Shiny Brass = Kiss of Death


Liz Jenkins


It’s everywhere, that shiny brass!  You see it on doorknobs, light fixtures, cabinet pulls, faucets and more.  When I do staging consults, recommending that people update their fixtures and doorknobs is one of my key points.  Nothbrass door knobing says, “lowball me” or “this house hasn’t been updated” like a pitted, tarnished, shiny (or not so shiny anymore) brass front door knob.

Now of course, it can depend on the price point of the home, but in my area (and I’m guessing this is true in others as well), the houses that are selling are either way underpriced/foreclosure types, or the ones that are updated and really well maintained. Shiny brass tends to be installed by builders because it is cheap, not because it is the most attractive.  Today, you can get satin nickel or bronze for about the same price, and the impact it makes on potential buyers is substantial.

Replacing the shiny brass with satin/brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze is one of the best ways to show that a home has been updated for several reasons.

  • it’s one of the first things a potential buyer touches when they enter a home
  • it’s a highly visible feature of the home whether the shiny brass is on a faucet, light fixture or doorknob
  • nickel or bronze presents a more ‘expensive’ look to the buyer

Updating a whole house can be pricey, especially if it is a larger home.  But here are some cost saving tips:

  • start with the exterior doors – if you can only afford one door knob – make it the front door, then move to other exterior doors, then interior
  • consider painting the hinges the door color instead of replacing them – it’s better to replace but if you can’t swing it – paint them – the buyer won’t really notice and it’s not something that is that unusual, especially in older homes
  • I often recommend, for cost purposes, doing the first floor of a home and not worrying so much about other floors although doing all is ideal
  • use discount stores or clearance items wherever possible (I recommend Everything Doors – they are local for me but have a great online inventory)
  • if you can only do one faucet – do the kitchen faucet, then move to first floor & bathrooms (do the master bath & first floor powder/guest bath first), then other floors
  • your faucets do not have to all be the same style unless they are in the same bathroom – look for clearance or scratch & dent – as long as they work and are in good condition – go for it
  • light fixtures can often be painted black or bronze using spray paint
  • for light fixtures – start with the front door exterior lights, then the foyer, followed by the kitchen & dining areas, and then moving on to hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms although the master bedroom should be the first of the bedrooms for updating fixtures
  • don’t forget about ceiling fans – look for clearance fans in dark brown or bronze with dark wood blades

Tip: Once you pick a finish for door knobs (nickel or bronze or pewter), stick with it.  If you do the front door in satin nickel, make all of the doorknobs satin nickel.  I usually recommend brushed nickel for all faucets.  Mixing light fixtures is fine – I usually recommend black or dark bronze colors for those but if you have a more contemporary home, nickel or chrome can work as well.  nickel door knob

The key is to keep updates consistent in viewable areas.  For example, if you update the exterior front entry (which should always be the place to start), be sure to do the door knob, door bell, light fixtures, etc.) so that you won’t have one really nice piece and a shabby one.  It sends mixed messages, not the “aaah, I like this” message you want.  If you update the kitchen with a new faucet and cabinet pulls, make sure the light fixtures and knobs visible from the kitchen are also updated in some way.

Beware:  I’ve heard of some stagers painting faucets or door knobs.  I do NOT recommend this.  A light fixture is usually fine as long is it is prepped well, but faucets and door handles are touched and cleaned frequently.  No paint, adhered to a metal is going to withstand this and then it will start to peel, chip or wear.  I consider this misrepresentation to the buyer – guaranteed to piss them off.  It would me.

A consideration is plating if the condition and quality are great (see my post about plating).  This can be cost effective, especially if the knob or fixture is amazing and would be really expensive to duplicate via replacement.

bronze handle set

Here’s the most important tip:

It doesn’t necessarly have to be your taste or the ‘perfect’ faucet, light fixture or door knob.  The key is to do the upgrade at the most economical price point possible.

While you don’t really want to spend a lot of money when you are selling your house, after paint, flooring & maintenance repairs, updating from shiny brass is one of  the best investments you can make.

One caveat: if your home is ‘vintage’ or historic – this is where you can go a little funky with light fixtures.  If you have vintage cabinet pulls, super cool contemporary  light fixtures or really interesting touches – these can often be good selling features.  You just have to make sure that they are done purposefully. and to the style of the home.  As Tim Gunn on Project Runway says, “Make It Work”!  Nothing is sadder than seeing a really cool, old house “updated” with shiny brass.