Mixing Finishes


Whether decorating a new home or snazzying up an older model, the question often arises as to whether or not it is okay to mix finishes. Maybe all the doorknobs in your house are a shiny brass but you had your heart set on satin nickel in the kitchen and oil rubbed bronze in the loo. Or maybe you just can’t decide between polished nickel and polished brass. And satin nickel. And milk glass. And want them all in one space–the super expensive kitchen you are remodeling. You want it to look finished and pulled together and are afraid mixing finishes will give you a final product more akin to a Home Depot kitchen showroom than the Crown Point Cabinetry website.

Well, rest your pretty little head. While it is true that most of the pics of kitchens you find online will make you believe matchy match match is gospel, some Google Image searching will turn up quite a few well executed examples of mixing finishes in the kitchen without looking like you outfitted your cabinets in salvage off of eBay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Here are some real life worries regarding mixed finishes: 

I am planning on stainless cabinet hardware but want to get an ORB faucet….will this look okay?  

Can I mix matte bronze light fixture with satin nickel cabinet hardware?

Brushed nickel cabinet hardware, stainless steel sink and faucet…can I go dark bronze on the lighting?


These kinds of threads always pop up on the GardenWeb Kitchen Forum,  possibly the most useful reference and interactive website when it comes to remodeling a kitchen. As you can see from visiting the linked threads, there are some traditionalists out there who probably go so far as to match their faucet to their saucepan. That definitely is playing it safe.

But mixing finishes is not a strenuous task best undertaken by design mavens only. Even us commoners can use our good sense to pull off a fabulous mixed finish space without looking mis-matched. Let’s call in some visuals!


This shaker-style kitchen from the Crown Point Cabinetry website shows stained wooden knobs, stainless steel hood/range/sink/faucet and a wrought iron chandelier. The result is positively un-quirky.


Another example from the esteemed custom cabinet maker Crown Point, painted wooden knobs, copper sink and wrought iron pendants. Three different finishes, one unique charm!


GardenWebber Cotehele’s gorgeous kitchen remodel, complete with Horton Brasses dark antique cabinet hardware, stainless steel faucet and white fireclay sink.


From Southern Living, this kitchen shows the eclectic pairing of antique brass pendants, stainless steel appliances and oil-rubbed bronze cabinet hardware.


Bronze, stainless steel and brass finishes adorn this Nantucket kitchen featured in House Beautiful.


Above is a glimpse how mixing finishes can give a high end effect on a budget. This Ikea kitchen remodel, by DIY Gardenwebber Brickmanhouse, was done for under $20k. Finshes include glass as well as chrome bin pulls, fireclay sinks and a black chandelier. This kitchen definitely is an inspiration on many levels! For more pics and info, click here.

Below is my own personal favorite, which not so coincidentally happens to be my personal kitchen. I could bore you with the details: white enamel light fixtures, satin nickel and polished nickel hardware. And milk glass and crystal and antique brass. Satin nickel faucets as well as chrome w/brass. I could go on and on about the four different tiles, two different grout colors etc., but instead, you can look for yourself.

So, while I don’t want to squelch your creativity, let me share some guidelines (I use that word loosely) to help you ease your fear over mixing and matching your finishes.

1) Know your style. Defining your decorating style will give you a design neighborhood to work in and help you achieve a cohesive end product. Are you going for a cottage look? Is a vintage or period feel where you are headed? Or are you trying to create a sleek, modern space? Asking these questions early on will allow you to narrow down your style choices (bin pulls vs. bar pulls) and may also steer you towards certain finishes or away from certain finishes.

2) Look for natural divisions of space. Good design organic and not over thought. Examine your space and determine where there are natural divisions or breaks. You may want to offset a work island from the perimeter cabinets with different hardware. Or maybe bring in a finish on a hutch or pantry cabinetry. Another way to visually divide up your space is to think in terms of horizontal layers. Ceiling fixtures, then sink/faucets then cabinet hardware. There are many ways to break up the space, adding reason and order to your varying elements.

3) Be practical! Don’t forget to find out what kind of care goes into the finishes you’ve selected. Most lacquered hardware won’t require much upkeep at all, but do your homework. And don’t rule out chrome faucets just because the rest of your kitchen is chromeless. I promise you, the shine of chrome, while being bluer than the pink tones of polished nickel, will not clash. There will be no pictures turning up in the press with your kitchen listed as a “Fashion Don’t.” I promise.

4) Don’t sweat the small stuff. This goes along with “be practical” but I feel it is de rigueur for any list of guidelines to include this cliche’. What I am thinking about here is your sink drain. Get chrome. Trust me. I don’t care if your sink is black or white or stainless or pink. Chrome is the most durable finish and perfect for water applications. I had a Brasstech satin nickel basket for my drain and within a month or so I had myself a two toned satin nickel/brass basket where the finish rubbed off. Of course, if that is your idea of mixing finishes, than go for it.

5) Fill your kitchen with what you love! Another cliche’? Oh, totally! This is actually one of the most over-simplified decorating advice I’ve come across, but still, on one level it works. Of course, if you are like me and find yourself completely adulterous to any one style, you’re on your own. Perfecting that bohemian, time traveler look is probably one of the most complicated styles to execute. But if you’ve made it this far down my list of guidelines and have honed in on a specific style, divided your space up visually and have some practical ideas for your choices, then I say you have enough parameters to pick out your faves and deck your kitchen out in those things. That’s what I did.

