patrick Madden and Connie Fey, designers at Madden-McFarland, share some guidelines for going gilded this fall:
▪ Mix a bit of the exotic with brass to give a room a punch of adventure and sophistication. For instance, the round elk horn table with brass accents and an etched brass top is a wonderful piece. (Table available at Madden-McFarland)
▪ Avoid mixing items like doorknobs, hinges, bathroom fixtures, etc. If you are going to make the change from nickel to brass with these types of things, go all in or just wait until you are ready to make that commitment.
▪ When using brass or other metals to accessorize, less is best. A few accents here and there may be acceptable, but you don’t want your eye bouncing off of all the reflective metals in a room, especially when they are different types.
▪ Emerald, cobalt, white, ivory, charcoal and cherry red are great color options with brass. The cooler based tones add contrast and depth to brass’s warm finish.
▪ Mixing antique brass with some of the natural and reclaimed wood furnishings we see in home design today is a great way to add grace and warmth to a Thanksgiving setting.