raw unlacquered brass is back what you need to know when that box arrives

RAW BRASS IS BACK, BUT WHAT THE HECK! What you need to know when that box arrives…

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This is the first of a two-part post – there’s simply too much brass for one siting.

Last night I received a distressed email from an adorable client – her long awaited, custom ordered bathroom fittings had finally arrived from the manufacturer, and she had just opened the boxes. But…

THE BRASS IS ALL WRONG!

This client is renovating the most charming Tudor style house; it’s simply delightful. All the metal fittings – chandeliers, wall sconces, kitchen fittings, accessories, and cabinet hardware – were meticulously sourced, measured, matched and put together. Everything precisely in a dull, antique brass.

antique brass lantern visual comfort

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Except for the finishes in the bathroom, which, by the way, has a beautiful claw-foot bathtub. Here we went for raw, un-lacquered brass. You know – that beautiful, unpretentious brass with a rich, layered patina you still find in old ranch houses? Dulled by age, and naturally buffed from regular touch. It’s packed with character.

characterful raw un-lacquered brass in use

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But the fixtures that arrived were all bright and shiny in their boxes. She mailed immediately – it doesn’t go at all with any of the other brass fittings we’ve selected! Renovations are in full swing, what are we going to do?

I’d say we step away from the boxes and go pour ourselves something – can be green tea, or G&T – ‘cause we’re talking about un-lacquered, raw brass here. It’s gonna take a while.

You see if you want that faded look, there’s a secret to un-lacquered brass.

TIME

Un-lacquered brass is raw brass that is purposefully left un-sealed to allow for natural oxidation to take place. As the metal ages, it darkens and develops that distinct patina and beautiful character – exactly the thing we’re after here. But it takes time.

A long time. Could be two years if you just let it go its natural course!

un-lacquered raw brass from shiny to dull

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But before you pour yourself another drink – I also have some good news. You can safely and easily speed up the natural aging process and encourage the brass to tarnish almost instantly. There’s a wonderful brass & bronze aging solution available specifically designed for this, or you can just applying vinegar and salt water, let it stand for a bit, then wipe. Voila – instant aging. I mean, how often can you say that with a smile?

For those who want that classic, timeless aged look of raw brass, remember this:

When un-lacquered brass leaves the factory, it’s highly polished. Super duper, it-hurts-your-eyes shiny.

This might NOT be what you expected. And if you are in the last stages of your renovation, and you’re expecting dull brass, but what you get is super shiny brass – it’s understandable that you’d want to freak out. I would too if I was the one opening those boxes.

person freaking(source)

But at least now you know exactly what to expect, and you know that there is help.

I know that you will be very happy with your beautiful, raw brass.

Cheers to you!

Mia

 

BE SURE TO ALSO CHECK OUT THESE ARTICLES:

METALS ARE MEANT TO BE MIXED – HOW TO GET IT RIGHT  Part II – Metal Finishes (Coming soon)

HOW TO SELECT TIMELESS FINISHES FOR YOUR KITCHEN REMODEL – DON’T MAKE THESE COMMON MISTAKES

Raw un-lacquered brass is back what you need to know

Posted in Bathrooms, cabinets, Kitchens, Remodeling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

22 Comments

  1. I am loving the brass comeback! I too am undergoing a renovation and have a question on one of my light fixtures which is offered in raw and brushed brass. I am actually loving the look of the brushed brass but have no idea how it ages. Does it develop a darker patina over time similar to raw brass?

    • Thank you for stopping by, Terri. Unlike raw brass, brushed or satin brass is finished with lacquer that protects the brass from aging and tarnishing, or showing fingerprints or water spots. Raw brass on the other hand, has no finished lacquer layer, and therefore it will darken over time and develop a lived-in patina. All the best with your renovation.

  2. This is a really helpful article, thank you Mia! I hope you can help with my follow-up question. I am looking at some brass light switches for my renovation. The description is “polished brass”. Is that the same as raw brass, do you think?

    • Hi Viv

      Thank you for stopping by. And this is a good question. Generally, most items that are listed as polished brass, satin brass, or brushed brass will be lacquered, and the color or shininess won’t change over time. It needs that lacquer to maintain the original look.

      Brass items that are un-lacquered will in most cases specifically mention that. They are less commonly available, and also typically have a higher price tag. If you are looking for raw brass, you should specifically ask for that in your search.

