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Trendspotting: Brass Is Back

Forget the tacky ’80s finish—this time around, it’s all about the rich, vintagey appeal of natural brass.

Brass tiered pendant (left). Photograph courtesy of urbanoutfitters.com. Barclay arc lamp (right). Photograph courtesy of potterybarn.com.

Slideshow: Brass Items for Your Home

Let’s start with a disclaimer: This is not the shiny, yellow lacquered brass of the ’80s that was all too often paired with mauve or cultured marble. The current trend calls for natural brass finishes with patina and warmth. While silver, chrome, and polished nickel have dominated in the past, in recent years there’s been a resurgence of brass in home accessories, furniture, and, most recently, kitchen and bath fixtures. Like a favorite pair of scuffed, broken-in boots, these natural brass finishes remind of us of vintage pieces that are all the better for the passage of time.

To find this type of brass for your home, steer clear of polished finishes where the material has been lacquered to prevent tarnishing over time. These coatings are what create that permanent new look that prevents patina from forming. Instead, look for unlacquered brass—raw brass—that is polished but left unlacquered to allow for natural darkening with time. It’s true that this type of brass tarnishes easily, so unless you want a very dark finish you’ll need to polish it every couple of months with a soft cloth or brass metal polish—but you’ll be rewarded with a rich patina. If polishing isn’t your thing, then look for brushed or antiqued finishes.

When buying a vintage piece, keep in mind that brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, is not magnetic. If a magnet does stick, than the piece is most likely steel or cast iron with a brass plating.

If you’re on board with incorporating brass into your decor, whether it’s a small accent piece or a powder-room faucet, here are a few options to inspire you.