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the four letter word in decorating


Can we please take down that *bleep* chandelier?  And while we’re at it, I’m going to paint the *bleep* door knobs after we replace the *bleep* faucets and the matching *bleep* light fixtures in the bathroom.

Any idea what the four letter word in decorating is?

I’m going to whisper and spell it out, so I don’t lose sponsors, make little kids gasp or genteel women faint…

B – R – A – S – S

Wait. That’s five letters.  Whatever.  It’s a bad, naughty word in most decorating scenarios.  I’m thinking specifically of the “builder grade” brass fixtures everyone wants to immediately replace in their home.  Tacky brass has made me cringe for years and I would replace it with nickel or bronze in a heart beat.  I think brass’ unfortunate association with cheap fixtures made it a bad word.

A few years ago, something changed for me, though.  I started using more gold (brass, really) leaf.  I had only used silver leaf before, but decided to give it a try.  It looked timeless, classic and elegant and I can’t believe it took me so long to see it.  I started putting subtle gold accents in my rooms.

I bought a piece of furniture with some beautiful brass knobs.  Someone had replaced them with nickel, but kept the original hardware in a bag in a drawer.  The nickel looked so inappropriate for the piece, so I decided to use the original knobs.  They looked awesome.  I had been wrong to throw away every brass knob I came across.  I didn’t even give them a chance.

Now that I had made my peace with brass, I started to notice it more.  Especially brass lamps.  Not garish brass lamps, but the ones that are warm and antiqued.  I’ve been looking for one for a while, so I was delighted when I found this one at a yard sale on Saturday for $4.00…

I’ll take that, thank you.  It’s not old, but it has pretty lines and the finish I was looking for.


As I was preparing for this post, I was surprised at how much brass I have in my home and how lovely it can be…



 I’ll probably always hate builder-grade-brass, but I have definitely found a soft spot in my heart for the four (five) letter word in decorating.


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  1. I’m with you. There is so much beauty in true, worn brass. I’ve been caught by the bug too.

  2. I love brass – always have. Its the shiny 80s polished brass that hasn’t been in style since the 80s but the old worn type never goes out of fashion.

    On that same topic I feel like oil rubbed bronze is going to be the shiny brass of tomorrow. Could be wrong but its so ubitiquous.

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      Yeah, I think you’re right. But I think just like brass, good ORB will always be in style.

  3. As a lover of vintage, the right kind of brass has a soft spot in my heart too. That builder grade brass on the other hand…yikes!

  4. I hear you! I’m still working to replace all my builder grade brass…it’s a slow (and expensive!) process!!

  5. I could not agree with you more! Shiny, builder grade brass is hideous. I have always, however, loved old brass. Tarnished brass. Brass that is so tarnished it is naturally distressed by a white haze and verdigris patina from the copper beneath. I particularly like old brass hardware on walnut and mahogany furniture.

  6. I agree – cheap is cheap (referring to builder-grade). Nice brass is nice. It really is simple:)

  7. I totally agree. The best-looking brass has no lacquer on it, allowing for the rich glow that only patina can bring. That ultra-shiny fake builder-grade stuff ain’t pretty…….

  8. We’re in the midst of a cosmetic kitchen renovation, and we have brass cabinet pulls. They aren’t shiny (although they are from the 1980s most likely!). I looked at nickel replacements and felt that with all the white paint we’re putting in, they looked too cold for my liking. So we’re keeping the brass. It adds a patina that the kitchen needed.

    We have a 1940s brass dining room fixture–original to the house. No one would call that dated. It’s just plain awesome!

  9. Serendipity says:

    Thankyou! Your post could not have come at a better time for me. I’ve been agonizing over what to do with my 40 inch wide, 36 inch tall, incredible, expensive, 10 year old, (but still BRASS), chandelier. Maybe I just need to give the ‘ol girl’ a little credit…and perhaps a little “bling”. xo

  10. I agree. Properly aged brass is gorgeous. Just like properly aged women. And a few dings only add to the character of both. That’s what I choose to believe. Yours dingily, Helen.

  11. I thought the four letter word was going to be UGLY. :) I don’t consider 80’s brass true brass. If a q-tip can dent it, then it needs to go! I like any and all solid true metals.

  12. I am so with you, cheap brass goes to the recycle center, antiqued brass gets to go to the booth or my house. If I find a piece of cheap brass that has good lines, I try to antique it or paint it so it is cuter. Oh, and your lamp is lovely!

  13. I just picked up a lovely pair of vintage brass lamps. I was going to paint them but when I brought them home I loved how they look in the room. As my mother who has always liked old brass says “you are coming over to the dark side”. :)

  14. There is a huge difference between the rich, deep color of real, worn brass and the shiny, new “gold” brass that looks like it has 15 coats of lacquer on it. That being said, I enjoy it in small doses and can certainly appreciate it, but I am not ready for it in my home, just yet 😉

  15. I love that lamp. Wow, four dollars. I agree about the bright brass which we used when we built our house in 1989. =P We have replaced most of it but I have a beautiful white ceramic light/chandelier in my dining room that has the ugly brass. I know I need to paint it but it also has a line of brass around some of the ceramic pieces and I am at a loss of how to paint those. I am even intimidated about trying to tape off the other part to spray paint. I might get up my nerve some day. 😉

  16. I “brassing” love brass! Reminds me of my mom’s house growing up, especially her lamps and chandeliers. I would love to find some old pieces for my home as well. Yours are just beautiful!

