Nickel, Chrome or Steel? Tips for Using Silver Fixtures in the Bathroom

From shiny chrome to oil-rubbed steel, there are endless ways to add silver to the bathroom. Silver is a classic metal that exudes a sophisticated yet approachable look. Plus it can compliment nearly any color scheme. But how can you make sure you’re using silver in a modern, tasteful way?

Here’s an overview of the different kinds of silver materials you can use in the bathroom — and the colors to pair them with.

Silver Metals and Materials

While silver is a specific kind of metal, many other types of metals also share the color. This is why it’s so important to understand and identify which silver metal you’d like to use in your bathroom.

One of the most popular silver metals is nickel, and it comes in many different variations. Satin nickel, for example, has remained a popular bathroom element, explains strategic business consultant Leah Peterson at Kitchen and Bath Design. Satin nickel, also referred to as brushed nickel, has a more natural and vintage look because it isn’t super shiny or reflective like polished nickel or chrome.

Nickel also has a richer and more unique appearance than chrome. Designer Peter LaBau says he’s a big fan of nickel faucets. Nickel can “outlast, outshine and visually outperform a basic chrome faucet finish.” This is because nickel is usually plated over a warm metal like brass. When bonded to brass, nickel plating exudes hints of gold and firey undertones that create a more interesting metal. So if you’re looking for something unique in the space, nickel might be a strong choice.

Chrome, on the other hand, is less dynamic as a material but there’s no doubt it’s becoming more popular. “Whereas chrome used to be considered the "cheap" option for kitchen fixtures just a few years ago, it's now more popular than ever in higher end homes,” writes Penny Hull at Stanton Homes.

One reason chome is popular is because it can be an affordable option for people seeking a straightforward way to add silver fixtures to the bathroom. Adorning your children’s bathroom in chrome might be a good idea, for example. That’s because chrome is the most affordable finish, Robert Frank Interiors explains. It’s also durable and easy to clean. The downside? Polished chrome tends to show spots and fingerprints more easily because the finish is so reflective. This means that it requires a bit more upkeep, especially in bathrooms that are used more frequently or by guests.

Stainless steel is another silver material that can be used in the bathroom, though it isn’t as popular. High end remodels are best suited for stainless steel fixtures, Katina Hazimihalis at Dumpsters writes. This is because it’s quite an investment and exudes a more sophisticated look. Stainless steel differs from chrome and nickel because it has a cooler, blue color tone.

Pairing Silver Fixtures with Color Schemes

Personal preferences should always be considered when choosing silver metals for faucets, handles and showerheads.

Adam Sherman of Cottage Industries, Inc. says that picking out metal fixtures for the bathroom isn’t just a design choice — it’s an expression of your own personal taste. And it isn’t all about function, either. “If you focus on purposeful design, it is possible to introduce elements that say ‘this is home,’” he writes.

These foundational design elements can help inform the color scheme of your bathroom. So what colors look best with silver?

Pairing Gray With Silver

Silver is the best counterpart to classic white and gray interiors. If you’re seeking a crisp, clean and classic look, don’t shy away from a gray, white and silver color palette. Take a look at this pale gray and marble master bathroom designed by Soucie Horner. By using layers of gray and white across the floors and walls, this bathroom retains a classic, yet updated look. The silver table near the freestanding tub helps bring a richness to the spacious room.

An all-gray bathroom can suit homeowners who love sleek, minimalist, monochromatic styles, according to Hadley Mendelsohn at MyDomaine. Gray bathroom walls should be complemented with materials like marble, glass and cement to anchor the color in a natural way. Then, silver fixtures can be added for a touch of extra shine.

If you do opt for gray, consider a few decorating points from designer Joy Rondello. She suggests using a light black shade like Off Black from paint company Farrow & Ball. She prefers this color because it "works beautifully with the classic combination of Carrara marble and chrome fixtures." Here, vintage-inspired chrome shower fixtures reflect light from a window, making the bathroom feel more spacious.

Pairing White With Silver

If you’re set an all-white bathroom, designer Barbara Sallick offers her number one tip for choosing the right fixtures. “The most essential ingredient in decorating an all-white bath is texture, and this is achieved by layering materials.”

Sallick explains that fixtures present themselves as a color, so they play an important role in the overall look and feel of the room. Silver is best for people who want the space to have a cooler feeling. She also adds that something as simple as a fluffy towel can add texture to a bathroom that’s predominantly white.

Texture can also be incorporated into the color scheme through fixtures. To amp up the texture of your bathroom, Dorcy Castillo at ImproveNet suggests an oil rubbed silver finish. In contrast, polished finishes like chrome exude a crisp, burnished look.

Understanding the interplay of textures and colors in the space is essential for creating a cohesive look. It can also help you decide whether you want to pair all of your bathroom fixtures for a consistent look, or if you want to mix and match colors and styles.

Pairing Bright Colors With Silver

White and gray look great in the bathroom, but sometimes you’re looking for something more lively. In this case, pastels like mint and pink can complement silver elements.

For a smaller bathroom in particular, mint can create a bright pop of color that balances with silver fixtures. Mint wallpaper with a small print looks particularly striking when paired with silver, as interior design blog Homedit shows. This bathroom has chrome lights, fixtures and towel racks that keep the small bathroom feeling cheery and bright.

Another bright and colorful bathroom is showcased on the Making Joy and Pretty Things blog. Here, you’ll see how peach walls and a white vanity and countertop work with mix-match metals, including bronze and silver. The reason these metals work together in this color scheme is because the mirrors are rimmed with black. The black serves as the dominant metal in the space. Since both silver and bronze match black, the incorporation of it is essential to make the whole scheme work together.

Images by: iriana88w/©, Skitterphoto, Prasit Rodphan/©