      I hope that answers your question.

  3. Thank you for this really helpful post! I have a question – if you buy unlacquered brass bathroom fixtures, is it possible to lacquer them at a later date? Asking because we are renovating an old mansion house to turn it into a hotel, and I love the raw natural look but it might prove easier for maintenance to have lacquered fixtures.

    • Hi Hannah
      I’m glad you found the article helpful, and thanks for reaching out. The short answer is yes, you can later lacquer your raw brass.

      However, if it were me, I would keep the lovely raw brass of your traditional mansion AS IS, and embrace the layered patina it develops over time. I would specifically NOT polish it. The beauty and sought after look of raw brass is indeed the natural aged look – that is very hard to imitate.

      Un-lacquered brass is hard to find these days, and more expensive than lacquered brass. I hope I can convince you to allow your raw brass to naturally age, and embrace the elegant character it will show in time. 🙂

  4. Hi, thanks so much for the article. I’m planning a bathroom renovation at the moment, and love the aesthetic of raw brass. However only some of the fixtures I need are available unlaquered. Have you ever mixed lacquered and unlaquered brass? And do you know if the tone of brass changes much between suppliers or stays fairly consistent? I’m trying to figure out if it’s better to go brushed brass for everything, or split half and half with unlaquered and either brushed brass or maybe matt black if that really wouldn’t work. Any advice is much appreciated! Thanks!

    • Hi Clare, it’s true, unlacquered brass is not always easy to find. Rather than mixing raw with another kind of brass, I would definitely rather add a second metal, like matte black. Those two work well together, and it will cause your beautiful raw brass to stand out. Also, antique brass can vary quite a bit between different manufacturers. When you’re mixing metals, try to keep them in groups, or bands together. Hope that helps, all best with your project!

      • Hi, this post and esp. the comment q&a have been so helpful during my renovation. I’m building a new bathroom and have selected brushed brass finish for fixtures/accessories. So far, that’s just the vanity sink faucets and drain stop, and all the tub/shower faucets/handles/drain stop, as well as a shower bar for hanging washcloth. I need 2 more towel bars in my shower for hanging wet items to dry and for getting in and out of the shower, and I planned to DIY them with unlacquered brass pipes and fittings! Do you think that will look bad with the other fixtures that are brushed brass finish (like, not matching or contrasting enough)? I was so excited to have some raw brass, and was planning to do all the towel bars the same throughout the room, both in and out of the shower. Hm, if not, then what should I do? A white-finish steel pipe instead? I am pretty into the idea of constructing my own towel bars if it gives the right look. I appreciate your advice!

        • Hi Gretchen, so glad you find this helpful. When you use more than one metal in a room, it’s a good idea to have (a) good contrast between the two, and (b) have the one metal as an accent feature, and the other more as a base finish, and (c) try group same metals together so it’s not scattered all over the place. If for instance all your basic fixtures are stainless, you can have the mirror frame and wall sconces in raw /aged brass. Or brushed brass with matte black.

          In our space, if you bring in another metal finish, I would repeat it also somewhere else so it doesn’t look like it was an after thought. Hope this helps, let me know.

          Generally I would recommend that there’s good contrast between the two metals, so it doesn’t look like you tried to match things, but failed.

  5. hi there. great info on raw brass. I also have a q. I have raw brass on my stove and hood. I left it alone and it did patina but is not even by any means. it is spotty and I’m not sure that’s the look you mean? or that I am going for. is there a way to even this out so it looks aged without looking spotty? I am wanting to replace it bc it drives me that nuts to look at it! thanks in advance!

    • Hi Tara, thanks for stopping by. Raw brass around your cooking area is much more likely to tarnish unevenly due to the constant and random exposure to oil and dirt in cooking fumes, sprinkles and touching. And certainly, as spotty blotchy patina is not desirable, and I can understand how it drives you nuts. If I were you, I would clean it as well as I can to get rid of the uneven tarnishing, and then darken it with a brass darkener. Once it’s more evenly darker, I would be sure to give it a quick wipe to remove cooking dirt after every-time using the stove. Best of luck – I’m sure you can have a beautiful lived-in look with a little bit of extra care!