  17. Oh yes I have been slowly getting rid of that UGLY builder brass in my home too.It really is not just the brass but the light fixtures are well….cheap.But I don’t want to hang just anything up.So I wait until I find the right thing.I really like your brass pieces.I don’t have much in my house.But if I did I would prefer the antiqued version too.

  18. Can you refinish brass? I have brass & glass coffee and end tables. I would like to change them to the oil rubbed bronze finish, but not sure if there is a way to do it? Any suggestions? Thanks! :)

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      Suzy, there’s a comment towards the bottom that shares a product the antique unfinished brass (I’ll have to give that a try), but you can also paint brass. Really!

  19. I’ve always loved me some antiqued brass. It is probably my go to fixture color when I want something classic and classy. However, I don’t think anyone enjoys that in your face, bright, ugly <– thats the four letter word I was thinking (haha) 80s brass.

    Love all your brass touches, especially that gorgeous lamp you scored.

  20. I scored a beautiful brass antique floor lamp for $8 at a yard sale recently. She had $25 on it but when she found out I was a decoratin’ blogger and would appreciate her lamp, she let me have it for what I had left on me in cash. I intended to rub and buff it with silver or pewter but I just don’t have the heart to do it yet – the patina is just too pretty. I’m a silver/zinc/pewter girl over here but I still love the look of real brass in other homes.

  21. Carol says:

    That is THE lamp I’ve been looking for to use on the desk in my master bedroom! At least now I’ve identified what I want- I’ve been just looking and looking and so far only knew what I didn’t want.

  22. I couldn’t agree more! Love that old brass and new high end brass. There must be a way to glaze it so it looks tarnished. Hey, I’m gonna try that! The $4 library lamp is tres’ cool.

  23. The lamp is so attracting!!
    I like brass, especially if it’s getting a patina. Does brass get a patina? Or is it just getting dark? 😀
    I’d rather get rid of copper…

  24. Nancy says:

    I have always preferred gold accents over silver (it just goes better with the color scheme of my house). So I am glad to hear that you are coming around to it also.

  25. $4 for that lamp! Good for you,
    I totally agree about the builder brass thing. I spray painted many an item around my house with oil rubbed bronze.

  26. Laura says:

    I collect small, brass figurines– very, very small figurines! It’s a sickness and I absolutely love it! Don’t get me wrong, the 90s brass is horrible, but the dated, older stuff is miraculously warming!

  27. Wow…at first I thought I was listening to my husband working on a remodeling project. Whenever he is working on a project it is usually full of bleeps and me yelling at him to stop with the bleeps! I have a whole house full of ugly, builder’s grade bleep door knobs, half of which the locks don’t even work on and/or they keep loosening up and jiggling in the door. Cannot wait to see those bleeping things gone! 😉

  28. I’m not much for the new shiny brass but some of the old stuff I love! We unfortunately did put brass knobs in our house when we started our remodel. the only thing lowes carried fifteen years ago was brass or silver. i didn’t want the silver all through my house so we went with brass. I don’t really think about it much but if I could change it out to the stuff I really like I know I would notice it all the time and love it and be so glad I changed it. Sigh. maybe someday. For now I think I’ll have to live with it!

  29. amen sister!

    janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  30. Cindy says:

    I love “gold” anything, but understand, builder brass = cheap. I still have gold in my house, but I’ve been leaning more toward larger silver pieces, especially since I have gone to a more “shabby chic/romantic country” style. The gold pieces are accents or lamps that will soon be painted!!

  31. When we moved to our house 8 years ago we painted our kitchen cabinets black ( We wanted to replace our hinges on our cabinets to we could add silver hinges and knobs. Well…the hinges we needed only came in brass. I didn’t want the shiny brass, so we kept the old tarnished ones and purchased hardware and light fixtures to match. I am so glad it worked out that way. Silver would have been too harsh for the black cabinets. I have grown to LOVE antiqued brass over the years and we have way more of the antiqued brass in our home than we do silver! Go figure! I guess I love the warmth you get from it!

  32. I agree my dear! I have a couple of antique-toned brass items that are staying that way. There’s always a way to make something look too cheap-y. P.S. I know I haven’t been a frequent-commenter lately. I’ve decided to take a blog break, but I wanted to let you know, the daughter that got married last summer had a baby, so, yep, I’m a grandma ;). I’m so happy to see all of the outstanding opportunities you’ve had/been having. Blessings, Kim

  33. Kathy says:

    I love the look and feel of old brass. It goes so well with my old books and antiques. It gives a room a classic look to me. I think it was the cheap brassy brass that is the big turn off. Kind of like imitation leather, it just doesn’t cut it.

