Metal Goes Mainstream

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From support to star, this versatile material is being used in all new ways.

Section by Katherine Duncan


This Laguna kitchen features Moya Living cabinets made from metal, proving it’s more than just a structural element.
This Laguna kitchen features Moya Living cabinets made from metal, proving it’s more than just a structural element.


Long implemented in homes for utility—from large-scale architectural components to smaller details like kitchen or bathroom hardware—metal is now equally appreciated for its form. Expanding beyond strictly functional items, alluring alloys are taking a leading role in decor throughout the house; for example, corrugated pieces for a modern alternative to traditional wainscoting, and stainless steel as a stunning fireplace surround in place of brick, tile or stone. Some varieties are even replacing wood for a unique take on kitchen cupboards.

“It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s timeless and it lasts forever,” says Moya O’Neill, a Laguna Beach resident and owner of Moya Living, which manufactures made-to-order powder-coated metal cabinets in Orange County.

In line with the industrial trend that’s inspiring the use of raw materials, another way that designers are highlighting these reflective surfaces is simply leaving them exposed. A visible air duct is right at home with reclaimed wood tables and concrete floors. “Metal is really used as a structural element and we’re lucky enough around here to have some really good architects and designers that actually want [it] … to be part of the aesthetic that you see,” says Brittney Fischbeck, owner of Laguna Beach-based abōdwell interior design.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, high-shine versions are often used for a pop of intrigue. Look for a gilded headboard to make a lustrous statement in the bedroom, or bring some glitz to the bathroom with a stainless steel tile backsplash. Clean-line, polished chrome stair systems add multilevel sheen and work beautifully with contemporary decor in an open floor plan.

For less of an investment, reach for small accents. Brittney is fond of lighting—silver, gold or bronze pendant lights are a great way to add a bit of sparkle to a dining space—as well as boxes and bowls placed on tables or open shelves.

The wide variety of colors and finishes provide universal appeal. Cooler tones such as polished chrome are more common with updated decor, while warmer options, like bronze, are often found in traditional styles. “The sleekness of metal definitely lends itself to modern design,” Brittney explains, noting that several types are long-standing components in the home. “… Pewter and nickel—those have been used in classic design. Brass and bronze are also really predominant.”

Another popular approach is to mimic the appearance of metal: Brittney loves to include sequin pillows that bring a similar shine. Or, for a more dramatic impact that’s also budget friendly, try wallpaper with a hint of gold or silver luster.

Just keep in mind that balance is key: Metal’s successful role in decor is dependent on how it works with the other elements in the space, such as raw wood and textured fabric.


Lustrous Living

Whether shiny or matte, gold, silver or something in-between, metal’s many looks allow it to fit with nearly any style.

While this material has developed a prominent role in modern design, it’s hardly limited to a single type of decor. Check out these products for a wide range of metallic flair.

ETCH STEEL SHADE PENDANT by Tom Dixon, $495, at Vertigo Home (949-494-7547;

CAST METAL BRASS FEATHER SMALL TRAY, $8, at Areo Home (949-376-0535;

z gallerie - flight desk

FLIGHT DESK, $1,199, at Z Gallerie, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa (714-850-1081;

tuvalu sign

METAL ELECTRIC ARROW SIGN WITH LIGHTS, $240, available with advance order at Tuvalu Home Environment (949-497-3202;

Stephen Frank Black Orchid Bowl Medium

MICHAEL ARAM BLACK ORCHID BOWL, medium, $249, at Stephen Frank Garden & Home (949-494-2014;

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