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Brass is (not) back

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

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Sources as disparate as CNN, Houzz and the Wall Street Journal have proclaimed that brass is coming back. Reaction has been decidedly mixed. Some agree – but one person commenting online said simply, “Ugh!”

The stories point out that all brass is not bright, cheap “builder” brass. In some elegant settings, quality antique brass is right at home.

If the brass lighting fixture in your foyer screams that you were stretching your lighting budget when you built back in the 1980s or ’90s, though, it probably ought to be replaced before you put your home on the market.

If you’re selling, the question isn’t whether you like bright brass, or whether it complements your furnishings. The question is how potential buyers will react. Terry Alfero, a veteran agent with Allen Tate’s Ballantyne office, said her clients are likely to respond like that person online: “Ugh!”

Go ahead and replace the bright brass chandeliers in foyer, dining room and kitchen. “I would recommend something like oiled bronze,” Alfero said. “It will look good with your furnishings – and look good when the room is empty.”

She makes another important point about how brass looks with your décor: It doesn’t matter, if your empty house is on the market. Potential buyers won’t be dazzled by your décor – they’ll see only bright brass.

Browse through online pictures of the most popular model homes and you’ll see brushed and bright nickel, the bronze that Alfero mentioned, or light fixtures with earth-tone painted finishes.

Homes more than a decade old, though, might feature bright brass at every turn: Light fixtures, cabinet hardware, door knobs and hinges.

If you’re going to replace your brass, Alfero said, start with the light fixtures. “Especially that brass entry foyer chandelier. ... It has to go.”

In the kitchen, swap out the brass knobs and pulls on cabinets for more modern shapes and finishes. Don’t splurge on stainless steel stove and refrigerator, and then overlook the brass drawer pulls.

Interior door hardware is less important, she said. If the knobs still look like new and work well, tackle other upgrades first. “If (a knob) is tarnished, scratched or worn, it has to be changed.”

Alfero said she wouldn’t rank getting rid of brass at the top of her list of things that sellers need to do. Decluttering comes first – always.

Lots of people wait until they’re going to sell to spend on updating their homes. Then, doing it all at once, can get to be expensive.

Said Alfero: “Think of the money you’ve saved over the past 15 years. You haven’t done a thing about updating that brass.”

Special to the Observer: homeinfo@charter.net
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