04 March 2014

Dear Miss Cote de Texas


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Dear Miss Cote de Texas:   I am building a house in Chapel Hill NC.  Style is Country French with classical touches.  Architect said if faucets in bath and kitchen are chrome I have to go with all silver, grey, pewter, nickel  or shades there of throughout house.  I.e. light fixtures, door hardware, etc  I have beautiful lanterns planned for hall in a medium antique bronze by Phoenix Day and other pieces  in dark bronze and shades of grey pewter by Urban Electric Co.  I would love to do door hardware in an aged pewter or satin nickel. A lot of the fixtures can be seen from one room to another.  None of them scream at each other but I do want harmony but not boring.  Any advice would be appreciated.


So, the question is about hardware.  Does it all have to match throughout the house?

The short answer to that question is NO.  And YES.  Whether or not your hardware matches or blends throughout your house is a personal preference. 
It’s like asking – does everything in your house have to be symmetrical and perfectly balanced?  Well, NO, it doesn’t if you don’t care for symmetry – and YES, if you do like balanced designs.


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Symmetry – yes?

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Asymmetry – yes?


In other words, like the symmetry/asymmetry question - there is no right or wrong answer to whether your hardware should match.  But, just like I am a symmetry lover, I like hardware to match.

Let’s back up a bit before we dissect the answer.

When Ben and I bought our house about 20 years ago – shiny brass was all the rage here in West University.   Throughout our neighborhood - door knobs, faucets, kitchen knobs, and hinges – were all shiny brass.  And – like my peers, I too had small round knobs throughout, along with door levers made in brass and I was in love and thought it was the best looking hardware around. 
About 10 years later, the pewter look started coming in style,  especially the rough, handmade looking hardware.   Around that time, white marble kitchens also came into popularity along with stainless steel appliances.  And with that – shiny nickel gained popularity to pop off the white marble.  In other words – my brass looked horribly dated, as did my countertops.
And so, around 8 years ago, I took the plunge and replaced every single piece of brass in my house with a faux rough pewter and added a shiny nickel faucet in my kitchen (which went with my new white marble kitchen.)
I thought I was set and finished.  Never again would I have to worry about hardware in my house again.
 
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Basket weave faux handmade pewter. 

And then – brass came back.  And it’s HUGE.  It’s EVERYWHERE.
Conundrum.

I’m not going back.  I swear.  NO!

But – the look is suddenly young and it’s perfect for the younger set.  It’s paired a lot with dark painted cabinets and that is where brass looks fabulous.



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Such as this – the brass hardware, faucet and sink matched with a dark gray paint.  Beautiful!



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Kelly Wearstler in dark green with brass.  The backsplash is too much for me, but the brass and green is beautiful.

I would think the FIRST question for you is – do you want to go with shiny brass?  I would first rule out shiny brass or decide to go with mostly chrome/nickel/pewter.

Now, if you choose shiny brass like this – in the kitchen, I would use brass throughout.  I would never mix this shiny brass with shiny nickel or pewter.  So – if you shiny brass, carry it throughout – all the way.  

Now – if you want to mix shiny brass with other metals – I would mix it with oil rubbed bronze and vintage brass. 


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This homeowner used chrome – and then mixed in shiny brass.  It doesn’t look horrible, but I would have done brass hardware too.  I just don’t understand this.  Why mix it up – it just looks accidental.



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This just makes sense – the white marble, the chrome, and the crystal. 




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Now, here – they used the oil rubbed bronze which DOES look good with satin brass.



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Again,  satin brass looks good with the oil rubbed bronze.



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White marble, shiny brass – and this looks good with the crystal mixed with gold.



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This designer used Restoration Hardware – then had the chrome plated to this brass.  HERE



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Brass with white marble.  Bunny Williams added an interesting texture to the backsplash and hood.




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Love this – Brooke Shields.  I would mix in brass with this.



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Randy Powers – green cabinets with stainless and chrome.  Notice the chairs with the chrome.




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Remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s Hampton’s kitchen?  Today – she would probably use brass instead of chrome. 



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I love the uniformity here.  And I love the large icebox hinges.




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Here – because everything is shiny – it looks good together.  Even the barstools and floor are shining.



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ut this look awful.  Just awful.  These metals are so far apart – and the blue tiles – it’s just awful.  The metals must relate in order to mix them – this brass looks pink.



