Metallic Magic: A Conversation with Chicago Design Darlings, Studio Gild
The cabinets are pristine. The counters, immaculate. The lighting casts just the right glow and the appliances provide both the professional function and flair sought. But, it is the final element that further elevates the space and gives it that added something: the metallic accents.
In truth, when used properly in a kitchen or bathroom, these accents can blend in or they can stand out, creating another layer of interest. But metallics have also long since moved into the rest of the home, and being able to expertly select and incorporate flawless gilded features and finishes has provided interior design firms like Studio Gild with another reason to flourish.
“Juxtaposing contrasting textures and materials creates both an interesting tension and pleasing visual balance,” said Studio Gild designers Melissa Benham, Jennie Bishop, and Kristen Ekeland. “For example, we might pair satin bronze door hardware with high-gloss lacquered doors or polished nickel fixtures paired with honed stone countertops. Regardless of whether we’re incorporating cool or warm metallic accents, the resulting reflection and refraction create such a beautiful sense of drama.”
The Chicago-based firm, whose name should perhaps be a tipoff to their predilection for all things metallic (even though it didn’t influence their name, curiously), have earned a reputation for exquisite design based on the principles of “sophisticated luxury with touch of whimsy.” The Architectural Digest “Ones to Watch” are known for mixing sophisticated furniture with textured fabrics and sculptural metallic pieces. The trio gaveColdwell Banker Global Luxury a peek inside the Studio Gold mystique with a focus on how to design with gilded pieces, their current go-to metallics, and how to achieve a classic look without descending into trendiness.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Describe your design aesthetic in three words.
Studio Gild Curated, provocative, and timeless.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What inspires you?
Studio Gild Art, fashion, history, and travel are ubiquitous influences that help to shape our collective vision. The three of us are also constantly challenging one another to be innovative; we inspire and motivate each other. We also aim to deliver a distinctive point of view for each project, and to never be derivative with our design solutions.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Can you tell us a little bit more about the inspiration behind your name?
Studio Gild The most obvious and literal definition of gilding is the decorative technique of applying gold leaf to objects. Ironically, this meaning didn’t completely inspire our name. The aspect of gilding that resonates with us is the artisanal notion of applying carefully constructed layers to build character, depth, and interest within a space. Gilding each project with a fine layer of thoughtful detail is our trademark.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury A lot of the design publications have proclaimed metallics as a trend. Is your view that they’re fleeting or timeless?
Studio Gild When used in appropriate moderation, we wholeheartedly believe that metallic finishes will remain timeless. However, as with any design element, it’s important to avoid excess with too much of a good thing.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury The warmer metallic tones — like gold, brass, and rose gold — appear to be having a moment. Do you think this will last?
Studio Gild Gold has been found in architecture and interiors for centuries around the globe. Going as far back as ancient Egyptian and Chinese decorative arts, and continuing through the Louis XIV, baroque, rococo, art deco and mid-century modern periods (to name just a few), gold and brass accents were prevalent. Based on the long and rich history of these finishes, we don’t see popularity waning. That being said, we won’t be sorry to see the undeniably overhyped social media attention dwindle.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Are you finding that more of your clients are open to these tones, or do they still subscribe to the idea that gold feels dated — like something out of the 1980s? For that reason, do they still gravitate towards cooler silvery tones?
Studio Gild Metallic tones are just as subjective as color, and we encounter widely varied preferences across clients. We also find that it can be necessary to help educate, if clients don’t already understand the nuanced differences between finishes. For instance, the prevailing notion that gold feels dated isn’t necessarily untrue when faced with the faux look of highly polished brass finishes from the 1980s. Instead, we would specify un-lacquered brass, which is a living finish that develops a rich patina over time.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Is there such a thing as the ‘new metallics’?
Studio Gild Just like with fashion, we’re not sure any trend or style is wholeheartedly ‘new.’ I think anything dubbed a ‘new’ metallic” is simply a metallic finish from the past that has been made fresh again with a twist on how it gets used. Black metals could be considered a ‘new metallic’ in that they’ve recently become as classic as nickel and chrome finishes. Who would have thought black sink faucets would be all the rage?
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s your secret to ‘gilding’ a space?
Studio Gild Thoughtful layers! In residential design, layers are what transform it from an architectural space to someone’s home.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Are there any rules when introducing metallics to a room?
Studio Gild We are firm believers that metals should be mixed. Our rule of thumb when deciding what metals to mix is to pair a warm metallic with its cooler counterpart. The same goes with the metal’s finish. High-polished, un-lacquered brass coupled with a matte, blackened bronze is a look that has been embraced for decades.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What have been some of the most unusual or daring ways you’ve used metallics in a space?
Studio Gild We have specified Gretchen Bellinger metal fabric composed of Trevira and copper on benches for a Chicago living room; the result was a durable, muted sheen that crinkles to the touch or smooths out when desired. It’s a fabric that fascinates everyone!
We recently installed a muntz metal kitchen hood in a modern suburban Chicago home. Muntz is a brass alloy made of copper, zinc, and a trace of iron. A brass hood isn’t entirely unexpected in the design world but the scale was exaggerated and absolutely made the room, so we’ll call that daring!
Another unexpected metal finish is matte, white, powder-coated plumbing fixtures that disappear in a recently completed, all-white stone bathroom.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Are there any non-traditional spaces where you’ve used a metallic?
Studio Gild Copper was the favored metal for a recent client. After installing their stunning La Cornue range in the kitchen, complete with copper knobs, we were assigned the typically dry task of selecting the finish for the kitchen’s ceiling sprinkler escutcheons. To our surprise (and glee), polished copper was an option!
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Are there any regional differences in your clients’ comfort level with warmer metallics?
Studio Gild None that we’ve seen thus far. Our clients from east to west and in the middle have all been embracing the warmer golds, coppers, and bronze finishes.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s your prediction for metallics in 2018?
Studio Gild Copper and Rose Gold were the darlings of 2016–2017. We think they will wane in popularity, making way for dull, oxidized versions of the classics: aged and blackened brass; tarnished silver; darkened oil-rubbed bronze.