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Hero - Hero_Metallic.jpg

How to Decorate (Successfully) With Metallics

Metallics like gold and silver are unique interior decorating tools. Learn from designer Lori Weitzner how to pick the perfect shade for you and your home.

Metallic materials are great for decorating, but their use is incredibly personal. Lori Weitzner, author of Ode to Color, helps you choose the shade that’s right for you. 

It is tempting to think of metallics—those silver and gold interior design touches around our homes—as a little intimidating.

Their reflective qualities, whether cool or warm, muted or pronounced, make a big impact and can intimidate even experienced decorators. 

But metallics are emerging as a big trend in the world of textiles and design. And if you follow a few basic guidelines you will discover that, in all of their varied forms, they are versatile, user-friendly and capable of adding elegance to any interior.

CHOOSING YOUR PERSONALITY

Metallics fall into two general categories: the warm ones, which in Ode to Color I refer to as Alchemy: gold, copper, and brass; and the cool ones, which I call Silverlight: silver, nickel, pewter, steel, and platinum. 

Although both add character and interest to a room, they have distinct personalities and should be used accordingly.

Image 1 – Marc-Michaels.jpg
Image 1 – Marc-Michaels.jpg

Photo: Marc Michaels Interiors

COOL METALLICS

Silverlight is the celebrity of the colour world: It is glamorous, trendy, mystical and futuristic. Its sleek reflectivity makes everything around it more interesting. Plus it works with many design styles: old or new, traditional or trendy, streamlined or ornate.

But it requires some expertise. Silverlight is best enjoyed in small quantities, used against more subtle backdrops, in order to show it off.

It is the colour of choice for table accessories and dinnerware and is used frequently in art and lighting fixtures.

I also favour it in fabric, where I use it as an accessory, often in the form of metallic thread, a sequin, or a bead to bring light and interest to matte materials.

Used in small amounts, a Silverlight detail can transform an ordinary fabric or wall covering into something unique, bringing attention and dimension to the material. 

Silver velvet cushions and cool metallic silk drapes add sophistication to living rooms without overwhelming them.

A chair upholstered in a cool grey silk taffeta will appear metallic because of the sheen and add style to a matte upholstered sofa fabric.

Velvet fabrics embossed with foil prints are beautiful and versatile, combining soft and plush with shine. They can be used for both furniture and table tops, especially runners.

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Image 2 – Sahco-Fabrics.jpg

Photo: Sahco Fabrics

HOT METALLICS

If Silverlight is the celebrity of the colour world, gold is more royalty. Luxurious and rich, a small dose of gold-toned metallics is sometimes all you need in interior spaces—too much metallic gold can be visually overwhelming and oppressively formal.

I therefore prefer the use of gold-toned materials in small touches around the home: gold frames, accessories like trays, bowls and vases, as well as fabrics, are regal and beautiful, drawing attention to cherished objects and spaces.

When combined with light tones of cream, ecru, sandstone, champagne and warm white, metallic gold has a gentler impact in interior spaces. So too does matte gold. It possesses an earthier feel than its metallic counterpart, and can be used more frequently without becoming over-the-top.

And then there is passementerie—decorative trimmings such as tassels, tiebacks, and various other trims.

These items are jewellery for the home and I am often inspired by real jewels, like the collections of Asprey, Cartier and Faberge. But like all jewellery, they must support the overall look of a room, not overwhelm it.Photo: Sahco Fabrics

HOT METALLICS

If Silverlight is the celebrity of the colour world, gold is more royalty. Luxurious and rich, a small dose of gold-toned metallics is sometimes all you need in interior spaces—too much metallic gold can be visually overwhelming and oppressively formal.

I therefore prefer the use of gold-toned materials in small touches around the home: gold frames, accessories like trays, bowls and vases, as well as fabrics, are regal and beautiful, drawing attention to cherished objects and spaces.

When combined with light tones of cream, ecru, sandstone, champagne and warm white, metallic gold has a gentler impact in interior spaces. So too does matte gold. It possesses an earthier feel than its metallic counterpart, and can be used more frequently without becoming over-the-top.

And then there is passementerie—decorative trimmings such as tassels, tiebacks, and various other trims.

These items are jewellery for the home and I am often inspired by real jewels, like the collections of Asprey, Cartier and Faberge. But like all jewellery, they must support the overall look of a room, not overwhelm it. 

Image 3 –Marc Michaels Interiors.jpg
Image 3 –Marc Michaels Interiors.jpg

Photo: Marc Michaels Interiors

DRESSING THE WALLS

There is an exception to the rule of moderation in the use of Silverlight and Alchemy at home: the size and straight structure of a wall, or even a ceiling, means you can use metallics more generously. Their presence in paints and wallcoverings can look clean and current, elegant and distinguished.

A silver- or gold-leaf wallcovering or metallic-painted tin ceiling can make a space look larger by reflecting light.

One of my favourite designs combines artisanal paper, handmade from recycled materials, with a gold or silver leaf on top. The combination of rough and polished materials is dynamic.

If you don’t want to use a wallcovering, achieve a similar effect with metallic paints.

The Dulux Ambiance Metallic line offers different shades of Silverlight for walls, allowing for a personalised metallic hue—whether bold and flashy or more quietly elegant.

Or you could opt for an Alchemy special effect: a gold, bronze or copper colour. A brighter and smoother gold will make a more modern statement, whereas a more antiqued or brownish gold is more traditional.

At once current and timeless, metallics are not a passing trend. Whether cool or warm, polished or matte, smooth or textured, they are among the most expressive and versatile tools you have when it comes to decorating. Choose them with care, and then let them work their magic.   

Personalise your interiors, with Dulux Ambiance Metallic special effects paints. Choose from over a myrida of metallic shades. #MyFutureWall is a Dulux Ambiance wall.

Designer

Lori Weitzner is renowned for her contributions to the world of textiles and wallcoverings. Her work can be seen in permanent collections at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York; La Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

She has most recently written Ode to Color, on the use and significance of colour in design and culture.