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Again – no.  There is something about the color of these pendants that looks bad with the bronze.  No. 


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And I love mixing in a fabric/rattan/straw pendant. 



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This mixture works.  The ceiling, floor, and table blend in with the light fixture.  And here, the blue works – because it’s deep blue mixed with cream.  May I say, if you are going to mix your metals – use a professional.   This shows you how put in capable hands – a mixture can look wonderful.  I love this kitchen.


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Jackye Lanham mixes stainless and antique pewter with fabric – and it’s fabulous.  Again – a professional did this kitchen, and it shows.




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Lanham mixed metals again – including pewter, iron, and shiny nickel and silver.  Again – these metals are all in the same family and are easy to mix and look good. 


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All stainless – with black.  A tiny kitchen, pretty.


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Mixing red with black and white. Jeffrey Bilhuber – love.  But again, this should be left for the professionals.



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his is great – but the chairs KILL it.  I would have done a white slipcovered chair here.  This linen fabric and light wood is all wrong with the cool colors. 



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Velvet and Linen recently built a new house – and mixed all the metals.  Here brass and stainless look good together – the wood tone bridges the metals. 



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Brass is a living element.  They chose unpolished brass.  It will naturally patina – you can see the process has already started. 





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I like how this matches – the steel doors and the lights and the granite.  BUT – I am matchy matchy.  A bronze will look good here too. 



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  1. Ever since Ginger Barber’s cone pendant – I’m in love with them.  Here – the brass inside matches the hardware – while the stainless hood blends.  Notice how the large wood boards bridge the metals.



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Is this so matching that it is boring?  Would a bronze or brass fixture been better?



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Kelly Wearstler – dark paint and brass.  I can’t see adding in chrome or stainless in a house like this  - it would have to be all brass.


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A mix of antique brass and matte chrome with stainless.  




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All in the family – oil rubbed bronze and stainless.  Nothing shiny, all matte.  Again, vintage brass over the island would have worked too.



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Here – all in the family.  But, since there is shiny mixed with matte – there is no brass, which is correct.



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Shiny chrome and nickel and tiles with matte countertop – so no mix of metals.  Right choice.  I love the oversized icebox hinges and handles.  The wood shelves add a nice organic touch/texture.




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This open living concept mixes all metals and painted finishes and it works because it all seems to blend together.  I see brass sconces on the right, painted iron over the dining table, dark iron over the island, crystals and brass in the living room. 


Suzanne Kasler:
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In several pictures from one house by Suzanne Kasler – you can see that she has mixed it all up – and it works.  The door hardware is oil rubbed bronze while her light fixture is matte brass.  The mirrors are also brass and there are black iron tables which blend in.  There would be no reason to have brass hardware on the doors, the mixture of these metals works great.


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In the dining room – the chandelier has the dark iron base which works with the sconces and the hardware around the house.  The iron base is a great choice if you want to mix in a crystal chandelier.




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In the family room – the iron and oil rubbed bronze are mixed here.  Again, a matte brass would have worked too.



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And in the kitchen – all the metals are mixed again – but they are are dull, not shiny, so they blend nicely.   Shiny brass would have thrown everything off here.



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And in the bedroom – the mixture continues with the bronze hardware and matte brass sconces.


So, to sum it up – it’s personal if you choose to mix metals.
If you do – here are a few rules to follow:

1.  If you use shiny and matte metals together, keep them in the same color family – either chromes/nickels or brass.

2.  If you use all matte – mixing metals looks good, especially antique and matte brass with satin nickel and oil rubbed bronze.

3.  If you mix the metals in the kitchen – continue the trend throughout the house.  Just be careful not to overdo it the number of choices.  Have a professional look at your choices to be sure.
4.  Remember less is more.  It’s nice to have continuity throughout – pick one knob, one door handle.  Don’t get overwhelmed in the hardware store and buy everything you like.
5.  There’s nothing wrong with understated.  Using the same knob and handle throughout can be very soothing.  To dress up doors to public areas – buy backplates for the door handles.

I hope this has helped!

