For many years, different types of metal have been used in building and decorating homes. Designers tell us we can mix metals with confidence and should balance them with wood, fabric and plants. No longer is “matchy-matchy” a decorating style; the eclectic use of texture and color is definitely in.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the interior of many homes sported tin ceilings with designs that mimicked the intricate plaster work of Europe. Normally painted, tin also served as wainscoting in commercial buildings.
Blends of tin, galvanized steel or iron and even aluminum were later used to create metal roofing. That cat of hot tin roof fame might screech when landing on it in the afternoon sun, but the sound of a soft rain against a metal roof could lull one into slumber on a lazy summer night.
In the post-World War II era, aluminum siding came on the housing scene. The 1987 comedy “Tin Men,” starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito, chronicles the escapades two shady aluminum siding salesmen in Baltimore in the 1960s. Fifty years later, homeowners are still peeling that stuff off perfectly good bricks and wooden lap siding in the District.
In the 1950s we saw the introduction of metal in modern kitchens. From appliances to countertops with integrated sinks and draining boards, chrome and stainless steel supplanted white as the ideal for cleanliness and a sleek, modern look coupled, of course, with breakfast tables in yellow, aqua or pink Formica.
Stainless steel appliances lost their cachet for a number of years as pastels and bold colors took over, then the ‘60s and ‘70s gave us Harvest Gold, Coppertone and Avocado Green, which can be seen in half-hour, prime time sitcoms where they are still commonly featured in the kitchens of middle class America.
When each color trend was over, however, homeowners realized that it was cheaper to replace a turquoise toaster than a turquoise refrigerator, so the black and white shades that served as kitchen neutrals became the norm, with almond providing a third option as consumers matched their appliances to their Navajo White (aka “Builder Beige”) walls.
The resurgence of stainless steel appliances also changed how metal was used inside the home. Accents of polished brass, once considered luxurious, became dated, as did the use of antique brass which had been a popular material for lighting and doorknobs from the 1920s to 1940s. Brushed chrome and stainless steel began surfacing as cabinet fronts, drawer pulls, lighting and even accent furniture.
Over the years, designers have attempted to dazzle the public with other metallic fashion choices. Revere Ware copper clad pots and pans have hung from wrought iron pot racks and hammered copper, though expensive, found its way into farm sinks and countertops. Iron railings came indoors from front porches and fencing and two new appliance colors, Jenn-Air’s oiled bronze and GE’s slate, hit the market. The former never caught on and the latter doesn’t appear to be faring much better.
Although oil-rubbed bronze is still in play as faucets, cabinet knobs and accessories and the desirability of the newest fixture color, Champagne Bronze, remains to be seen, the sleek, clean look of silvery metals remains at the top of the popularity list.
The Food Channel will tell you that the personality of the chef is reflected in what he cooks. Another way amateur chefs are bringing out their personalities in the kitchen is through a custom backsplash.
Subway tiles can be dressed up with metal relief strips. The newest tin designs come in rolls of different metals that can be easily installed by a homeowner with mastic and some matching finishing nails. Tile manufacturers now offer dozens of designs in mesh-backed mosaics that incorporate stone, glass and various metals.
So whatever decorating style you prefer, let metallics set off your color choices as the jewelry of your home and enjoy the bling.
Valerie M. Blake can be reached at Keller Williams Capital Properties, 202-246-8602 or at Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com. Each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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