A Touch of Brass
I was a teenager in the eighties, so I have fond memories of the “decade of excess”: Duran Duran, Dayglo and Dynasty. The latter was my favorite guilty-pleasure TV: the cat fights, the big hair, the giant shoulder pads and the OTT gowns: sequins, beads and gold lamé. It was tacky and over-the-top and I enjoyed every minute of it. As I grew up, everything that was so new and exciting became decidedly uncool. The nineties were all about minimalism: uniform dressing and brushed nickel were de rigueur. So imagine my surprise when gold and brass made a comeback. If the popularity of the gold iPhone is any indication, this trend has some staying power. LA designer and trendsetter Kelly Wearstler was one of the early adopters who fully embraced this gloriously exuberant material in her bold interiors, often dramatically offset with strong black-and-white color schemes.
In London it was cult designer Tom Dixon who blazed the trail with his groundbreaking furniture, lighting and accessories in gleaming copper and brass. Tom draws his inspiration from a wide variety of places: from olympic medals and space helmets to car parts and disco balls.
Lately I have surprised myself, when shopping my local hardware store – a favorite resource of mine for jewelry components – as I keep asking if they have hex nuts and chains with a brass finish. It has led to some quizzical looks when I explain what I intend to do with said hex nuts... Even in my mom-and-pop hardware store, it is clear: brass is back. There is a wider selection than ever for beautifully designed brass bathroom fixtures. These look best when used with a neutral color palette and classic materials such as statuary marble, and black-and-white checkerboard tiles.
Brass is such a strong statement that you will want to start with a smaller piece: a side table, drum stool or sculptural accent piece. Introduce color carefully, and always offset it with lots of white. Shades of blues and aqua partner best with golden hues, use pinks and reds sparingly.
Brass is the perfect material for lighting: pendants, sconces, table and floor lamps. At various height levels throughout the room, they will provide a touch of sparkle and reflection, which can make a huge difference in any space.
The newest thing about the current brass resurgence is the simple, no-fuss design aesthetic. Brass used to be crass! But no more, think basic shapes and simple outlines, brushed and hammered surfaces and functional rather than decorative detailing. These items are used in functional spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, not just the show-off dining room or powder room.
Speaking of kitchens, I absolutely adore this hammered brass kitchen by French designer Jean-Louis Deniot. What may have sounded like a crazy idea on paper – an all-gold kitchen?! - is one of the most amazing spaces I have seen in the last year: glistening, serene and breath-taking – a thing of beauty.
Even architectural components – doors, screens, ceilings and wall panels – have succumbed to the brass trend. And again, the designs are simple, geometric, even a bit Art Deco in feel. Of course Calico has its own gold offerings to add to the mix, check it the wide variety of patterns and textures in shades from honey to caramel, from cornsilk to amber.