When we moved into our house, I made a hasty decision to match the bathroom faucet, light fixtures and doorknobs. But now I regret it. Here’s why:
Bathroom faucets do not need to match light fixtures and doorknobs. In fact, by mixing finishes on your bathroom faucets, fixtures and doorknobs, the decor will be intriguing and layered instead of monotonous. However, take care that the finishes compliment each other. Aim for a cohesive style.
Of course, at the time we moved into the house, I was so busy making so many choices about ceilings, walls, and lighting throughout the entire house that I didn’t give much thought to the metal finishes in the small downstairs bathroom I went with brushed nickel on bathroom faucets, fixtures and everything else just because it was easy.
But now that we’ve lived in the house a while and I got a bit of rest, I’m ready to redo the bathroom faucets and light fixtures. This time, I’ll go for a more eclectic look by mixing finishes.
Matching Bathroom Faucets and Light Fixtures
When it comes to choosing finishes for bathroom faucets and light fixtures, many homeowners are paralyzed by the options: oil rubbed bronze, satin nickel, antique silver, brass or chrome. The list goes on and on.
Of course, it’s easiest to just pick one finish for both faucets and light fixtures, as well as hinges, pulls, the showerhead, and bathtub knobs and grab bar. That’s what I did. However, matching all finishes can often look “builder grade,” as well as boring. For an in-depth understanding of faucet finishes, read my post about how to pick the best bathroom faucet finish. It will give you a deep understanding of the various faucet materials, finishes (e.g. matte, polish, etc.) and colors.
How to Mix Bathroom Fixture Finishes
Mixing bathroom finishes is like painting a gorgeous work of art. You only want to splatter paint everywhere if you can make it look deliberate somehow like Jackson Pollack.
Or think of it like spicing a soup. The soup is your bathroom and the spices are the finishes. The spices need to work together to create one unifying and utterly delicious flavor.
Okay, enough with the metaphors. But hopefully, you get the picture that mixing fixtures is truly an art, not a science. No designer can tell you that oil-rubbed bronze never goes with chrome. It all depends on how it looks in your particular bathroom.
If you’ve got a white bathroom vanity with white walls, oil-rubbed bronze hinges could create a wonderful contrast and the chrome faucet in that space would sparkle.
However, if you’ve got dark mahogany cabinetry and maple colored walls, you may want to go for brushed nickel and antique silver fixtures to provide some contrast.
That said, there are some design rules that can help you navigate this terrain and make the wild world of metallic finishes much easier to understand. So let’s dive in.
Use Two Finishes in the Bathroom
If you’re a novice to bathroom design, you might do well to start with two different finishes in your bathroom, rather than three. (No one, not even a designer, should use more than three finishes in a bathroom, because it will be much too busy.)
Fixtures From Different Manufacturers
If the idea of using two finishes is too scary for you, try one metal, but buy your fixtures from a variety of manufacturers so that you’re getting various looks and styles.
However, be aware that if you order hammered copper from Lowes and another hammered copper fixture from Wayfair, they will not necessarily look exactly the same.
In this case, you’d want to separate the items in your bathroom, so as not to draw attention to the slight differences in the finishes.
If you have a designer’s eye and a daring heart, go for three finishes, especially if the bathroom is large. Mixing copper sconces, oil rubbed bronze pulls and knobs, with a chrome faucet can be gorgeous—but only if you know what you’re doing.
To help the rest of us, here are some designer rules to follow:
Repeat Finishes Unless It’s the Focal Point
As a general rule, you want to repeat finishes multiple times throughout the bathroom to create a thoughtful, layered look. And if you only use a metal finish once, you’re creating a focal point for a good reason.
So if you install copper sconces in the bathroom, you might repeat the copper on the grab bar in the shower and on a picture framed on the wall. If you have a gorgeous vessel sink with a chrome waterfall faucet, you won’t repeat the chrome anywhere else because you want the faucet to be the focal point. (Read my post on how to choose bathroom sconces and get product picks.)
Note that it’s not just any sink faucet you’d want to call attention to, but an especially beautiful one that’s more like a work of art.
Match Fixtures But Not Furniture
This is another way to look at choosing fixtures: Match finishes for fixtures like shower heads, drains, tub and sink faucets.
But treat the bathroom vanity and bathroom lighting like furniture. Use a second finish on these items. Or if your bathroom vanity comes with pulls or knobs, match lighting to the vanity finishes.
Don’t Choose Two Metals of a Similar Hue
One thing you don’t want to do is have your metal fixtures compete with each other. So if you pick two finishes, choose one that is a warm hue and one that is cool.
For example, putting stainless steel and chrome together can look like you made a mistake, as they can almost match one another but not quite. Instead put stainless steel, which has a cool hue, with a warmer hue metal like brass.
Metals with cool hues include stainless steel, chrome and nickel. Metals with warm hues include bronze, gold, brass and copper.
Choose cool hued metals in spaces with cooler colored walls (pale blue, grey, greens) and then feel free to select a warm-hued metal finish for accents.
