Interiors Trends 2016: How metal is taking over our homes
Think metal and homes and what springs to mind? Industrial chic, all exposed beams and iron girders? Shiny chrome taps in the bathroom? Perhaps some stainless steel appliances in the kitchen? Sorry, but you’re a bit behind the times. These days, metal is creeping into our homes in all guises and in all places, from wallpaper to flooring, appliances to furniture.
It’s been happening for a while now. First, chrome moved out of the bathroom and into slickly modernist lamps and furniture pieces. Then we started seeing pared-down wire shelving units creeping into chic interiors as a minimalist way of doing storage. Last year was all about copper; everything from KitchenAid mixers to free-standing baths was made over. The year culminated with Dulux announcing that its paint colour of the year for 2015 is called Copper Blush.
Using metal is hardly new. Medieval nobility used wrought iron in their homes long before we thought of it. More recently in the 20th century, trends shifted through the decades. In the Twenties, chrome was the thing for fixtures, accentuated by plenty of polished mirrors. The Sixties and Seventies saw Brutalist metalwork become popular, with designers forming chandeliers, wall sconces, lamps and sculpture from sheet metal cut with a torch. In the Eighties, gold and brass were de rigueur in smart interiors, before gold taps in the bathroom started to look less chic and more super-rich ostentatious.
Right now, metals in any form are big – but they appear with more subtlety than before. “At the moment, there is a real leaning towards something that is more burnished,” says Claire German, managing director of the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour.
Today’s interior designers are using glowing metallic wallpapers to add warmth and sheen to a room and metal worked into flooring, whether it’s tiles or carpet, for richness and light. Metal can appear everywhere, from bookshelves to tiling to furniture, where it appears in sinuous sculptural forms. The interior designer Sharon Elalouf, founder of Ash Design, has just finished a project in a development in Chelsea, where she has used metal on the floors, mixed with marble. “We use metal a lot when there are columns in flats – we cover them in cuts of metal,” she says.
Elalouf suggests trying an open closet with no doors and using metal as the back panel, with wood shelves. Decorum Est, which specialises in rare decorative studios, also favours a partly metal floor, blending metal with ceramics and limestone to create luxurious tiles.
Stephen Clasper, of Stehen Clasper Interior Design, uses traditional metal inlay in much of his work, adding accents to everything from timber to leatherwork, in metals that include stainless steel, bronze and polished brass.
Like Elalouf, Christopher Prain, design director at Christopher Chanond, likes to cover things in metal, as well as make products with it.
“We quite often use it for cladding in buildings where a lot of people would use brick, and we make lots of furniture out of metal in shapes that you wouldn’t be able to do using wood, he says. He has also just designed a new metal wallpaper in conjunction with De Gournay, which will be available under his new label Hixmore which launches this spring.
Of course, metal is not necessarily the cheapest material to work with – although there are some clever things you can do on a budget that still look fabulous. The floor at the Standard Grill in New York’s Standard Hotel, for example, has a floor inset with pennies; the interior design blogshows you how to make your own version.
Liquid metal has become increasingly easy to get hold of and is a great way of getting the metal look at a lower cost and also without the associated impracticalities of, for example, weight. Using metals that are mass produced for, say, the building industry can be a cheap way of getting hold of material, such as plumbers’ copper piping, which can be fashioned into all sorts of things – Prain recently made a coffee table out of it. Corrugated metal, too, is fairly inexpensive, and has a clean industrial vibe without being too heavy and masculine – try cladding a bathroom, or using it to pick out architectural details.
If even that feels a bit too “designer”, you could keep it low key and make a feature of something as simple as a radiator by installing a chunky cast-iron version – Carron makes traditional radiators that are hand-built in the UK and come with a 10-year guarantee (carron.uk.net).
As well as cost, it’s worth considering how your chosen metal will work practically. Zinc, for example, looks beautiful on a kitchen countertop (and is relatively inexpensive to install), but it will change over time as it becomes stained by ingredients, warped by hot pans and scratched. Pewter is easier to maintain (but much more expensive), or you could go for good old stainless steel, which won’t stain, although it can be scratched.
If you want someone else to do the hard work, there are plenty of beautiful things out there to buy. Christopher Guy’s elegant nest of gilt and granite tables comes with optional finishes including gold, bronze and silver, and is occasional storage that you won’t want to tuck out of sight (from £2,920; christopherguy.com).
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