Brushed Nickel VS Chrome – Leader Designer Explains

Picking the right bathroom fittings can be a little overwhelming. Trends are continually changing and it’s important to pick a style that fits with your home. You’ve narrowed the finishes down to brushed nickel and chrome, but how do you choose between them?

Brushed Nickel VS Chrome. When considering the choice between brushed nickel and chrome, the most important thing to remember is that chrome is bright and lustrous, and brushed nickel is classic; matte, and subtle. These two finishes rarely go together in the same room.

Leila Douglah, Lead designer at Lux Home, follows these trends and gives her opinions on the benefits and drawbacks of brushed nickel vs chrome; two of the most ubiquitous metallic finishes in home design.

Chrome plating has long been used to protect metals from corrosion, provide increased surface hardness, and more recently, to decorate kitchens and bathrooms with lustrous, vivid metal fittings. Chrome’s corrosion resistance makes it a popular choice for fittings of modern bathrooms and kitchens. It’s a bold statement in any room, but it has limited applications when it comes to matching styles.

Nickel has an equally long and useful history as an industrial metal. Coins, stainless steel, and batteries commonly contain nickel, and it, too, has been a popular plating material for kitchen and bathroom fittings. Brushed nickel offers an opposing force to the glamor of polished chrome in its simplicity, understated impact, and versatility.

Brushed nickel is the antithesis of chrome for the bathroom. Though both chrome and brushed nickel are cool colors, the nickel appears warmer due to its reduced luster and matte finish.

In choosing between chrome and brushed nickel, there are a few factors to consider. As styles change, people tend to look away from the future and back to the past. This results in the shiny appeal of modernity being overtaken by a rustic or industrial charm. Style and functionality drive demand and demand drives prices.

Is Brushed Nickel More Expensive than Chrome?

Brushed nickel is marginally more expensive than chrome due to the extra step in the manufacturing process, but the price difference is getting smaller.

Have a look at some of the reasons for the price difference between brushed nickel and chrome:

  • Both brushed nickel and chrome are electroplated finishes on what is usually a cast bronze component. For chrome plating, the component is first plated with nickel, and then with chrome.
  • For a brushed nickel piece, the nickel plating is etched with a wire brush to take off the natural shine of the metal. This extra step in the manufacturing process increases the price of brushed nickel slightly, though the difference is small.
  • The major factors determining the cost of any brushed nickel or chrome are the quality of the build and the reputation of the manufacturer or vendor. The type of finish is therefore only usually a budget concern on large projects. I recommend the Waterfall Chrome Bathroom Faucet. Click here to view the current pricing on Amazon.
  • Nickel has a longer history of use in bathroom fittings than polished chrome, and therefore chrome was once significantly more expensive due to its novelty and trendiness. As chrome has become more common, its price has dropped to even slightly lower than brushed nickel.
  • Brushed nickel is becoming more popular as trends begin to switch towards matte finishes and warmer tones. It’s a less vibrant option than chrome, making it more versatile in its applications as it fits with a wider range of styles.

Brushed Nickel vs Chrome Durability

A deciding factor on any home installation is how long it will last. Nickel and Chrome are both durable metals to use in bathroom fittings, but which is more durable? Brushed nickel is more durable than chrome; in fact, it’s one of the most durable finishes there is.

Both platings provide strong corrosion resistance, but nickel-plating processes mean that the plating coat is more even and covers more hard-to-reach places than chrome, making it better at providing long-lasting protection.

Chrome plating tends to be uneven, and therefore more prone to damage than nickel, especially on corners.

Brushed nickel is prone to less damage in general than chrome but is susceptible to tarnishing if cleaned improperly. Chrome can flake or scratch if it is applied badly and may also be damaged by abrasive cleaning methods. I recommend the Parlos Brushed Nickel Faucet. You can view the current pricing on Amazon by clicking here.

While chrome may have manufacturing defects, nickel is coated with a protective lacquer after processing, to protect it. Both finishes can be affected by incorrect cleaning, which suggests that when treated correctly, brushed nickel is the more reliable option in terms of durability. 

Here is a video that helps you to decide on the best finish for your bathroom or kitchen faucet:

Is Brushed Nickel Going out of Style?

Brushed nickel is unlikely to go out of style anytime soon. Contemporary and vintage-style brushed nickel finishes are still cost-effective, versatile, and popular choices for kitchen and bathroom fittings. If anything, it will increase in popularity with the current shift in trends.

Here are four reasons why brushed nickel will stay popular:

1.     Silver-style bathroom fittings remain the most popular styles, and in this category, both brushed nickel and chrome remain top choices, but brushed nickel gives a classic, traditional style that fits any rustic vibe.

2.     For an even older-looking style, there is antique brushed nickel. Antique brushed nickel contains a black nickel overlay, giving it a darker, softer effect. The dampened hues give a vintage appeal to the finish, and this is something that’s growing in popularity.

3.     Brushed nickel is one of the most versatile finishes for bathroom and kitchen designs. It works well with many colors of wood and paint and fits in with modern or traditional styles. It’s also easier to match brushed nickel with other matte finishes such as oil-rubbed brass or brushed steel. 

4.     With more versatility of styles, lower maintenance, and wider applications, brushed nickel is likely to remain in style for years to come.

For those who want the durability and comfortable feel of nickel with a polished finish, there is polished nickel. This finish maintains the golden tones of brushed nickel but gives the bright and vivid shine of chrome.