If your walls are painted in a warmer hue (white, maple, pale yellow) then go with a warmer hued metal and then choose cooler hued metals to create accents.
Matching Lighting and Faucets in Small Bathrooms
“Conventional wisdom says the same color and finishes for your plumbing and light fixtures can help ‘pull together’ a bathroom,” says Bathroom Designer Kathleen Stacy Finley. “But this only remains true in certain cases, such as in small bathrooms where there isn’t enough space to lead the eye in so many directions.”
So if you have a very small bathroom, you do have less space to play with varying finishes. Consider one focal point, like your pendant lights. Use one metal for the pendant lights and another metal throughout the rest of the bathroom.
In a very small bathroom, it’s best to keep things simple, but not so simple that there’s no intrigue at all.
Choosing whether a sconce is up or down is a key part of deciding the right light fixture for your bathroom. To learn what style of sconce is right for your bathroom, read the post Up or Down? Why Sconce Direction Matters.
A Word About Bathroom Lighting
Designer Kathleen Finley wrote an excellent post called The Secrets to Achieve the Best Bathroom Lighting about how to layer your bathroom lighting.
According to Kathleen, you should think about three layers of bathroom lighting: The statement light, mood lighting and task lighting. Each of these types of lighting can have different finishes as long as you choose the finishes thoughtfully.
If you have a chrome chandelier over a freestanding tub, and then oil-rubbed bronze pulls and hinges and faucet, the chandelier becomes a sparkling, stand-out focal point.
A Word About Bathroom Faucets
Are you trying to choose a bathroom faucet and struggling with all the options? That’s no surprise. Bathroom faucets are a world unto themselves.
To help you understand the various faucet types and narrow down your selection, read Bathtub Faucet Types: Which Is Best For You? It will alleviate the stress and make your choice of faucets easier.
Matching Bathroom Faucets and Doorknobs
Bathroom faucets do not need to match doorknobs. If the sink faucet has a unique design element, you can highlight it with an accented metal finish. You would not want to match the doorknob to the faucet and detract attention from the sink.
So on the bathroom side of the door, you would choose a metal that blends with the bathroom decor.
Traditionally, all doorknobs and hinges throughout the house–or at least on the same floor of the home–would match. However, this is no longer the 1950s.
These days you can consider one side of the door “the bathroom side” and the other side “the living room side” or whatever room the bathroom door opens up to. Feel free to use one knob on the bathroom side of the door and another on the other side of the door.
Also, consider how the door swings. Does it swing into or out of the bathroom? If it swings into the bathroom it would be nice for the knob on the outside to blend with the bathroom decor. And if your bathroom door swings out into the living room, it would be great for it to be somewhat consistent with the living room decor.
Aim for Consistency
So there’s a lot to consider when talking about the bathroom doorknobs and hinges. The most important thing, though, is for the knob on the inside of the bathroom door to look consistent with the metal finishes in the bathroom.
Let’s say you have a large master bath with coffee-toned walls. You choose a warm metal finish like bronze for your lighting, towel bar, and vanity pulls. But then you select a cool metal like chrome for the plumbing on your contemporary freestanding bathtub to make it a focal point.
Do Door Hinges Need to Match Throughout the House?
Door hinges are something that you don’t consciously notice in a house if they are selected well. You want the hinges to blend in and not draw attention. However, subconsciously, door hinges can create a flow and unity from room to room, or across an entire home. Therefore, it’s wise to use the same door hinges across the house or a floor of the house.
That said, if your bathroom is set off at the end of a hallway, you can choose hinges that work well with the bathroom decor only. There is no other room besides the bathroom that you need to consider in making your design choice.
Or if you’re choosing hinges for a master bath, you’re probably going to want to use the same metal hinges in both the bathroom and the master bedroom to create flow and consistency.
And if the bathroom is located off the kitchen, you would use the same principle and try to create a feeling of unity between the bathroom and kitchen by using similar metal finishes.
For a small home, it can look better to use the same knobs and finishes throughout the house.
Painting Doorknobs and Hinges
You can easily paint doorknobs and hinges to match other metals. Try Rustoleum products for a metallic finish that will last for many years.
Matching Bathroom Vanities
If you have specific questions about how to match bathroom vanity hardware to the rest of the bathroom and the rest of your home, the principle is similar: create a sense of consistency and thoughtfulness in your decor.
Beyond that, you can learn much more in the post Do Bathroom Vanities Need to Match? I discuss how to choose elements to create a unified feeling between bathrooms as well as between bathrooms and adjacent rooms, such as a master bedroom or kitchen.
The Bottom Line on Mixing Bathroom Finishes
The bottom line is that you do not need to match light fixtures with bathroom faucets or doorknobs with bathroom faucets.
And in fact, you can create a much more interesting look in the bathroom by choosing two different metal finishes. In a large bathroom, with a designer’s eye, you could even work with three different metal finishes to create an enchanting space.