Betting On Brass

Betting On Brass

“Brass is back!” I may be paraphrasing, as well as speaking hyperbolically, yet brass has been pinpointed as an “on-trend” trend throughout 2021.

Brass Mushroom Coffee tables by Henge

Henge Mushroom Coffee Tables

Although it’s arguable whether or not brass ever really went out of favor, apropos of its “re-emergence” this year, the truth is that brass as front-and-center décor remains an occasional phenomena.

Brass Studio Glustin round pedestal tables

Round Pedestal Tables with Brass Sheath, by Studio Glustin

Mostly, we see brass in accents and highlights, kitchen taps and shower mixers, the occasional inlay in flooring or wall panels for a signature pop that sets off more commonplace materials like steel, tile, or wood.

Brass Plan n Design image of wall feature with wood, tile, and inlaid brass

Brass Accents on Wall Panel Above Bar, via Plan n Design

Brass Wall Art

Brass Wall Art in New Orleans Restaurant. Pretty cool, but would you want it in your house?

Brass kitchen by Rob Mills Architecture

Brass Kitchen by Rob Mills Architecture. Very shiny.

For the Full Monty, so to speak, when it comes to brass, we should of course look to Tom Dixon, maestro of materials and connoisseur of the recondite.

Mass table detail

Detail of Tom Dixon’s Mass Table

Dixon has been working with brass for a while. His oeuvre contains tables, lights, tea kettles, diffusers, plates, jugs, baskets, and other accessories.

Brass mirror ball pendants

Tom Dixon Mirror Ball Pendant in Brass

But I’d argue that he didn’t really become interested in the potential of the material until the last year or so, because the truth of brass in design is that it’s mostly used as a finish layer, for plating or painting, or even just as an adjective that actually means “paint that looks like gold.”

Brass Tom Dixon Mass collection table, coat rack, and bookcase

The Mass Collection includes a very weighty dining table and a bookcase that looks like Miami’s Freedom Tower.

Brass is an alloy. It’s made by amalgamating copper and zinc. The more zinc, the lighter it appears. But there’s a balance to be struck here because an excess of zinc results in an alloy that’s more difficult to form and offers less resistance to corrosion.

Brass Mass collection coat rack

Coat Rack from the Mass Collection. A rich amber with a subtle hint of red.

Dixon’s Mass is different from most brass because it’s actually brass. These are solid pieces of structural brass (hence, the table’s $39,000 price tag) that propose an entirely new use for the material: brass as building block.

brass Mass table with black chairs and brass accessories

The above images illustrate the concept. The pieces in the collection are made of brass planks—tubular structures that effectively work like wood. The individual modules are welded together to create a piece that’s 100% brass. As seen above, the material lends itself to elemental forms: a simple flat slab and classic triangular structure for support.

brass mass table detail from underneath

From this angle, the brass building blocks look like gold bars.

The concept is propitious not only for what Dixon has already made of it but for what it can become. Beyond a fixed collection, he envisions solid brass as a building block for the future, a new material that can be specified as custom elements for customized projects: “The rectangular tube is used in a multitude of configurations and will eventually be presented as a made to measure construction set, with a series of predetermined junctions that allow architects and interior designers the liberty to construct their own Mass artefact.”

brass Mass collection at Design Miami

Mass 2.0 table, Mass 2.0 bookshelf, and Mass 4-poster bed from Tom Dixon’s booth at Design Miami.

Will the brass plank replace the humble 2×4? Will we soon be specifying custom builds with brass walls? I kid, but this very cool concept does beg to be analyzed from a cost/benefit perspective. Is the technology sustainable? Will it transcend the art/design milieu into which it was born? Just who has the wherewithal to build with brass?

brass Tom Dixon Mass Collection two tables, coat rack, and book case

Begin your explorations into the future of the brass plank as unit of construction at Tom Dixon.

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