  34. When we built our home shiny brass was all the rage and we fell into the trap. NEVER again!! It is horrible.

  35. I’ve noticed it much more myself lately…and like you, I don’t care much for the builder grade…but anything old and brassy…with a dull patina, that is the brass I find attractive.
    I’ve got a couple of door knobs myself.

    as always your photos are beautiful.


  36. Frankie says:

    There’s such a huge world of difference between beautiful antique brass and that horrid, shiny gold builder-grade junk. That shiny stuff is just hideous! In fact, just today I picked up 2 beautifully shaped but ugly, shiny gold brass lamps at the thrift store — they’re currently drying with their primer coat and awaiting a pretty coat of color and new shades. I’ll always like antique brass — it’s just beautiful.

  37. Know any tricks to age new brass, to give it that worn patina look? I bought some repro drawer pulls that are new brass…but they are sooooo shiny…they stick out like a sore thumb…you can see a photo of it here:

    • Emma Kate says:

      Yes! Liberon’s antiquing fluid! It also says on the bottle you can use it on laquered brass if you use paint stripper first.

  38. Denise says:

    What a good deal for this lamp! Only $4. Have been looking for particular lamps in different styles but I have not found anything that I like , yet. I definitely agree on brass. I was looking for something in particular but I can’t remember what I was looking for , however, I went to that recycling shop . Saw a lot of shiny builder grade brass stuffs – chandliers, knobs , so forth at the shop. I believe not too many people are crazy about that type of brass. I love soft, warm patina on antique brass.

  39. Lucky you! What a steal on that lamp. I couldn’t agree with you more. Aged brass is timeless and beautiful. Shiny builder-grade is for the birds.

  40. Thank you, thank you, for speaking up. All old houses had brass in the principal rooms. The kitchen might have had iron switch covers, and porcelain light bulb fixtures, but brass prevailed. I love to find an antique vintage towel bar that is chrome and have the chrome stripped off. I have found loose brass arms at estate sales on the grass for a $1.50 the lot and have taken them home, stripped them and reassembled them into an antique bouilllette lamp. I collect antique British brass things. The only type I don’t like is Indian brass, which seems to be a lower quality. Can you imagine Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson sitting in the study, thinking, etc, with no brass gas fixtures, fireplace fenders and tools?

  41. I just had to post because I am nuts about unlacquered brass! I did a lot of research on it for my kitchen remodel because I was determined to have an unlacquered brass faucet–which is hard to find and very expensive. In this post I included a link for stripping lacquer off of your own lacquered brass fixtures:

    And then here you can see our unlacquered brass faucet that I had a local plumbing salvage store strip for me:

    And here it is installed in the almost finished kitchen:

    Sorry to post so many links but postings about brass just really get me these days! Love it!

  42. Michelle Lubbers says:

    I once had a chandelier like the one pictured here, it just doesn’t go with my taste (though I have no idea what my taste is, that isn’t it). Seeing it in a different space makes a lot of difference though, against your blue at least from what I can see, it looks really nice. My mother has it now, and she loves it. Hopefully it will look as good in her office which has some blueish green walls.

  43. Jenn W-M says:

    I agree the 80’s brass is just awful! I do like the warmer older brass. I also am not a fan of the ORB either. I think it is something that is going to fade out in time. True ‘worn’ look will always be pricless.

  44. I proudly sprayed my brass and white ceiling fan, last week! The shiney brass is now a soft silver and I no longer have to shield my eyes when looking up in our bedroom! Ahhh…!

  45. When I was reading the very beginning of this post I thought “no, no, you can’t hate brass it’s making a come back!!”…. lol

    I have been slowly warming up to it!! Love your lamp! and soooo glad I didn’t paint my grandma’s chandelier that is a dark brass tone just like yours!

  46. I agree with a lots of this. We have been replacing ours slowly,The kitchen went and now we have nickle but I have brass in the Spiton,several vintage candle sticks, touches in so many of the items I inherited and collect. Love you bringing his up. Kathryn

  47. debbie malone says:

    love the lamp!!!!!!!! what a steal,

  48. Hi Sweetie~ ~Still love the tarnished brass. . .and if you change your mind about that chandy Please give me a call. It’s a keeper.

  49. Lucky you — I’ve know old, worn, brass is lovely for years. Here’s a secret — even the builder grade brass — if abused well, looks great after a while (I’m thinking of the baldwin brass door handle on my French door — it has been exposed to the elements for at least 15 years — it’s just lovely).

    • Regina says:

      Baldwin Brass is hardly builder’s grade. I have a Baldwin Brass desk lamp and several candlesticks that were extremely expensive, even by today’s standards. They’re lacquered, shiny, and weigh a ton each. They’re also classic and will never go out of style. If your door handle is truly a Baldwin, hold onto it. It’s solid brass and timeless.

  50. I love your new little lamp and all the other touches of brass. Your’s have a nice patina of age (even if they aren’t old) which is lacking from builder grade shiny brass fixtures :)

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