Brass Beside The Sea

Living and working in Falmouth, I always feel a little tingle of pleasure when I see any of the products we sell adorning people’s front doors. Prior to working at Willow & Stone I wasn’t particularly aware of door furniture, or the things people might need to consider when choosing theirs. One of the first things I did learn was that in coastal areas, brass tends to tarnish more quickly than inland.
The ways that brass tarnishes can vary, largely dependent on the chemical makeup of the brass in question. With more copper the tarnish will have more of a green tinge, more zinc and it will tend to blacken over time. Of course brass has been a mainstay of British architecture going back hundreds of years and is so traditional that people will tend to opt for it even if they know if will tarnish in the sea air.
A massive bonus of the brass products we sell is that they are unlacquered, so they will tarnish to an authentic patina evenly. It can be tempting to go for lacquered brass as it will stay shiny for longer, but once the lacquer starts peeling off (which can often be fairly quickly in a salty environment) you lose both the glossy appearance and the smooth surface.
So, living by the sea I realised I was in a great position to illustrate what we really mean when we say brass tarnishes quicker in coastal regions, and what solutions people find to keeping their door furniture looking spectacular.

Blue Front Door with Octagonal Door Pull and Neighbouring Front Doors with Lion's Head Door Knockers

The first picture I’ve taken (above right) shows a knob similar to our Pointed Brass Octagonal Door Pull. I love the colour contrast here of the brass on the dark blue. You can see how the brass has started to tarnish, the shine dulled down by the salt in the air. However, on a Victorian era building like this it doesn’t look out of place. Another thing I love about the fact our products are solid brass is that if you so wished you could spend half an hour polishing this up with some Brasso (and if necessary some very fine wire wool) and suddenly it would be gleaming again.
When buying door furniture it’s great to have that initial wow factor, and knowing you can always polish your items back up to get this, despite the sea air, is very appealing. If you move into a new house with brass door furniture I think it’s great to have a bit of a go at it with the Brasso before replacing everything as you might find that some of what’s there is really beautiful. It does make me sad to see these features painted over, because that’s a much harder job to bring back up to a shine, but if you’re trying to conserve and preserve as much as possible you can you could always try stripping the paint off and going over with some wire wool, to create a satin finish.

The next picture I took (above right) is a favourite of mine. The doors both have A Lion’s Head Door Knocker (very similar to ours here) but because of the contrasting colours and the different placement of the knocker they each have a distinctly different overall look. It suggests friendliness but individuality. A really simple but complementary option if you love your neighbour’s door but don’t want a carbon copy! Here we can see that the door knockers are both quite a lot more tarnished than the previous items. One of ours come with a hand aged effect, which has helped them along a bit. In this picture I love how dark they look, especially when contrasted with the light door colour.

Double Front Doors with a Brass Letterplate & A Storm Porch with Polished Brass Door Furniture inside.
The two pictures above show a novel way of keeping your letterplate looking really shiny even if you are right by the sea – simply have it inside! If you have a porch (even if it’s not quite as grand as these) then you can protect your brass from the elements. Lots of terraced houses in Falmouth have this style of porch, partly to help keep out those South Westerlies, but this in turn can protect your door furniture. You could opt to have a really decorative piece on the inside and have some more functional items on the outside. The view in the reflection of these windows shows just how exposed these properties are! 

Seaside Cottage Front Door with Charming Detail

The final picture (above) shows an entirely different type of property. This one has the feel of a fisherman’s cottage and for me this variety really epitomises Falmouth. After living in this town for around 10 years I still marvel at the variety – one minute you could be in St Ives, walk around the corner and the architecture is all London Regency.
I like how this door has used a variety of different textures and colours to create a really welcoming, bright entrance. The brass adds a warmth to it and the Lion’s Head Latch Cover is a really quirky way of hiding a large key hole. Again the brass has tarnished somewhat, but hasn’t fully blackened helping it stand out on the cool colours of the door.
So if you live in a coastal area and want to have brass on your front door, but don’t want to spend every weekend polishing it back up to a high shine, fear not – the results of brass ageing to an authentic patina are really quite beautiful!
If you want to discuss care of your products or enquire about any of the items featured here please email us or visit our Brass Maintenance page.