Brushed Nickel vs Polished Nickel

Brushed nickel plating offers a warmer hue than polished chrome in the bathroom, but there is an option to keep that comforting tone and have the luster too. Polished nickel combines the shine of chrome with the yellow tones of brushed nickel.

If the shine of chrome is an appeal for your bathroom but you like the soft, natural tones of nickel, polished nickel finish provides a combination of luster, warmth, and brightness that resembles chrome but without the cool-temperature hues. Polished nickel is not texture-treated, so it retains its shine.

People often choose polished nickel as an upgrade to chrome in the bathroom. It’s easier to clean and can be brighter than chrome too. The higher cost to the consumer is a consideration here though; as chrome slides out of popularity, polished nickel demand is increasing, and with it, the price. Polished nickel can be at least twice as expensive as brushed.

Brushed nickel, however, beats out polished nickel in terms of its ability to match with other bathroom accessories. As with chrome, polished nickel also suffers from visible wet spots and fingerprints that brushed nickel won’t show.

Brushed nickel or polished nickel? Brushed nickel is more resistant to water spots than polished, and will match with a wider range of accessories but if you’re looking for a loud and glossy statement for nickel fittings, polished nickel might be worth the cost.

Chrome vs Brushed Nickel for a Bathroom

Chrome and brushed nickel both have their advantages for bathroom fittings. Chrome works well with cooler-colored room themes, while brushed nickel fits better with the warmer hues of yellows, browns, and oranges. Both of these palettes are suitable for bathrooms, and the choice will depend on the desired theme of the room.

  • Cooler-colored rooms bring a bright and clean-looking image to a bathroom. These blues and greys can accentuate neutral colors in the bathroom to create a mood and work well with fluorescent or cool-LED lighting.
  • Warmer-colored rooms promote relaxation and stress relief and are therefore often used in bedrooms and bathrooms. Yellows and browns work well with natural wood colors and paints, as well as incandescent lighting.
  • Depending on your choice of temperature grade for the bathroom, chrome or nickel could fit. Chrome, therefore, wouldn’t complement a warm-themed bathroom, but its silvery blues would be well matched by the accent colors of a cool theme.
  • Conversely, brushed nickel fits with the woody, rustic color scheme of a traditional bathroom, but would look out of place and clash with a cooler color grade. 
  • Excellent quality chrome plating is very resistant to corrosion, but it can still be scratched, and it shows watermarks and fingerprints. For this reason, as with most polished finishes, chrome needs to be cleaned regularly to keep it gleaming. Nickel, on the other hand, hides these imperfections well.

Here is a table that highlights the percentage of brushed nickel versus chrome that online forum users had used in their bathrooms:

Brushed Nickel for Bathroom FixturesChrome Fixtures in the Bathroom
data derived from various online forums for DIY renovations

Brushed nickel vs stainless steel

Stainless steel is another classic choice for the bathroom. It’s cheap, very resistant to corrosion, and easy to clean. As with other polished finishes, however, it does show water spots and fingerprints more than brushed steel; something which is less of an issue with brushed nickel.

Many of the aesthetics of chrome are also available with stainless steel, but when compared with brushed nickel, stainless steel has many differences.

Here are four things to consider when choosing between stainless steel and brushed nickel:

1.   One great benefit to stainless steel is that it’s possible to make solid steel pieces. This means that should corrosion appear, it can be sanded down and removed, and the piece can be polished again. With plated metal such as brushed nickel, this would remove the nickel coating and expose the brass underneath.

2.   Brushed nickel and stainless won’t go together well so again, it’s important to consider the temperature of the accent colors in the room. Brushed nickel suits warmer colors, and stainless steel, much like chrome, suits cooler colors.

3.   Many kitchen appliances and accessories are made from stainless steel for its ease of cleaning. This can mean that adding stainless faucets and door handles makes the room overly metallic and distasteful.

4.   Brushed nickel is also more versatile as a fitting scheme and can be used to upgrade and replace previous fittings in a wider range of themes. It’s also more durable and should last longer than stainless steel. For these reasons, however, brushed nickel is a more expensive choice than stainless.

Are Chrome Fixtures out of Style?

While chrome is still the most common bathroom finish, polished nickel is considered an upgrade and many of the benefits of chrome can be found in stainless steel.

Rustic styles are in, and with them, warm and comforting colors, and versatile fittings. The cold, softer, matte textures are replacing the shiny nature of stainless steel and chrome to suit the increase in vintage and understated styles in fashion.

As the luster of chrome and stainless steel is gradually replaced by the understated and traditional styles of brushed nickel and oil-rubbed brass, people are welcoming the current trend towards bathrooms and kitchens that remind them of simpler times. However, there will always be a place for the durability and shine of real chrome fittings, and when chrome finally becomes retro, expect it to make a comeback in a big way.

So, are chrome fixtures going out of style? As far as faucet finishes go, chrome is moving out of style in favor of more matte finishes such as brushed gold and nickel. This matches the increasing trend of traditional, rustic, or industrial styles, which may be the fashion for a while.

However, it’s not likely that chrome will ever stop being popular. Its durability, economy, and ease of cleaning will keep it showing up in many modern bathrooms. Further, as styles change, people will once again turn to chrome fittings to remind them of a past they now hold dear.

In fact, over the years, chrome fittings have moved in and out of fashion. Chrome’s contemporary style will one day be replaced by its fashionably classic associations. Either way, chrome fixtures will remain a popular choice for bathrooms and kitchens.

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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