Dynamics of Metal Surfaces

Although it’s normally colour I look at, today I am taking a look at metals and their various properties.

I am currently working on a large semi derelict building which reeks of character and punches it’s industrial past at you straight between the eyes. The space will become an edgy new restaurant, its colour palette nodding to its industrial past (the decayed properties of the space make it very alluring ), but should also transport visitors to a new set of urban aesthetics. The building has attitude and the colours and surfaces must acknowledge this.

Our chosen colour palette may require some metallic “lift” so I need to consider various properties that metals can display. Polished metal  has a high light reflective value (LRV) an effect which is magnified when placed next to a dark colour. If for example a gold panel is hung on a black wall, the gold will appear particularly bright. The black wall will absorb light and the gold panel will reflect light so the gold’s will appear luminous in contrast to the black which is absorbing the light.

Placing a reflective metal on a dark background will  make the edges of the metal more defined and the metal will appear “contained”, smaller but very bright. If you place the gold panel on a white background however, the gold panel will appear larger because the gold will “spill” or “grow” onto the surrounding lighter surface.

I also need to consider the “temperature” of metals. Silver is “cooler” than gold although it can be “warmed up” if used next to black. However, place silver against white and its “temperature” drops like a stone.

Silver is also highly influenced by surrounding colours and will actively seek out and reflect other colours in the room – much more so than gold. The Tony Cragg sculpture below is reflecting an adjacent yellow sculpture – also a Tony Cragg piece – presumably the curator has positioned the sculptures carefully in order to create another interactive dimension to the art work.

So now I have considered some of the dynamic properties of metal, I can’t wait to mix them into the equation and use them to breath another dimension into the project – a project I hope to post more on in the coming weeks.

18 thoughts on “Dynamics of Metal Surfaces

  1. I love the warmth of silver, however odd that sounds. I have two candlesticks in the bedroom, one silver, one pewter, beside one another. Both are lovely, but their “silvery” colours have a very different feeling.


    • Yes, I know what you mean especially with pewter. I think its the touch of copper in pewter that really warms it up. When you move your candlesticks around your house I guess they take on a different “temperature” depending on the predominant colour in the room. Thanks for your comment 🙂


  2. “However, place silver against white and its “temperature” drops like a stone.”

    Something about this made a penny drop like a rock on the foot. I’m suddenly realising why silver, whether on furniture or ornaments, works in all these architectural photographs I keep looking at.

    You’re full of great info!


  3. Thanks, Sandra. Yes, metals are an interesting component and a useful one because we want to keep colours & textures very natural and raw and metals can act in a similar way to accent colours but without the “colour”.


  4. This sounds like a really exciting project – looking forward to following your progress 🙂

    I tend to prefer warm metals, like copper and brushed brass/gold. But silver just has that glam factor that I love to incorporate into a room. As you pointed out and the image shows, silver takes on the colours around it because it’s so reflective, which adds some dimension to a room.


  5. Hi Kelly, yes I think people either fall into a cool or a warm palette. I am definitely a cool Northern palette person and therefore gravitate towards silver. I always have silver Christmas decorations (!) but I really admire red & gold decorations in friends houses – although its a combo I am less comfortable around. I will specify warm colours when required of course but I do find it much harder.

    Thanks for your interesting comment. 🙂


  6. As always, the most inspiring, informative post. Today, as I make my daily round, (looking at EVERYTHING course), I will pay extra attention to the interaction of metallic surfaces…thank you Niki and best of luck on the project.


  7. Pingback: Decorate Your Walls With Gum! | EB Color

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