A Complete Guide to Selecting Finishes for Hardware and Fixtures

When selecting hardware and fixtures, one of the most important decisions to make is which finish to choose. Just like the color of paint or textiles, metal finishes play a large role in the atmosphere of a room. The below guide will help you pick the perfect finish for your space.

Picking Finishes

With so many finishes to choose from it's easy to feel overwhelmed. How do you go about picking a finish? To help you decide, we suggest you start by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Do you want your hardware to make a statement? 

If you would like your hardware to make a bold impact, choose a finish that has a lot of contrast with your door color. For example, black hardware on white doors, or satin brass on navy blue doors. On the other hand, if you'd like your hardware to be more subtle, choose a finish that is similar in color and lightness to your doors - for example, oil rubbed bronze on cherry cabinets. In the image below you will see the same black pulls. In the left image, they are installed on white doors and are much more eye-catching. Installed on dark oak, as shown in the right image, they are much more understated.

Black Cabinet Hardware

Pictured Pull: V322/B077947-MB

2. Is your cabinetry warm-toned or cool-toned?

Typically, warm finishes look nice near other warm colors and cool tones look nice with other cool tones. Not sure if the finish you're looking at has a warm or cool undertone? Keep reading! We outline the most common finishes below.

Mixing Finishes

One of the most common questions we get is "Do I have to match all the finishes in my space?" The answer is, absolutely not! If you have a stainless steel refrigerator, that does not mean you need to use stainless steel hardware. Mixing finishes is a great way to add interest to spaces and can give your home a more authentic feel. However, not all finishes look pleasing together. The best way to ensure that your finishes blend nicely is to make sure all of the finishes you use have either a warm undertone or a cool undertone. Using cool and warm finishes near each other, often clashes. Some of our favorite finish combinations are listed here:

  • Satin Brass and Black

  • Satin Brass and Bronze

  • Satin Nickel and Polished Nickel

  • Antique Brass and Bronze

  • Antique Nickel and Black

When mixing finishes it is best to have a dominant finish and one to two secondary finishes. For large spaces, make sure the dominant finish is spread through different areas of the room to make the space more cohesive.

Finish Types

Polished Finishes

Shiny and bright, polished finishes have a highly reflective surface. These finishes add a touch of radiance to the room. Polished finishes are particularly popular in bathrooms. To avoid obvious fingerprints, we recommend choosing designs without large flat areas.

Brushed and Satin Finishes

Traditionally, brushed finishes undergo a brushing process to soften the metal's appearance and satin finishes use an electric plating to achieve a similar effect. However, these days, most manufacturers use the terms interchangeably. These finishes do an excellent job of hiding fingerprints and watermarks making them a terrific choice for kitchen cabinet hardware, door hardware, and other high-use hardware.

Satin Nickel Cabinet Pulls

Pictured Pull: V322/B072425-SS

Living Finishes

Finishes that will oxidize and change color over time are described as living finishes. Typically, hardware without a lacquer will be a living finish. Most commonly, living finishes will darken, but they can also lighten in areas that are frequently touched. In exterior conditions, living finishes can turn to a beautiful turquoise green.

Living Finish Door Hardware


PVD or Lifetime Finishes

PVD finishes, also known as lifetime finishes, undergo a high-tech plating process that results in an incredibly durable finish. These finishes are great for exterior use, especially for projects near the coast. PVD finishes are more expensive than standard finishes, but they will greatly extend the lifespan of your hardware. The most notable PVD finishes are Baldwin Hardware's lifetime finishes. These top of the line finishes are guaranteed not to tarnish or discolor for as long as you own the hardware.


Polished Brass (Warm Undertone)

Perhaps the most traditional of finishes, polished brass is a longstanding classic. This warm golden finish has a highly reflective surface. When purchasing polished brass, be sure to find out if it is lacquered or not. Unlacquered brass will change in color significantly over time.

Antique Brass (Warm Undertone)
Antique Brass has the warm golden tones of polished brass but has a darker aged appearance. Antique Brass also frequently has highlights and lowlights that will emphasize details. Use it to add vintage style to your home.

Satin Brass (Warm Undertone)
Satin Brass has been growing in popularity for good reason. It gives warmth and brightness to rooms while adding charm and character. It also looks great paired with nearby bronze or black fixtures. Satin Brass can vary in color between manufacturers. We recommend seeing it in person before purchasing.

Satin/Brushed Nickel (Warm Undertone)
If you're unsure about what finish to choose, satin nickel is typically a safe bet. This soft silver finish complements a wide variety of homes. Satin Nickel is very close in appearance to stainless steel, but is available in a much wider variety of design styles. One of the most popular finishes, it is an available finish option for nearly every hardware design.

Antique Nickel/Pewter (Undertone Can Vary)

Antique Nickel and Pewter finishes are an excellent choice for traditional spaces with cool-toned cabinetry. Details in the hardware are emphasized by this finish, making it a great selection for more ornate pieces.

Polished Chrome (Cool Undertone)

This shiny finish is a timeless favorite. It is a popular choice for bath and powder rooms. Polished Chrome is also very hardy adding to its aptitude for damp areas like bathrooms.

Polished Nickel (Warm Undertone)
Polished Nickel is nearly identical to Polished Chrome, however, it has a slightly more yellow tone. It looks best in spaces with other warm colors and finishes.
Satin/Brushed Chrome (Cool Undertone)

This finish is typically used for commercial applications but can be used for homes as well. It is similar in color to aluminum and has a slightly industrial appearance.

Gray, Slate, or Graphite (Typically Warm Undertone)

Sleek gray finishes are relatively new to the world of fixtures and hardware. This modern take on pewter strikes a happy medium between the softness of satin nickel and the bold drama of black. It is a chic choice for contemporary spaces.

Polished Copper or Rose Gold (Warm Undertone)

Copper, also referred to as Rose Gold, is an eye-catching finish that will always make a statement. Similar to Polished Brass, be sure to ask if your copper is lacquered as unlacquered Copper will quickly develop a patina. Copper is also available in satin and antique variations.

Bronze (Warm Undertone)
Bronze is most commonly used for traditional and European designs, however, it can also add contrast and sophistication to modern homes. Bronze has the widest variation of appearances and names. One company's Oil Rubbed Bronze may look identical to another's Chocolate Bronze and one company's Venetian Bronze may look entirely different from another's Venetian Bronze. Because of the huge amount of variation in this finish, we highly recommend seeing the hardware in person before ordering.

Black (Neutral Undertone)

Black is another finish that has been recently growing in popularity. Black adds drama to cabinetry. Due to its neutral undertone, it also pairs well with nearly every finish and cabinet color.

Final Note

The most beneficial thing you can do when picking finishes is to see a sample on your cabinetry. While browsing hardware online is a valuable resource, the color of the finish can differ substantially from your screen to in person. In addition to color inconsistencies, the quality of the finish is often lost in online images. Seeing the finishes against on your cabinetry will also let you see which finishes best compliment your cabinetry. If you are unable to visit our showroom to see finishes in person, many hardware manufacturers offer samples at a steeply discounted price or have free returns. Just contact us and we can have some ordered for you!



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