16 thoughts on “Mixing Finishes

  1. ellen says:

    This is the same dilemma I have with my bathroom. I bought a vanity that has a handpainted parchment finish with dark wood top and sides, biscuit porcelain sink and pewter hardware and faucet. The pewter accents actually make no sense since the predominant colors and wood are all brown. I may have to replace the faucet (because I bought the vanity as is and it is missing a piece) and i need to buy a mirror, sconces, towel bar, etc. The selection is really limited in pewter and I prefer chrome, brushed chrome or nickel. It is a really small powder room so I am confused about what color finish I should go with. Advice will be appreciated.


  2. Orion Henderson says:

    I can’t tell you what will or won’t work out for you. I feel it is best to order samples of a variety of pieces of hardware in a variety of finishes and see what works best. I can’t speak for other companies, but with Horton Brasses you can return any and all hardware you don’t wish to use.


  3. sarah foley says:

    I am picking out a sink and faucet for a bar area/kitchen and wonder about putting in a copper sink, oil-rubbed bronze faucet and stainless appliances? Will this work? I also have pendants to put in and have no idea what color to go with there.


  4. nancy july 25 says:

    We have stainless appliances,labradore black counter top, bisque sink and oil rubbed bronze faucet, oil rubbed bronze ceiling light and oil rubbed bronze ceiling fan. is this to many different finishes


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  6. Leslie says:

    In regards to mixing finishes…we are building our own house (doing all the work ourselves) and are currently working on the kitchen. My cabinets are all hand made and are painted bright white. Walls are light tan, floor is pine, ceiling will be a brushed nickel tin tile. All the appliances are stainless. The light fixtures are all oil rubbed bronze (they stood out better on the nickel ceiling). So, my question is this, I am not searching for a sink and faucets. Originally we were going to put in a stainless sink to match with all the other stainless/brushed nickel in the kitchen but I am not sure that’s the direction I want to go. There will also be a stainless backsplash behind my counters and I am afraid it will all just blend into one another. Thought about oil rubbed bronze fixtures on the sink but don’t know that I have ever seen them on a stainless sink. Looked at oil rubbed bronze sinks, and am still in sticker shock. Thoughts…ideas on options that would go together but not fade into the walls etc?


  7. Jan says:

    We are building a craftsman style house. I chose brushed nickel faucets for the master bath. The shape suits the style. The cabinetry is quarter-sawn oak. Across the room we chose a claw-foot tub with oil-rubbed feet and fixtures. A small glass chandelier will hang above it. The dilemma is which hardware to use on the cabinets and which light fixtures to hang above them. Please help!


  8. Orion says:

    Leslie-not sure if there is a right or wrong answer to your dilemma. If possible I would try things out and see what you think. If it were me I would want my faucet to be the same as my sink (assuming it wasn’t stone). I would be quite happy to mix the hardware and lighting with those elements though. I like the look of oil rubbed lighting and hardware with stainless appliances and sinks.


  9. Orion says:

    Jan-there is no right or wrong here. I would suggest matching the hardware and lighting to one of the other metals-either the faucets or the claw foot tub. Again though, order samples and return what you don’t want. I think the oil rubbed be more dramatic with the oak, particularly a nice quatersawn oak. Nickel finishes might look very modern on a craftsman home.


  10. Lisa Bloch says:

    We are building a Nantucket shingle style home and are struggling with our door hardware finishes. We are using ORB on our stained mohagany front door and will have dark hardwood floors and light neutral colors throughout. We have a modern flare but want something that will stand the test of time. What are your thoughts about using either polished or brushed nickel or ORB on the interior doors and hardware? Also thoughts about lever or knobs? We are leaning toward polished nickel but are unsure. Thanks.


  11. Susan S. says:

    I have a beautiful polished brass faucet in my guest bathroom. Can you suggest a finish for my vanity light fixture and cabinet hardware. I want to mix finishes but I’m not sure which one to go with. Thanks!


  12. Orion says:

    Lisa-There is no right answer-whatever finish you prefer. Or use one finish for your cabinetry and the other for the architectural hardware-doors, etc. Both polished nickel and oil rubbed bronze (dark antique as we call it) are finishes that I don’t think are going to look dated in a decade.

    Susan: I suggest going with something very different if you are mixing. With polished brass you might blend with polished nickel-the texture of the metals will match while the color will contrast.


  13. DeDe says:

    Building a new kitchen, all appliances are stainless. I wanted a hammered copper farm/apron sink. I also love the commercial sprayer faucets but can’t find them in oil rubbed bronze. Will it look ridiculous with a stainless faucet?


  14. Orion says:

    Tough call there-my suggestion would be to bring a faucet that is the same color to a sink in the finish you want inside a store and see what you think. Or even snap pictures of each one and then play with them on a computer. I think you have to visualize it. Our sink is stainless and our faucet is chrome and that has never been a concern-admittedly though-that is not a big stretch. Seems like an oil rubbed finish faucet would be available and similar to copper.


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