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HOM Copper

makes a comeback

King Features Syndicate

There's a time to dream and a time to take action. When I am in dream mode, I love to check out what the high-end markets are producing. Metallics have been hot for a while now, with stainless-steel appliances and even countertops rising as the reigning star in kitchens everywhere. What started as an avant-garde movement from the commercial market into domestic life has become the norm for all styles, from traditional to country. So what's next?

Copper is once again appearing, but for now, in an upscale rather than folksy way. Perhaps longing for a material with more intrinsic warmth than steel, or looking back to historical decor favorites is behind the newest trend. Copper kettles, pots and planters have never lost their charm. Copper is a soft metal with a remarkable patina that grows more lustrous as it ages. We are looking for more dazzle and luster around the house, and copper can provide this in many ways. It's not going to replace steel, but it's the new hot metal, and color.

Historically, it's a metal with a reputation for health benefits. Bathing in a copper bathtub was thought to be an effective anti-inflammatory remedy for arthritis, rheumatism and osteoporosis, as well as an aid to keeping skin young and healthy. Today, however, most of us would have to win the lottery to reap the benefits of the copper tub pictured here; it rings in at $60,000. Sculpted copper sinks and faucets are also expensive, but resemble works of art. Accessories are more reasonable, and you might be lucky enough to unearth some old pieces at yard sales.

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There are clever ways to introduce copper into your decorating scheme without breaking the bank. It's the color that we love, and this we can imitate with paint. There are metallic paints and powders available at specialty paint stores, or look for them at arts-and-crafts stores. Rather than attempt a whole room, choose a focal wall in your dining area. A copper glaze will add a healthy glow to any base color. Copper-colored orange is optimistic and happy, while copper-toned dark browns are more serious and sophisticated.

If you have a powder room, this is a perfect place to experiment with a new color. It's small and can be quickly changed if you're not happy with the results. Lustrous copper walls are elegant and flattering; choose a modern copper light fixture or chandelier to enhance the sparkle.

Part of the beauty of copper is the levels of color and texture that appear over time. This verdigris effect can be applied to an embossed wallpaper border or dado with stunning results. Once your surface is prepared, paint a base coat of copper latex paint. Apply small amounts of dark and light aqua paint randomly, dabbing with a soft smooth rag to wipe back and remove most of the blue. If there is a raised pattern, then leave the blues behind in the crevices to highlight the design. It should have a powdery finish, imitating the look of real verdigris.

Look for real copper or copper-colored frames, and line them up on the wall in an entrance way or stairwell. They make a good complement to sepia photographs and black-and-white prints. Frame a large mirror, and try a copper lamp or lighting fixture. This once country favorite is back, but now making modern spaces glow.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. E-mail your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com.

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