Copper: A metal of honor

Mark Finlay Architects ( in Southport designed this Newport, R.I. Ocean Drive residence, which overlooks Narragansett Bay. The home features a spectacular gourmet kitchen which includes copper pots, pans, and a teakettle that are decorative and functional, and combine with the other elements in the space to create a warm, inviting place to cook, relax, eat, and entertain.—Warren Jagger photo

Copper is more than just a shiny metal. “Copper has a living finish — its patina is oxidizing, always changing. The color muddles, darkens, etc.,” notes Veronica Campbell, kitchen and bath designer at DEANE, Inc. in Stamford. “A custom hood Deane made from brass and copper shows how the color plays off the range and pot racks. This is a stunning example of how it creates a mood.”

For this commercial project from Ridgefield-based Ursula Hanavan/Interiors & Designs by Ursula, the main wood bar of the Village Tavern in Ridgefield was wrapped in copper and then finished to an aged patina.—Ursula Hanavan photo

Campbell explains that copper creates a high-glamour or old-world rustic feel depending on how it’s used, such as offering an all-white kitchen an inviting, non-sterile feel. Copper can also be used as a focal point or a complementary element and it’s seen in a range of styles, from French country to contemporary. “It’s dramatic and striking. Used with bold colors it can be very powerful,” Campbell notes.

Metals are popular in home design because they add a layer of interest and texture, she adds: “You’ll see copper used in sinks and countertops. It can be carried over in a lighting fixture or hardware. It’s nice to add a little repetition so it seems purposeful and well thought out.”

Karen Berkemeyer, president of Karen Berkemeyer Home in Westport, designed an all white kitchen around a copper hood. “It’s a focal point that adds warmth and softness to the room,” says Berkemeyer. “Copper works with all decors. Dark or light colors go with it. Copper is a pleasing accent color on sinks and creates interest used on hardware on cabinet doors, and it has more of a color than stainless steel so it’s great to use as a statement material.”

Depending on its use, copper offers different looks, observes Cecy Gillen, owner of Cecy Gillen Designs in Norwalk. “You can make it as warm and creative or as cool and contemporary as you want. Indoor copper can be used in a very modern home or design, spread throughout the entire home, or in French designs seen mainly around the kitchen areas,” Gillen says. Outdoors, in a colonial-style home, Gillen uses copper on roofing areas, exterior window and door trim, balcony edges, and pergola ceilings. In modern homes, copper can be an accent on planters, street numbers, and small patio/porch furniture.

Drum-style copper lighting fixtures add warmth and texture to this eclectic living space designed by Beth Krupa Interiors of Stamford.—Beth Krupa Interiors photo

Copper is a strong metal, she notes: “It can be obtrusive if not placed properly with other décor, and it could work as a focal point if the piece is large and attractive.” Indoors, Gillen uses copper to achieve a bold look. “It’s a heavy, bright color and you need to make sure the decor in the room where copper is placed has no other metal to compete with,” she states. “It’s more cohesive if maintained throughout.” For a cool ambiance, Gillen suggests complementary colors such as blue, white, and light green, and smooth fabrics; for warmth, use red, orange, and brown, and thick-textured fabrics.

Debbie Taiyanides, of Giorgio’s Upholstery in Norwalk, custom-designed copper-colored draperies for a client’s formal living room. “Copper complements the exciting brown and taupe decor in the room with its warm undertones of orange,” says Taiyanides. “It reminds me of a bit of history with a chic updated design style. In Europe, I noticed many homes in villages and other places have beautiful pieces made of copper metal from years ago. The trend seems to be turning around again … and copper colored fabric can soften an area and be either sophisticated or casual with an updated style.”

A client’s copper range hood was incorporated into and contrasts nicely with the other elements in a kitchen renovation by Westport-based Karen Berkemeyer Home.—Karen Berkemeyer Home photo

Beth Krupa, principal, Beth Krupa Interiors in Stamford, designed a living room with a modern, French country twist. “The biggest focal point is two large copper drum shades hanging over the center coffee table,” she recalls.”I liked the volume of the shades and the coziness the copper brought to the space. It actually makes you feel very welcomed and happy when you walk in.” She notes that copper can also be used in traditional and transitional homes to define a casual luxury. “I can even see it mixed with mid-century modern to warm it up and bring it more current,” she says. “I’ve noticed a shift towards casualness, even at the custom luxury level. Copper is a material that helps convey this organically.” In the living room, pairing copper with other warm textures, such as a faux fur throw, wood beams, and stone fireplace, creates a lodge-like atmosphere.

Copper is Ursula Hanavan’s favorite metal to incorporate into her designs. “It’s the most sensuous of all natural metals, whether it’s bright and polished or aged with the perfect patina,” states Hanavan, owner of Interiors & Designs by Ursula in Ridgefield. “In its most refined state, copper can be quite glamorous and the perfect accent for a more polished, modern look. I’ve used a lower-edged, lacquered square copper tray placed onto a very modern white ottoman and finished with a few succulents and a simple candle. The copper softened the edge so the space keeps to its clean lines yet is still welcoming.”

Hanavan adds copper throughout a home, such as in lighting fixtures, bathtubs, mirrors, and accessories, including a large copper steamer tub used as a log holder for an outdoor fire pit. She also wraps copper sheets over various surfaces. Hanavan designed a wooden bar at the Village Tavern in Ridgefield, for example, to create an inviting space with a sophisticated pub feel. She collaborated with Chris Curran, a local metalsmith, to implement the aged copper bar top and side shelves. “This application can also be used in residential homes,” she explains. “Chris and I are currently using this process in a living room-turned-billiards room in which we’re adding two copper-wrapped ledges along the side to provide a resting spot for drinks,” she concludes. “While its many counterparts may come and go, copper is the one metal that has, and always will, stand the test of time.”

This La Cornue ( Chateau 180 range is shown here in Quintessential Teal with copper trim and brushed nickel accents. The company offers a wide variety of color options, trims, and accents; the copper trim is one way to introduce the warmth and beauty of copper to your home decor. The space is also accented with copper cabinet hardware, sconces, and a pot rack.—Nathan Kirkman photo


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