If you have a design question- mail it to cotedetexas@aol.com
I’ll be glad to try to answer it for you.
If you submitted a question and I never answered it but you still want an answer – resubmit it!!!
























































































45 comments:

  1. I love brass and I am so glad it has made a comeback! I find that in climates with a colder and northern light that chrome and stainless steel only accentuate the starkness of light and brass gives that sunny glow and add warmth in the room. I don't mind mixing metal finishes but some people are very finicky about matching. During a recent refurb I would have liked to change all the hardware but to save money we kept most of our stainless steel hardware but I did just one room in brass finishes and it is good for a change of mood and atmosphere. But I am finding the range in brass hardware not as comprehensive in the UK as it was forgotten for the past decade or so. I am looking forward to the different finishes the companies might produce now that brass is back in favor!

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  2. Hmmm, so brass is back. I remember building a home in the 90's and having the brass door levers, etc, throughout, too. I don't know, at this point I just don't EVER see myself wanting to use it anywhere in my home other than maybe my bathroom - I like a feminine bathroom, and so brass and crystal knobs and gold-framed mirrors could work for me. I really dislike it it the kitchen, no matter what the current trend is...

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    1. I think the polished brass trend is for the young who haven't already lived through it. Just my thought. It's very trendy with the dark walls.

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  3. Very timely post for me Joni. I am about to begin construction on a modern, mountain/rustic vacation home. I am struggling with the metal finishes! I thought I wanted all matte satin nickel bath fixtures, door hardware and cabinet hardware - with a few light fixtures in dark bronze. But now I'm very confused on the overall look. Ugh ..... Time to rethink. Thanks! Beth

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  4. Such a great post! These are the little things that I think even the trade (especially the trade?) could use an annual refresher course on. Yay for mixing metals. I agree it takes some practice to get right, and comes down to personal preference, but it can be much more interesting than the "I ordered everything off of one board!" builderish look that seems so prevalent these days, especially if you're fighting the builderish runs of cabinets that feel like they're about to swallow you alive. Love the un-lacquered brass, used it in our bar/pantry and powder room.
    The only thing I can't appreciate are fabric or paper shades in a kitchen. It's funny what "rules" stick in your head over the years.

    PS I think those lights that were hitting you as pink are actually copper, aren't they? I kinda like 'em. I wouldn't want that finish all over, but corralled like that it could grow on me.

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    1. Maybe. it's hard to tell from just pictures. one picture - it said it was chrome, but i swear it was a pink brass finish.

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    2. Who knows? The Photoshop monster could have painted it pink-y, and it really is chrome. So annoying, and bad for business, unless you're in spray paint sales and "metallic finishes that don't actually exist" is your department. But that's another subject for another day. Truly loved this post, by the way. Almost like a book chapter....le sigh...

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  5. Excellent post Joni! I am in total agreement with your selections. I love mixing metals but only as you have stated. This was a great post for anyone questioning the mix. You used some great examples!

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  6. I don't agree with a lot of your examples - some of your "No"s work well for me and I find others (ie the Velvet and Linen kitchen) hideous. Unless you are KW and your interiors are basically art, you should not be using polished (or "shiny" as Joni calls it) brass. It will be nothing more than a flash in the pan, ever. Bad advice here. Antique or unlacquered brass, however, is classic IMHO and goes well mixed with oil rubbed bronze or even brushed nickle or chrome depending. Polished brass might be okay for the blogosphere where trends are thrown out as if you're purchasing a pair of socks instead of something which should stand the test of time, but it's not okay in 99.9% of homes.

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    1. huh? you LOVE unpolished brass but hate Velvet and Linen's???? what??????????? and i gave bad advice but you repeated exactly what i said - polished should be with polished. matte - goes good with oild rubbed bronze and matte nickel and chrome - my point exactly. i don't think you actually read what i wrote.

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  7. Hmmmm...architecture determines, to me, "what looks right." Rustic=burnished, Modern=Shiny...but then..I'm a "matchey-matchey" personality. :) franki

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  8. o i remember changing every knob in my kitchen from brass to chrome. its was so popular in the 80's but i think its trendy and chrome is here to stay, unless you want to be trendy.

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  9. I really appreciate how thoroughly you answered the question and gave so many excellent examples!! Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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  10. What a great overview, Joni! When I saw your email in my inbox, I ran and got a large cup of tea and sat down to enjoy your take on this issue. So many beautiful images!! Thank you for addressing this and for giving us your valuable input. I agree with your views and love a harmonious, symmetrical (I say "quiet") interior.

