Here's How To Sharpen Up Your Interior With Cool Metals

Metallics have always been a mainstay in interiors. Up until recently, the warm metals; brushed brass, copper, gold and bronze, have dominated.

Now, it’s time for the cool metals; stainless steel, chrome and aluminium, to have a moment, bringing a refreshing hit of sharpness and steely style to design.

Our interior design columnist Lauren Li, of Sisalla, shows us how to introduce these cool metals in our homes. Take a look below!

Lauren Li

Stainless steel kitchens aren’t always cold. In this kitchen, by Amelda Wilde, it’s the combination of warm stone and tactile handmade Zellige tiles against the smooth stainless steel that creates a perfect balance. Photo – Cricket Saleh

In a black-and-white space, adding something metallic gives a much-needed lift. This curved side table by Kristina Dam blends into the space while catching the eye. Photo – courtesy of Designstuff.

A hint of chrome in the dining table and chair (the Series 7 Chair) adds polish to this space. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files

Left: The chrome cantilever chair is a timeless classic. Right: The USM is coveted, especially by designers as it is so easily adaptable to different spaces and styles.  Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Lauren Li
4th of May 2023

Sometimes when we strive for a timeless interior it can result in a space that is too afraid to say anything at all. It may be functional, yet it can be quite bland and dull.

I used to aim to create ‘timeless interiors’ for all my projects, because it’s so often referred to as the gold standard for design. However, now, I lean into evolution. Exposing myself to new ideas, experimenting and continually learning means I can change my design perspective. I’m not advocating to jump onto every new style that is the flavour of the month, but instead getting to know your design aesthetic and building on that.

One of the things I was sure that I wouldn’t budge on is brass. I adore this warm metal that shows a patina of use over time. I saw chrome as a hangover from 90s tapware and if you’ve lived through a trend, it’s really hard to jump back on board. But here we are.

The cool metals; stainless steel, chrome and aluminium feel fresh, optimistic and edgy, once more.

I first noticed the use of stainless steel in retail design; Acne in Copenhagen, and more recently in retail spaces by Hecker Guthrie. Now, I am noticing it used in house interiors; from polished aluminium ceilings and stainless steel kitchens, to furniture and lighting.

Cool metals are the perfect accent to earthy interiors as they add sharpness and an unexpected element to the space. The smooth texture is a visual contrast to rugged stone, concrete or natural timber. See how below! 

Stainless steel can act as a ‘neutral’ in a kitchen when there are a few other materials at play. Studio Prineas deftly combines timber veneer and terrazzo with a stainless steel splashback and benchtop. Photo – Felix Forest

A beautifully soft blush kitchen in ‘Peruvian Clay’ from  Laminex is contrasted with an edgy stainless steel splashback and benchtop. Designed by Adriana Hanna. Photo – Sean Fennessey

This is a stainless steel kitchen where you can really cook up a storm! With cooking utensils and dishes on hand, it’s not too precious. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files

Stainless steel is the perfect pairing with a strong colour as seen here with this forest green 2-pac kitchen by Office Mi-Ji. Photo – Benjamin Hosking

Stainless steel is a chameleon, it can adapt to many styles and spaces. Here, the stainless steel element in the kitchen adds a sharp accent to an art-filled home. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an enduring and ‘timeless’ material for kitchens. It can be used as a splashback, benchtop, or go all the way with cupboard fronts. It’s extremely hardwearing.

If you fancy yourself a chef then you really can’t look past it for durability. However, if you want a ‘perfect’ kitchen then steer clear – it scratches. The first cut is the deepest, as they say, then you need to lean into the ‘brushed’ look.

The beauty of a stainless steel kitchen is that it’s a working kitchen so make a mess, fry that oil, squeeze the lemon and let the bolognese sauce bubble over. All can be scrubbed clean again.

Every room needs to have something metallic, and this interior by Studio Doherty is a case in point; the natural timber room is lifted by a luxurious dose of chrome and mirror accents. Photo – Anson Smart

Left: Dome Table Lamp, from Freedom. Right: Theo Vase, from McMullin & Co.

Left: Meridian Lamp, from Ferm Living. Middle: A chair as a bedside table looks effortless and chic. Vintage Marcel BreuerCesca chair, restored by  Daniel Lorenzo. Right: Bauhaus geometric lines-meets-1970s glamour – the new Chromeo by Sarah Ellison is a true statement piece.


Chrome furniture feels fashion forward, but the first tubular steel chairs were designed almost one hundred years ago! The Cesca Chair by Marcel Breuer takes on a certain timeless appeal and it still works in so many different spaces.

Tubular steel allows for furniture to have a strong yet light frame, and a chrome finish is easier to live with than a powder-coat as it’s hard wearing and won’t chip. Shiny chrome is a sharp and welcome contrast against upholstery, too. Have a look for tubular chrome furniture via your favourite vintage sellers and op shops.

Right now, we are also seeing new furniture pieces designed using chrome – such as Sarah Ellison’s striking new chair, Chromeo. It takes on a 70s/80s vintage vibe – I’m here for it!

Left: Side table by Kristina Dam. Right: An aluminium side table adds a refreshing hit of sharp style to this softly decorated bedroom. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Escala side table by ‘Curated By’ is a unique take on a bedside table. The stepped surfaces in sleek polished stainless steel gives plenty of styling options.

A minimalist folded steel shelf won’t fight with the pieces you want to display on it. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files


Aluminium takes on a softer brushed look. It’s durable yet lightweight, and is used for outdoor furniture and also adaptable to accessories in a wide range of styles. The matt finish of aluminium can be easier to integrate into some spaces than reflective metals, and it can be cast in almost any shape, such as the recycled aluminium range by Ferm Living.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen these cooler metals in our interiors. They’re a welcome addition, easily transforming a space into something that feels fresh and edgy – give it a go!

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