Polished, patinated, pitted, burnished, brushed, oxidised… the myriad different finishes that can be applied to metals to enhance their appearance make them wonderfully versatile. With the development of new techniques and innovative technologies that allow designers and craftsmen to use them in ever more imaginative and creative ways, metallics have never been so appealing. From floors and walls to furniture and accessories, they are bringing beauty, strength and sophisticated luxury to interiors.
Copper and bronze tones, which have been hugely influential in the past few years, remain popular choices. In addition, we are seeing the re-emergence of gold and brass. A far cry from the highly polished, ostentatious finishes of the 1980s, today’s timeless aesthetic is softer, warmer and more subtle. Metals are being used in their raw form or given a weathered, aged look that is impactful without being gaudy or overtly extravagant. While mixing metals was once frowned upon, it is now very much de rigueur, proving an effective way to bring contrast and texture.
Finishes and coatings can often be customised to suit a specific interior or architectural style, appealing to the current trend within the luxury market for bespoke design.
Liquid metal coatings are becoming more accessible, allowing a wide range of bespoke textures and finishes to be applied to almost any surface and achieving results that would not be possible using traditional forging techniques.
Cutting-edge technologies are also allowing us to push boundaries. New heights of precision and complexity can be achieved with laser cutting machines, while the rise of 3D printing is transforming the design world. Not only can designers can create shapes that would not be possible using traditional methods, they can also create one-off pieces on demand.
Digital sculptor (a 21st-century job title if ever we heard one) Janne Kyttanen was an early champion for 3D printing and is well known for his revolutionary work in this area. His single-piece sofa was inspired by the structures of spider’s webs and silkworm cocoons.
This beautiful tap by DXV by American Standard won the prestigious Platinum A’ Design Award earlier this year. Designed to imitate the movement of water flowing over rocks in a river, it is, amazingly, 3D printed in metal – the first commercially available product of its kind.
At the same time there has been a revival of traditional methods of craftsmanship, again driven by the demand at the luxury end of the market for unique, custom-made products. This traditional sensibility, coupled with contemporary design, results in pieces that will stand the test of time, perhaps becoming the collectibles of tomorrow; and metals, the very materials on which civilisations were founded, are the ultimate symbol of longevity and resilience, yet are capable of change and transformation.
One centuries-old technique that remains popular today is verre églomisé, in which the reverse side of glass is gilded with gold or metal leaf. This recently launched range by Studio Peascod combines exquisitely detailed, hand-made surface design with simple, elegant forms.
The talented duo behind Cox London work with bronze, silver and wrought iron, among other materials; their creations, at once boundary pushing and rooted in a deep knowledge of traditional techniques, are imbued with a sense of timelessness.