Brass, noun: Any of various metal alloys consisting mainly of copper and zinc.
Once upon a time, the 5th millenium BC to be exact, the Chinese (overachievers) stumbled upon this natural metallic material. This material, a low composition of zinc and copper, was a distinctive golden color. So golden and so rare that Plato determined Oreichalkos to be as valuable as gold itself. He was a smart man. I think he was anyway. Someone told me he was and since he was probably a question on a test I took around two decades ago, let’s just assume he was.
Fast forward a few millenia later and by the 1st century, brass had soared in popularity. The Romans were pretty hot for it. Later on (a few more years later… or so Wiki says) the Byzantines and the Nords and the Italians were all over Brass like a horny teenager at a pre-70’s Sophia Loren movie. Seriously. They were smelting and oxifying and fill-in-random-scientific-term-here at a crazy pace. And then builders go a hold of it. I don’t mean builders in 19th century English castles turning out seriously sexy Edwardian faucetry with brass as the main component. And I certainly don’t mean any number of 1950’s and 1960’s quintessential designers applying the brass element to their still popular creations.
I mean builders in the late 80’s and 90’s. Do you guys hear me? It’s your fault! So they took it and ran with it. By this point, brass had gone through its puberty and was now just the awkward 35 year old with no kids and a separated marriage. It was cheap and wound up on everyone’s cabinetry in middle America. (God I love metaphors). Seriously, you builders almost ruined what Plato called a “Precious metal”. Bastards.
Anyway…. Brass is back. And it kicks Ass. Big Time. Call it what you will if it makes you feel better – gold, antique bronze, that yellowish metal. It’s probably a harkening back to the golden metals of the 1960’s. Or it could be that we’re so into rescuing ancient architecture and there is just no way that blackened steel is going to work in the Loo of an Edwardian manse. That is unless you’re Sting. Or Madonna. But we know blackened steel in a 19th century castle is faking it. Like Madonna.
Whatever the reason, designers are craving the warm glow of unlacquered brass. It was once nickel that was the rage. Then stainless steel. And hell, chrome showed up in there too. But I think the general public is tired of all that silver. Once the entire faucet aisle of Home Depot glistened with silvery blandness, it was time to make a switch.
Personally I’m loving brass right now. It has a certain glow that exudes warmth. It gleams of unpretentious-ness but screams “I’m different”. Used in small amounts it changes an interior unlike any chrome/nickel/steel product ever can.
A tip? Don’t over do it. Don’t go all crazy and plate every metallic element in your house brass. Your house will look like you walked though the wrong aisle at the flea market. Seriously, remember that Plato and the Romans thought of Brass as a metal not unlike Gold. Use it sparingly but use it in unexpected ways. Seat backs are one (see the Klismos seat backs above).
And keep in mind that color is important! Later cheap brass has that horrible jaundiced yellow tinge. We hate that. My mother had a brass baker’s rack in that color and I’m still telling my therapist about it. Go for warmer tones. Look for brass with higher copper contents and of course, that heavenly reddish undertone.
Did you know there are approximately 22 different types of Brass? Including one called Prince Rupert.
Anyway…. don’t listen to the nay sayers. Are you looking for something a little different? A little out of the norm? A little less “I shopped for all my fixtures in a box the size of Rhode Island”? Then try out some brass. I kid you not you’ll love it.
Repeat after me – “Brass Kicks Ass!”
This has been a public service announcement.