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  11. Oh to have a Jackye Lanham kitchen! Beautiful examples, thank you. Best wishes!

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  12. Personally, I hate to be a slave to fashion. Unfortunately, fashion often dictates the availability and cost of many items. The poster from the UK made a VERY good point about the quality of light dictating the color and type of metal. In Southern California where I live, the sun is very bright and golden most of the year. Polished brass is very garish. I use it sparingly, and only in rooms that are used at night or receive minimal sunlight. Although I love English decor, one of the reasons I switched from English to French Country is that my climate is more like Southern France than like England. It is ridiculous to fight Mother Nature! And, I use ORB and black wrought iron except in the bathrooms where Polished Chrome is the only practical choice due to its durability.

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  13. This has been most helpful. I am having a house built by a national builder and have to make all my choices tomorrow on the fixtures. I need to decide whether to pick from their selection or replace everything after I move in. I too need symmetry and am making a few changes to achieve that.

    The toughest part iis trying to pick flooring options for the house-I need a Cote de Texas review -- tile or wood

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  14. This is a subject that would have turned my hair gray—if it weren't already! In 1989 I did a cosmetic update of my kitchen and installed an unpolished brass gooseneck faucet. Everyone thought I was nuts. I loved it. In my yet to be finished kitchen, I annexed part of the living room to make a 53' open space at the back of our house to include the kitchen, a working pantry, a dining room/library to be a place to enjoy our retirement and the garden views. By far the hardest choices have been the lighting and fixtures. I've dubbed my kitchen what happened when Williams Sonoma took Sur la Table out to dinner at a French bistro. It is a working kitchen with tools being honored and treasured. I knew it would have lots of stainless, chrome, black...but in the dining/library portion I wanted golden tones to look good in the firelight. I finally settled on using painted finishes...and dimmers! We'll see how it turns out. BTW, I think Brooke's kitchen is beautiful. It suits her evolved style for today and fits in with her rural location and as Charlotte pointed out, the light. As for Dear Miss, I can't believe the research and effort you put into this post! I expect a pop quiz at noon, professor.

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  15. You wrote this: " Is this so matching that it is boring? Would a bronze or brass fixture been better?" but I love, love it. In my very unprofessional opinion it looks authentically old and flows.. It reminds me of what would go in the servants' kitchens in the Newport Mansions. ; - )

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  16. Great post Joni! Your advice is spot on and I really appreciate you opening up the dialogue. I giggle everytime I see people gushing over brass now, of course it is a much prettier brass than in the 80s. Back then I chose an antique brass, the shiny was too much for my eye, but all my hardware was brass. I don't mind mixing things up, but main pieces have to marry well to the room, especially lighting fixtures. Great post! Thank you for all your research and always sharing your knowledge,
    Kathysue

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  17. It's funny how the "rules" of interior design change from one decade to the next. I like what Nate Berkus said about what makes a room look like it's not decorated by a designer… it's about breaking the rules of design. To make a room look like it's evolved over time, you don't want things all "matchy-matchy". Personally, I think the prettiest rooms have a mix of finishes, textures, & are eclectic. Take a look at Lauren Liess's latest kitchen in Domino mag. She mixed all different sorts of metals in matte AND shiny, and it still looks terrific!!
    Kat

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  18. Spectacular selection of spaces, Joni - especially the kitchens. Can't believe today's subject because JUST TODAY I had to comprimise. I looked on Amazon for painting lights and couldn't find one I liked better (look and price) of one at a local lighting store. Except the one at the store was silver, and the painting has a golden frame. I have brass toned sconces I eventually want to replace that are nowhere near the painting. The hinges on the windows and doors of the living/dining room are a dull brass, and the handles are a dull silver! (previous owner). I have a floor lamp and some metal tables in aged brass. Somehow when I replace the sconces, I want to do it in chrome or pewter and have it vaguely art deco. I overdid my love of gold with so many frames. I know my explanation on this is as messed up as the metals in my living room. Question is: have you seen a dull silver/chrome light working with a golden frame? Thanks

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  19. When we renovated I used matt and shiny nickel in my kitchen. I remember agonizing over what to use for door hardware. I had it in my mind that I wanted all the door knobs to match the few glass with brass that remained from the 20s. I went with ORB and am happy with the choice. There are a few of the old knobs here and there that don't bother me. Remind me of the past. I did use back plates on the external as well as some internal doors as you suggested. They make a huge difference. Should be interesting to see if my choices stand the test of time. Thanks for another great post!