    • Thanks for your question, Aysha. Typically, when a product is labeled “lacquered”, it means there is a protective layer on the brass to prevent it from discoloring /forming a patina. It’s always a good idea to ask the supplier to double check – last thing you want is a product that changes color if you don’t expect it, or visa versa. All the best!

  6. This is a fantastic post!!!
    Helping me very much with our renovation.
    We have just finished the kitchen an I purchased a brushed brass Tap. It is just beautiful… but it got me thinking… if I purchased a brushed brass shower head and matching taps, do you think they would tarnish quickly due to the constant water and moisture in the bathroom? It concerns me for the long term… I know it’s lacquered which is supposed to protect it, but for how long? Do you have any insight into this? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you

    • Hi Bianca, thanks for reaching out. If you are purchasing a brass item that states that it’s Brushed Brass, it typically means that the brass has been lacquered, and should not tarnish over time. The same goes with “Polished”, “Antique”, “Burnished”, “Satin” Brass. I cannot talk for all manufacturers, but in my experience it takes some hard chemicals and elbow grease to remove the lacquer from brass. You are probably quite safe with your sealed brass faucets, and can sleep easy.

      Normally when a brass item is raw / not lacquered, the manufacturer will make sure that you understand you’re buying an item that is not sealed, and will state that clearly.

  7. Hello, would you recommend unlacquered brass for only faucets where you are rubbing your hands on them? I am looking at a towel hook that comes in many different finishes and the unlacquered intrigues me. I doubt we will be grabbing the towel hook, so any natural buffing would be limited to the towel rubbing as it is placed and removed. Just not sure how that will look over time.

    • That is a good question thank you for writing, MrsDt. You are absolutely right in your reasoning that it is ongoing touching and handling that gives un-lacquered brass that “worn” look of more shiny areas where we touch, and more dull and darker areas where there’s no touching. A towel bar that does not get touched with hands as much will still tarnish and go darker in time, possibly even get some spots from steam drops etc., but will likely not have shiny gold areas, as for instance a faucet would where fingers and hands naturally “polish” the brass.

      Here is an image of a vintage un-lacquered towel bar, you’ll see how the entire bar has darkened with very little variation. Hope this helps to answer your question. All best!

      ” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Here

  8. This is very helpful and all the questions are great. I am in the UK trying to source for new bathroom. I splashed out on unlacquered brass for the basin and bath, and just cant afford the price of the shower so wondering what to do, ha ha!
    Was very shocked at the shinyness of the taps but am reassured that i just have to wait / put vinegar on them. Trying to decide what colour looks best with the brass… greens? blues? Whites? Very indecisive as I love everything!!

    • So glad you found the article before you sent the taps back, Petica, the initial shine of the un-lacquered brass can be a bit of a shock!

      What goes with Brass? Personally I love blue, perhaps because they are opposites on the color wheel. Watch this for inspiration

      Now this is important: you don’t have to use the same metal throughout the room. In fact, with eye-catching brass it can feel a bit scattered and distracting – especially if you have lots of hardware on drawers and handles, and if all the accessories are all brass too. Choose one other metal that is less attention grabbing, like nickel and group them together. In the shower, or above waist level for the mirror and wall lights, or all the handles and knobs. In the Pinterest link you’ll see plenty examples of this combining of metals. https://www.pinterest.com/1indesign/metals/

      Best of luck, let us know how it goes!

  9. Hi,
    I am renovating my mid-century split level home. The cabinets I am using are white European slab, so very modern looking. I want to bring some more classic and warm elements. We are using light butcher block counters and warm light/medium wood floors. The cabinets are very matte and really like the contrast of polished brass hardware with it. I want to get unlacquered brass because I love the beauty of a living finish, but I’m concerned it may look too traditional with my modern cabinets. What do you think? Do I buy polished brass hardware or unlacquered?

    • Dear Sharayah, So glad you’re reaching out. I love the idea of juxtaposing very contemporary with a touch of traditional. I think you’ll love it too. You can certainly bring in a natural-looking material like raw brass that shows the layers of real life to contrast with your sleek finishes. You also don’t want to overdo it with brass, and can combine two different metals in your kitchen. Let the beautiful brass stand out! Perhaps you can have a feature piece, like the faucets in a raw brass, together with a decor item or two in a similar warm metal, and then on your cabinet hardware have a contrasting shiny metal, like polished nickel or silver. All the best with your project, keep us posted!

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