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Hey, it’s Doug, I hope everyone is doing well today.  Having grown up in the 80’s, I have to admit the idea of using brass in an interior doesn’t immediately appeal to me.  It seems that every renovation project I’ve completed for the past few years we’ve removed brass fixtures and fittings and replaced them with nickel or bronze.  Lately, brass is making a comeback, though thankfully in a modified form from the shininess that defined the finish 25 years ago.

Unlacquered brass lacks the slick top layer that keeps the brass finish of the 1980’s looking bright forever.  Instead, unlacquered brass weathers over time and takes on a beautiful and warm patina.  The first time I was exposed to this finish was at a client’s suggestion a couple of years ago.  When we were designing the architectural interiors for the 11 Bonita project, our client kept insisting on “living finishes” which I was all for — until he asked for brass!  After some convincing I came around to his vision of brass faucets and door hardware that would weather naturally over time — with more tarnish in the areas that were touched the most and bits of shininess left around the edges.

The potfiller above the Lacanche Sully range in the 11 Bonita kitchen is of unlacquered brass.  I had the rivets on the custom steel rangehood we designed made from unlacquered brass as well to accentuate the detail.  Our client ordered the range with unlacquered knobs and pulls as well to complete the look.

You can see more unlacquered brass in the Pantry this same home — this time on the bridge faucet at the sink.  [photos by Colleen Duffley]

I mentioned last week in our post about Hamilton Sinkler’s return air grill that I specified for a home here in Mountain Brook we’re helping to renovate, that we were also replacing door hardware throughout the home.  The original 1920’s hardware is unlacquered brass and thankfully we’re able to replicate this finish for the replacement knobs we’ve selected.  Sometimes when the finish can’t be readily acquired, our very talented friends at Brandino Brass will have standard brass fixtures ‘dipped’ to strip the top layer of the finish away.

Speaking of unlacquered brass door hardware, check out this beautiful interior set–the Coleman from Rejuvenation.  Imagine how good it would look after a couple of years’ worth of use.

Waterworks has recently debuted a new collection called Henry and there are some wonderful unlacquered brass fixtures available in it.

Isn’t that good looking?  Besides the finish, this collection is such a great blend of tradition and clean lines.

Construction is about to begin on a bar that we designed in Chattanooga…we’ve designed an unlacquered brass shelving system which will run along the back bar and hold bottles of liquor.  It fits perfectly with the warm vintage feel we’re creating for this project — we’ll be sure to share photos of this feature when it’s installed.

So what do you think?  Are you ready to embrace brass again–albeit in a different feel from the slick look of the 80’s–or is it too soon for you to go back to the look?  We always love hearing what you think.

24 thoughts on “unlacquered brass

  1. I actually just had a conversation with a friend about brass coming back. She cringed. It may take me a while to get used to it, but I’m sure I’ll come around. I didn’t think I would ever buy leggings again either….

  2. Have you seen the new Rocky Mountain hardward ad with the brass fixtures? I gladly welcome the return of unlacquered and unpolished brass!

  3. I love unlacquered brass too. I am wondering though, how long does it typically take for patina to develop on new unlacquered brass?

    • That’s a good question! The 11 Bonita house pictured in the first part of this post was completed in 2008 and the brass has a really nice patina to it by this point. We’ve read that ammonia can help speed up the process (about to experiment on the house we just replaced the door knobs in) but I’d say a year or two is probably a good guess.
      -doug

  4. I chose an Herbeau unlacquered brass faucet for my powder room – last year. House is c.1902. Powder room is adjacent to a library (c. 1936) of English knotty pine that has mellowed to a fabulous patina. I outfitted an old Georgian sideboard with a Bates sink, Brunschwig “Bibliotecque” wallcovering, marble top. The unlaquered brass was the perfect choice. Everyday I try to rush the aging process by rubbing the fixture with sweaty hands! It might take awhile – but it is on it’s way. There will always be a place for good brass in classic, timeless design. Master bathroom is next and I am torn between nickel…or unlacquered brass!

  5. We are looking at satin brass (unlaquered) for the house, and when I asked Maria at Architectural Accents what she was selling a lot of these days, she said that 50% of what she is selling is unlaquered brass. A lot of renovations are going on in Buckhead these days, and unlaquered brass works so well with houses that are older.

    I wasn’t too excited about the thought of brass when it first came up, since I live in an 80s house with bright brass door knobs, but I do love the unlaquered brass knobs in my sister’s 1929 house in DC…

  6. I’m definitely into unpolished, unlacquered brass. I think alot of its appeal is related to the appeal of gilt furnishings. The two mix well.

    The color of the brass also is quite harmonious with the more and more typical white interiors. It does well with black too.

  7. This is so interesting. We must have unlacquered brass on all our doorknobs and chandelier in our 1920s home, as it has developed a patina over the last 90 years and now looks bronze. I have been warned to never use Brasso or abrasive cleaners on it because it will turn shiny gold again!

  8. Doug I shared your opinion about using brass in interior design before reading your post but the pictures of pantry and kitchen of yours just changed my opinion.

  9. Drooling over that door knob…that’s a first! I’m embracing brass! I truly believe context is everything in determining if any material is suitable. Man, can’t wait to see the context of the brass shelving system!

    Oh and love the term “living finish”, can we borrow that from your client?

  10. Delayed response!!!!!…we have sold and custom finished more unlaquered brass this year than ever…whether its a georgian,colonial or contemporary its a great finish to transition any door , cabinet or furniture piece!!!!

  11. hi all,
    I actually found this awesome post while searching for unlacquered brass plumbing fixtures. I was just wondering if you know of any other producers that are making this finish? Most I’ve found (Barwil, Lefroy Brooks, Waterworks, etc) are more than we can afford to spend right now.
    Thanks for the inspiration and any more info you might have!

    • we haven’t really found anybody producing this finish that isn’t “high end” — so far we’ve spec’d it through Waterworks or Lefroy Brooks for our clients

      • Rohl has come up with an antique gold finish that has that nice reddish brass finish. We were working on a house in a historic neighborhood and found that it had just the right amount of “patina”.

  12. Just ordered unlacquered brass plumbing fixtures from Sigma. They are beautiful, especially for the price. You can also get them from California Faucets.

  13. california faucets and new port brass is a bit cheaper.
    i’m doing my bathroom with california and waterworks unlacquered brass and i’m concerned about all the fixtures turning green but i’m willing to actually take the risk…

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