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  20. This is one of my favorite features on your blog, Joni. I enjoy the vast variety of information and choices you present. I love brass and bronze in light fixtures, but I prefer nickel in bathrooms. Looking at the brass hinges in this house, I prefer Uncoated brass that is allowed to age. I like the patina.

    Great job with this presentation.


    xo

    Sheila (excuse typos as I am on the IPAD)

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  21. Very interesting post and very well done. My home was built in 1930 with solid brass hardware--knobs, hinges, etc. The kitchen and bath faucets were chrome. I would assume that a great many houses built in this period or even earlier would have had the same mix. I have since replaced the kitchen and bath faucets and at some point I used brass and at some point I used nickel, but I cannot see ever replacing all of the 80+ year old hardware. So I guess I would say you can mix it if you keep the basic "hardware" (as opposed to faucets) consistent throughout the house.

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    1. Same here with my house built in 1928 (not too far from Chapel Hill, NC - Go Heels!). Except for polished nickel and chrome in the kitchen and baths, the hardware is all solid brass and the door knobs are mortised locks. The brass is untreated and aged - the door handles used often are brighter around the edges while those seldom used are a matte brown, rather like oiled rubbed bronze. I love this look, and it works well with the original stained woodwork. The kitchen and baths are mostly white with black, and the chrome and polished nickel look great in there. The master bath door has brass on the room side and polished nickel on the bath side. I suppose with modern open floor plans and kitchens open to family rooms, it might cause more of an issue. I've re-done the knobs a few times in the kitchen, which we gutted when we moved in 26 years ago, and which I kept white and classic. At the time bright lacquered brass was in, and I used knobs and bin pulls in that, which I replaced after they started tarnishing through the lacquer. The last time I went with the polished nickel bin pulls, which worked with the chrome faucet, and antique style glass knobs on the doors. I love the look and it seems more in keeping with the age of the house. I have replaced the bath faucets out of necessity, but mimicked the originals, including porcelain hot and cold knobs on the pedestal sink. If it's classic, there's no point in changing for a trend. I realize it's a lot harder picking everything for a new house, but I would try to go for a look that's stood the test of time and not just a current trend. That said, I think sometimes it helps to think warm or cool and how this fits into your overall decorating style. Bronze and aged brass are warm; nickel and pewter are cool. If I were doing a house that was supposed to be Country French, I would study what the hardware looked like in the originals - old houses in France. I think that's what influenced Brooke at Velvet and Linen. Good luck - so many decisions with a new home!

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  22. I'm in France and last night one of the main channels had a special called "La maison preferree des Francais". Homes all over France were featured and the public voted for their favorite.
    You'll see renovated homes and current decorating styles - you might be surprised! Remember: the homes featured were the runner-ups of many initially submitted. Also, this is all
    about the visuals so I'm sure your highschool French wil carry you through - enjoy!

    http://pluzz.francetv.fr/videos/la_maison_preferee_des_francais_saison2_,98051422.html

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  23. The one metal finish which was popular along with the dull pewter is the rust/bronze finish. If you have a very large kitchen and have used satin nickel hardware on cabinets, a polished
    nickel faucet (because it looks like jewelry), is it appropriate to use a bronze hardware on a large wet bar/beverage center which is in the breakfast area of the kitchen and which is painted a different
    color and styled like a piece of furniture? I have asked a number of professionals and have gotten a yes based on the feel of the room; however, I am still uncertain about it myself.

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  24. My front door had the original 80 year old hardware on it and I was told it was white brass. Snice I wanted to keep my original door, I had my hardware golden brass plated. It looks just like new and cost $100. What a deal. The brass plater said there are only a few factories who do the plating, so he sent it off. It took almost 6 weeks to get it back. My husband was so grumpy everytime he looked at the door and saw the hole in the door without the knob! Anyway, it worked out great.

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    1. If you have high quality hardware or fixtures this is a great idea. I have had Urban Archaeology in New York City replate knobs and it was very successful.

