Shiny Brass = Kiss of Death

Home Stager with a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing

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.


Re-Blogged 5 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Carly Gonzalez 01/24/2010 05:29 AM
  2. Gayle Causey 01/24/2010 05:42 AM
  3. Gary Swanson 01/24/2010 05:46 AM
  4. Sandi Gerrard 01/25/2010 10:59 AM
  5. Lyn Sims 01/25/2010 11:13 AM
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Vickie Nagy
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate - Palm Springs, CA
Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen

Great point. Our area really got into the HGTV, fix it up and flip it soour market is rather upscale, and shiny brass went the way of the 'doh-doh' birds! Didn't really realize there was any left.

Jan 24, 2010 05:30 AM #3
Valerie Sagheddu
Apostle Art Home Staging & Design - Stroudsburg, PA
~Home Staging Professional, Poconos, PA

Oh... there is tons left! I never thought about the door knobs as much as the light fixtures. Those builder special brass dining room fixtures have to go. I will pay more attention now to the knobs as well...Thanks!

Jan 24, 2010 05:40 AM #4
Gary Swanson
Century 21 Harris & Taylor - Grants Pass, OR

Hi Liz, great post!  I think door handles are something that stagers and Realtors have overlooked.  Like Valerie, I'm going to pay more attention to these features on any of my listings.

Jan 24, 2010 05:43 AM #5
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Ditto with antique brass.  I'm working on a rental property now and almost every door handle is antique brass...truly a sign of the late 70's and it's a finish that really dates a property.  The owner hasn't decided if he's willing to update every door yet.  At least the lighting fixtures have already been done...hurray!

Jan 24, 2010 07:08 AM #6
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes"

Brass is everywhere especially in homes built in the 80's and 90's.  I usually make the same recommendations that you do, Liz.  Sellers often just need to show buyers how updating the "key" areas is so much more appealing ... then you can let buyers do more as the budget allows.  Your list of priorities will be very helpful to sellers.

Jan 24, 2010 07:22 AM #7
Kathy Burke
Sensational Home Staging~~Danville, CA - Danville, CA
S.F. East Bay Home Staging

Bras is everywhere is is a big example here.  Contractors must have had quite the deal in the 80's and early 90's...Oh My!!  Always one of my recommendations is to update brass lighting, cabinet knobs/pulls and other shinny brass fixtures!!

Jan 24, 2010 04:21 PM #8
Kim Dillon
Creative Eye Home Staging - West Chester, PA

Great idea, but many people are just not going to spend that kind of money to replace all the hardware in the home.  I recommend the front door and light fixtures.

Jan 25, 2010 04:28 AM #9
Sandi Gerrard
Toronto, ON

Great info, Liz.  I've reblogged your post to help spread the word to homeowners preparing to sell.


Jan 25, 2010 11:00 AM #10
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

I just sold my own home and before I did I changed out all the ugly brass knobs, handles, etc. and then thru them up in the garage attic!  Good post.

Jan 25, 2010 11:05 AM #11
Liz Jenkins
a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing - Franklin, TN

Thanks for all the positive comments! 

It can be a big investment which is why I tried to give money saving tips and ways to work with what you have.  I feel it is such a critical point that is often overlooked.  Half the time when I point it out to the homeowner they tell me they never even noticed.  It's hard to see what's in your home when you are the one actually living there (as we all know in staging).

And thanks, Sandi & Carly for the reblog!

Jan 25, 2010 11:28 AM #13
Liz Jenkins
a fresh space :: home staging & thoughtful organizing - Franklin, TN

John - you'd be surprised at what can make or break a sale.  With my clients, I emphasize cleanliness & maintenance as key but from a cosmetic standpoint, new hardware on doors & paint are two of the biggest things you can do after that.  Seems odd but it is the truth.  Perception is everything when it comes to selling.

Jan 25, 2010 11:34 AM #14
Cynthia Bartch
Granville, OH

Hi Liz, this is a great post because that shiny brass really dates the home. I like how you emphasized the cost saving tips for the home owner too!

Jan 26, 2010 02:05 AM #15
Cathy Brosius
Arranged Smartly LLC - Saint Louis, MO
Home Staging St. Louis region

I agree, Liz! (I type this while I'm looking at the shiny brass knob on my office door in my home.) I try to get homeowners to remove as much brass as they can without investing a fortune. But I haven't heard of anyone recommending painting doorknobs or faucets... A light fixture is another story, though, and I that can probably be done successfully.

Jan 26, 2010 02:33 AM #16
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I just had a client whose master bath is all shiny gold fixtures and, of course, the shower door is too.  When I commented on replacing it she waved it off as "too expensive" and "the new owners can do it."  After my obsessive hounding on the subject, she has agreed to replace it all.  Hopefully, she will actually do it and I will get amazing "before and after" shots to use to convince other sellers.

Jan 27, 2010 07:15 AM #17
Mary Lou Teague
Home Style and Staging Knoxville. TN

You did an excellent job, and yes it is something that is overlooked, except my the buyer..and as we know they notice everything...

Jan 27, 2010 10:36 PM #18
Darla Rowley
Impact Interior Design solutions - Royal Oak, MI

In a modest priced house, we actyally spray painted the brass finish plates ( only the flat part closest to the cabinets) with black paint, then aged it with a bronze color so it  matched the new aged bronze knobs purchased at Target for less than 15.00 for a 10 pack.  With this approach, the seller did not need to replace the hinges which can be problematic.   It turned our to be an inexpensive solution, to an UGLY problem.

When combined wiht some other modest makeovers, we brought the dated oak kitchen up to date with new granite looking laminate, new sink, new paint, and hardware makeover.  My sellers were pleased, because it saved them at least $300.00, by not having to replace the hinges.

As stagers we have to balance what is cost effective, with what will last.  Our sellers rely on our creativity to find cost effective solutions that buyers will approve of.


Jan 28, 2010 11:30 AM #19
Sharon Filbig
Prudential California Realty - Escondido, CA
San Diego County Real Estate

I'm glad you addressed this--I was wondering if I was the only one who noticed this.  Updated door hardware is one of those things buyers respond to without even really being conscious of it.

Feb 08, 2010 07:36 AM #20
Steve Traylor
A+ Home Inspections dba A+ Services, LLC - Franklin, TN
ASHI Certified Home Inspector

Store the brass.  It will be back.

Mar 19, 2011 08:23 PM #21
Sherry Holland

I LIKE brass - looks great with my antiques!

Mar 24, 2012 02:53 AM #22
Christopher Pratt

Hi Liz, I stumbled upon this blog post from 2010. Great work! 5 years later and the advice is still relevant and couldn't be more important in today's real estate market. The competition is tough out there, for both buyers and sellers. Updated home hardware will make a property stand out from the crowd.
One big change has happened, since you wrote this article. Everything Doors is now, Complete Home Hardware ( The link in your blog post will take homeowners right to the new site. I wanted to point this out, to stop any confusion.
After running Everything Doors for almost 10 years, my wife and I became owners in Oct. '15. We felt "Complete Home Hardware" was a bit more encompassing of all that we are offering these days. We hope you and your readers will stop by and have a look for yourselves. We can be found on our website or in our showroom, here in Franklin, TN. Thanks again for the recommendation Liz. Best wishes

Christopher Pratt
Complete Home Hardware
1227 Lakeview Dr #6
Franklin, TN 37067

Jun 15, 2015 01:35 AM #23
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