mixing metals

As a teenager in the early 90′s, there were a few do-not-ever-break-these design rules. 1. never, ever wear black and brown together. A brown belt means brown shoes.  2. Navy and black do not match.  Don’t even try it. 3. You must choose between gold and silver. If your hoops are silver, so must your watch, your rings, your ankle bracelet and belt buckle.

I can’t say I was the most fashionable high schooler {most of the time I wore a teensy cheer skirt and nylons with socks and tennis shoes} but I most definitely did not break those design rules.

Somewhere along the line, though, it has become okay – even trendy – to put black and brown, navy and black together, and most notably, mixing metals.

mixing-metals

This Christmas our house was full of metallics – gold striped curtains mixed with old silver trays, silver tinsel layered over gold polka dot bunting, sparkling gold next to mercury glass ornaments on the tree. It wasn’t a conscious decision to decorate this way; I just like the warmth of golds and the classic cleanness of silver and together with a mostly neutral foundation they add to the slightly fancy, slightly eccentric look that I love.

As I look around our home and at images I’ve saved to Pinterest, I realized that mixed metallics are often an element of my favorite designs.

mixing-metals-examples

Is there a secret or strategy to successfully mixing metals? I’m not sure. What I notice from all of these images is that the metals are balanced with lots of white and natural elements and they end up feeling collected and casual, adding texture and sheen, rather than overly shiny and garish.

mixed-metal-picture-frames

On my desk sit these three frames – each one a different style, different shape, different metal. Years ago, I would never have chosen these to go together.  But to me now, they are perfect.

Thankfully, the best rule for design today is if you like it and it is pleasing to your aesthetic, it works.

How do you feel about mixing metals? Is it a lasting trend or will we someday look back on this moment and cringe at our lack of restraint in putting gold and silver together?

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29 Responses to mixing metals

  1. tara January 24, 2014 at 6:26 am #

    beautiful…
    I remember all those rules back in the 90′s, too.
    I, too, had on a cheerleading outfit most of the time…with the biggest hair imaginable. :0

    loving that gold is back and REALLY loving that it can be mixed with other metals, so we don’t have an overload of just one metal in our homes or in our fashion.

  2. Lisa January 24, 2014 at 7:43 am #

    It’s funny you posted this today because I was thinking about this just last night. I love mixing meals. It keeps things interesting and creative.

  3. stephany January 24, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    I love mixing metals! When I was in high school (early 90′s) my dad bought me a seiko watch that was silver and gold. Since then, I have always mixed metals. In fact, my wedding ring was designed with both platinum and yellow gold so I could wear whatever metal I wanted whenever I wanted…or all!

  4. jill January 24, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    oh my goodness this is one of THE hardest things for me! I know that sounds so weird, but it just looks so awkward to me when I do it. Could you possibly do a post on mixing blacks and browns and whites in the home? I would LOVE that. thanks :). Love your blog so much lady!

    http://www.jilliansara.blogspot.com

  5. Heidi January 24, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    I’m okay with mixing metals in home decor but I still don’t do it in my jewelry! Old habits die hard, I guess. And I don’t think I’ll ever be on board with brown and black together, LOL!

  6. CT January 24, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Love this post! As a 90s girl myself, my sisters and I used to rag on our poor dad so hard if he dared to wear a brown belt with black shoes or heaven forbid navy pants and black shoes. The poor man was outnumbered. When the golds and bronzes first started creeping around, I was skeptical, having been raised on a diet of straight silver and chrome. It’s grown on me though and I am probably tipping the scale towards more golds and brass in our new home than silver and I love to mix. Although I still haven’t really done it in my personal jewelry. Some habits die hard. Cheers – CT

  7. Tina January 24, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Emily, Thanks for this post–so relevant and good topic to bring up. I love how mixing metals looks if they are muted/aged finishes but admit that I have only been doing it for a few years now–a hard habit to break for sure. I think it is a very classic look and won’t go “out of style” if you don’t go overboard and stay with the muted finishes, mixing with natural elements and neutrals as you mentioned. I’m so happy that I have saved my old frames as I have found I am pulling them out to mix with my current frames – so fun!

  8. Kelly January 24, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    All of that is so true! A few years ago, I would have never imagined I would want to put gold and silver together and now I can’t get enough. I think it relies heavily on what you said about the metals not being shiny. I seem to like the mix when each metal has some patina. It some how is fancy and casual in one. (yay to being a cheerleader….I became one just so I could wear the cute skirts and to only have to put together cute outfits two or three times a week. It saved me from doing laundry all the time.) ;)

  9. Katie January 24, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    This is so funny. I was just getting dressed yesterday thinking about these exact some rules. It took me so long to put black or gray with brown boots. All those rules were very intrenched by my big sister I dared not break them! So glad they have changed, it makes it so much easier for us in Florida to not have boots in two colors since we hardly ever get to wear them.

  10. Tammy January 24, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I live by the idea that some rules are meant to be broken…and the ones that you listed are those that work so well now. Especially the mixed metals. Some years ago my mom gave me a Swiss Army watch in mixed metal and it has been a guiding thing with jewelry ever since. And as far as home goes, I think that the patina really does make a difference when mixing the metals. All your images are beautiful and timeless…love them!

    Tammy

  11. Christine W January 24, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    This is me! Gold, silver, bronze, mercury with jewelry, frames, lids, doorknobs, etc. It feels very vintage and old world to me and that’s my jam. It just works and because it’s been around for ages I think it’ll be around for times to come!