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  25. Everything in design repeats itself on some level doesn't it. I think it's worth mentioning trends are necessary for marketing and making money in the industry. I say use whatever speaks to you, whether that be what the trendsetters recommend or if it's just the opposite. Dare to be you as they say :)

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    1. "Dare to be you" - I like that although it's hard to achieve given the pressure from the design industry. So, does the adage "dare to be you" also go for wallpaper styles?

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  26. I don't comment on blog posts very often, but I wanted to say thank you for all the time that goes into your posts. When I see an update from you in my blog roll, I know it will be a worthwhile read. In the world of design blogs, Cote stands out with truly original and well-written content. I am a devout design lover, and my personal tastes are way more modern than the homes that you display, but your blog is still my favorite. I find your writing to be endlessly informative and entertaining. It's especially refreshing at the moment, with so many blogs that feel the pressure of a daily update, only to make mostly halfhearted efforts. So really all of this to say: this guy in his 30's with modern sensibilities adores your blog. Thank you!!

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  27. I'm reading your post on "Texas" & it is amazing information for me. Thanks.

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  28. For the woman in Chapel Hill building her house:
    I would say fire that architect asap,,....... especially if the rest of his ideas are that off base! Obviously the only taste he has is in his mouth! LOL!
    Seriously , having been in the design business for many years and having had to correct many mistakes of architects ( when considering the fenestration of a house, many are infamous for forgetting that furniture will , indeed, be placed in the rooms) , there are not too many that I have run into in my 40 years of practice who are very good at decorating or interior design. Their talents usually lie elsewhere.
    Although Miss CdT's suggestions are very good, it might be helpful to hire an Interior Designer, preferably an ASID member, since usually many similar issue crop up when building. You can find a listing online through ASID. I am a N.C. member and do know that there are plenty of talented designers in your area. Please forgive my trying to be humorous if it is offensive and best of Luck!

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  29. Your posts are always full of the most delicious eye candy, Joni! I love how thoroughly you research each one, and I always end up pinning images from your posts. Just a thought, though -- those two kitchens where you thought the pendants looked pink. Aren't those a copper finish rather than brass? I noticed that in each of them, the stylist has also placed a copper pot or teakettle on the stove.

    My thoughts about hardware: the main reason brass went out of style in the first place was the ubiquity of cheap, builder-grade brass plated fixtures. Those cheap imitations age horribly and left everyone hating "brass." The high-end, well made hardware looks gorgeous forever as its patina evolves. Like you, I ripped every single doorknob, hinge, and light fixture with the tacky cheapo brass out of my house soon after we bought it and replaced it all with oil-rubbed bronze. It was quite the undertaking, so if I ever get sick of ORB I'll have to just move to another house with different finishes! ;-)

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  30. Totally obsessed with vintage brass fixtures!

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  31. Everything in architecture repeats itself on some akin doesn't it. I anticipate it's account inadvertence trends are all-important for business and authoritative money in the industry. I say use whatever speaks to you, whether that be what the trendsetters acclaim or if it's just the opposite. Dare to be you as they say.
    ghost mannequin | background knockout | glamor retouching

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  32. Hi
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  33. Hello! Love your blog and the pictures on this post are stunning! Quick question - in the photo with the white kitchen (and purple flowers) there is a beautiful round chandelier in the foreground. Do you happen to know who designed that? Or where the photo came from that may have that information attached? It's exactly what i've been looking for. Thanks so much!

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  34. Wow! How nice post. I like it personally. It is very helpful to us. It is also very informative sharing. Thanks for your sharing .
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  35. Nowadays a lot of people like to design houses with some vintage products. Like stalling some Antique Taps Antique Taps in bathroom and kitchen. It became more amd more popular right now. Even the Bathroom Accessory, people also like to buy some Garden style antique accessories. Find more antique or other style taps, please check here: www.uktaps.co.uk

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  36. Chers amis, nous avons récemment rénové notre nouvelle maison, mais la sélection d'une tête convenable vraiment dur. Ma sœur m'a dit que beaucoup de familles utilisent maintenant Robinet LED, mais je crains était la vie ne tarde pas. Je préfère encore les antique robinets, Mitigeur douche et Accessoires salle de bain sont une bonne lecture. Je vous souhaite une expérience d'un ami peut me donner quelques conseils. Merci.

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