Brass is back

Rebecca and William Phalen felt their formal dining room needed a fresh look – and little sparkle.

For help and ideas, the Phalens turned to Joann Kandrac, designer and co-owner of Kandrac & Kole Interior Designs. The couple had previously worked with their firm on several larger projects in their East Cobb home.

The new design had to incorporate the dining room table and, more importantly, the gold-framed oil painting of a marsh on St. Simons Island, where William grew up.

While the new rug, accessories and art (some reframed in brass) warmed up the traditional space, the contemporary and curvy brass chandelier adds some glitter and glamour.

“The gold frame was the inspiration and key reason we incorporated brass into the room,” said Kandrac. “The fixture is a favorite of mine, and I was so excited when we had the opportunity to put it into a client’s home.”

The Phalens are thrilled with their “new” dining room, especially the 10-light Ringmaster Chandelier by Atlanta-based Currey & Co.

“It adds a wow factor to the room,” said Rebecca, an attorney and mother of three children, ages six, eight and 10. “But the entire room is now more inviting.”

If you haven’t noticed, brass is back. No, not that shiny lacquered brass of the 1980s and early 1990s.

If you elected to get rid of your old shiny brass fixtures, faucets and cabinet knobs, don’t fret, said Kandrac. The new brass doesn’t look like the old.

“The brass being used now has a more muted, matte and weathered finish,” said Kandrac. “The metals in today’s brass will age and become more attractive over time, without the high shine.”

As a warm and timeless metal, brass is not only being used in lighting, it has re-emerged in other areas of interior design, ranging from bath and kitchen fixtures to furniture and decorative accessories.

If you are wary but want to incorporate more brass throughout your home, consider these tips from Kandrac, Amy Wikman of Atlanta-based Bjork Studio, houzz.com and the National Kitchen and Bath Association, a trade group.

Where to use brass

Kitchen: Brass accents add sophisticated warmth and often a pop of color to a kitchen. Make a statement with a range hood or add a golden touch of brass elegance on a faucet, backsplash or island. The French manufacturer La Cornue offers its made-to-order Chateau series of ranges with brushed brass trim (or stainless steel).

Bathroom: Brass fixtures and hardware are not only relegated to the kitchen, they also make a bold design statement in the in the bathroom décor no matter what your style.

“For several years, we were selecting kitchen and bath hardware in oil rubbed bronze, stainless steel and satin nickel” said Kandrac. “Those finishes are now slowly being replaced with a “polished” nickel and brass.”

Lighting. Brass can look retro and contemporary on a chandelier, sconce, pendant, table lamp or light switch. The warmth of this metal makes it well-suited for pieces that illuminate.

“As far as light fixtures and lamps, the satin nickel is still used, but brass is coming into play with clients who are a bit more design savvy and who look through shelter magazines like Veranda, Elle Decor and House Beautiful and see it being used all over.

Furniture: Brass, in warmer, softer finishes, has made a strong comeback in home furnishings and accessories. Evidence of the brass revival can be seen in collections by Bernhardt (a four-poster bed and dresser), Jonathan Adler (dining and side tables with brass bases and legs) and British designer Tom Dixon (lighting).

But brass is also entering the mainstream. It is featured in catalogs and stores, such as Crate & Barrel, West Elm and Restoration Hardware. And there is more to come.

Recently, Wikman, owner and designer of Atlanta-based Bjork Studio, was approached by designer Brian Patrick Flynn about making some custom furniture for one of his Buckhead clients. In addition to collaborating on a large double-sided sofa, Wikman was shown images of vintage swivel chairs with a brass base.

“We’ve been doing furniture with brass or brass accents for several years now, but it is now considered a hot trend, said Wikman. “In fact, in one of the last full house design projects I did about seven years ago, I used many brass lighting and plumbing fixtures and brass hardware. It was more difficult to find at that time than today.”

Wikman is currently working on a special chair for another local designer that she helped design. It is also a swivel chair with a brass base, but this one will have a gorgeous brass mesh “skirt,” which brings to mind the mesh jewelry by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co.

“Someone who saw the brass linked mesh called it “Liquid Brass,” said Wikman. “I like that description, as it is a very sensuous material.”

Other: For brass accents that require less of a commitment, try brass trim or table legs on a night stand or table; pull handles on drawers; and shelf brackets teamed with natural wood.

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Tips for incorporating brass into your home design:

• Mixing brass with black or bronze is ideal and an easier transition.

• If you do have a lot of the “shiny” brass and can’t afford to replace everything, mix in some polished chrome.

• Brass can give a room a more “formal” look so use it in accents in your master bath and dining room.

• Replace kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls. “I’ve seen many kitchens with a stainless steel faucet and sink with some brass hardware and mixed metal pendants thrown in to tie it all together.

• Add accessories: picture frames, gold fabrics, mirrors, drapery hardware, trays, candle holders, cocktail tables, side or martini tables, bowls, vases, boxes, sculptures and bookends.

Source: Joann Kandrac of Kandrac & Kole Interior Designs, Inc.

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