When picking finishes for a bathroom, the most popular choices by a broad margin are Polished Chrome and Polished Nickel. Yet to the untrained eye, the subtle difference can be difficult to distinguish. Chrome and nickel are very close silver tones – chrome is a colder blue to nickel’s warm yellow.
Pre-1930, Polished Nickel was the preferred “sanitary” finish for bathrooms and kitchens. Chrome became more popular post-1930 for a very simple reason: Cars. Imagine standing in your kitchen, polishing your nickel faucet to a sheen, then going out for a jaunt in your chrome-accented vehicle, still gleaming despite the rigours of the road. The pragmatic designers who chose chrome for auto parts popularized the finish for the general public, and set the standard for sanitation.
Nickel can oxidize over time, particularly in moist environments, and can become a little cloudy. To prevent pitting, polish once a year.
Chrome is much more resistant to corrosion, and requires little to no maintenance.
Is the warmth of nickel worth the elbow grease, or is chrome’s durability worth the chill? Both are beautiful finishes that have been popular for decades, and will continue to be relevant for decades to come.
And, of course, we can’t forget Brushed Nickel. Not only is Brushed Nickel even warmer and softer finish than Polished Nickel, it has the added benefit of being less likely to show scratches, smudges, and wear than Polished Nickel or Polished Chrome.
Brushed Nickel is simply a Polished Nickel finish that has been hand-rubbed to tone down its sheen and add a touch of texture. Brushed Nickel, like Polished Nickel, may cloud and pit over time if not cared for properly. The key to caring for Brushed Nickel is to always use a very soft cloth and a non-abrasive cleanser.
Still not sure which finish you should choose? The good news is you don’t have to choose just one. Mixing these three finishes is not a no-no. In fact, as you can see in our Winslow Bath (below), Polished Chrome sconces simultaneously brighten and adds depth when layered atop a suite of Brushed Nickel hardware.