  12. Krystal Wight Armstrong January 24, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    I remember the day in college that I had to call up my most stylish friend and ask if my classic black v-neck sweater with a white collar underneath, could be worn over brown velvet trousers on a wintery night out with old friends, to impress one of them (actually, it was also the first time I would unknowingly meet my husband, now that I think of it)! She assured me it was fine, and along with my curled hair, I actually really liked the outcome that night….though come to find, my husband’s first impression was that I was way more ‘high-maintenance’ than the casual me he eventually fell for. :)

    Anyway, all that to say…I think we all definitely want/need to see some photos of Highschool Emily, to fully appreciate the evolution!
    I’m trying to figure out if you literally wore a cheerleading skirt to school most days à la “Glee” (I thought that was only in sitcoms), or if you meant a cheer-style skirt; because I’m picturing a pretty, young you like Liv Tyler’s Corey in my favorite movie, “Empire Records!”
    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1199021824/tt0112950?ref_=ttmd_md_nxt

    • emily January 24, 2014 at 11:34 am #

      HA! I mean I literally wore a cheerleading skirt very often. It was nice, actually, to have a uniform to wear instead of picking out my clothes. I bet we wore our cheer outfits two times/week on game days. Good times …

      • Krystal Wight Armstrong January 24, 2014 at 11:41 am #

        Ah, thanks for the clarification! I imagine that was a pretty nice deal. : )
        And not that it’s pertinent to this blog at all, but I still think it’d be super to fun to see your teenage style!

        (ps- the comment subscription button is gone again… gotta refresh/visit to see replies)

  13. Peggy January 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    You know I grew up with mixed metals… and my great-aunt (a well-travelled doctor’s wife) had her elegant home filled with mixed metals. Her house was the epitome of refined elegance, even during the height of garish decor (think 70′s). She collected artwork from her world travels, ivory from Africa (purchased in the 40′s & 50′s), inlaid gold pieces & jade from China, antique books from London bookshops, fine china and silver which was used daily, antique linens from France, etc. I, myself, graduated in the early 80′s and never followed the rules because I really didn’t know the rules.

    I LOVE your collection of mixed metals… simple elegance. It truly reminds me of my lovely aunt and makes me cherish the times I had with her.

  14. Aja @ sevenelles.com January 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    I have gold dots on my walls in my living room with silver frames…I love it.

  15. Lisa January 24, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    Hi Emily– this is so true, and so funny. Ironically, it has completely changed, as you said. My 20 something year old daughter always advices not to be too “matchy-matchy,” as it ages women (as in black purse with black shoes, matching earrings perfectly to necklaces, etc.). Hahhahaha. What will be the rules in 10 years??

  16. Melanie January 24, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    Thank you for posting this! You are awesome!

  17. Brookann January 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    I don’t think there is such a thing as a “lasting trend” ;) so yes, I’m sure years down the road we’ll be looking backing wondering what we were thinking mixing metals, the same way we’re now looking back and wondering why it was such a big deal not to mix brown or navy with black (because you’re right, it WAS a big deal!)

    So I plan to embrace it while it lasts! I love mixed metals, I think navy and black look so sleek together, and I love pairing my brown riding boots with my skinny black pants (my husband still struggles with that one though.) Cheers!

  18. Corinna January 24, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Your 90′s clothing rules- So true! I lived by them. I was just recently thinking about how I don’t follow them anymore. I was the same with metal jewelry and now I love to mix tones. I’ve even started mixing different woods in my house. It adds visual variety.

  19. Barbara Reeves January 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Love the mixed metals It took me a while to get with silver/gold but now I’m all for it and I love copper and bronze and brass and all of them. I also like the different textures you can add when using a shiny item against a textured metallic

    I also have a question. How did you but all the different trays on the wall behind the chair? I’m thinking velcro strips?

    Thanks for all your wonderful ideas and inspiration.

  20. Jami Nato January 24, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    it was scary to mix metals in my kitchen when we remodeled, but for some reason, when it came together, it was just really appealing to my eye. i was planning on spay painting some things brassy gold even, but decided against it in favor of mixed metals. so weird how don’t do rules become trends!

  21. Marie January 25, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    I am searching for jars with the silver and copper lids in the washroom tray picture above. Does anyone have any idea where I can find these?

  22. Mindy January 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    I love mixed metals in our living room – works well with the neutrals. I don’t mix them in jewelry so much. I have relaxed on the whole brown and black thing and actually really love a caramel brown with black. I can’t believe you wore nylons under your cheer skirt with knee high socks – I thought that was my (read: old people) generation. It did keep our legs warm during football season though…

  23. Jennifer January 25, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    Ha, I’ve gotten to the point where I just figure the “rules” are all just a marketing ploy. I do what I love and don’t waste time fretting about whether it’s “right” or not. I have more important things to do than follow rules made by people I don’t even know. Besides, I’ve been married for nearly 27 years and wear my original rings, which happily are both white and yellow gold…and my husband picked them out all by himself :-)

  24. Liz January 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    I love following your blog! Could you do a tutorial on how you made the “Mixing metals” picture above? I assume you use Photoshop. Thanks!!

  25. Julia@Cuckoo4Design January 27, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    I wrote about mixing metals a while back too and it is one of my most favorite things to do when I decorate.

  26. Katja January 28, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    I love the three frames together, both casual and stylish. And kudos to your always-great photography.

  27. Bethany January 30, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    Oh my goodness! Such a relief to be free of these rules. Isn’t it terrible that when I go to mix metals or wear black and brown together that little rule totally dings in my head! I can still remember this girl in high school commenting on my black and brown combo!

    Great post!

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