Interiors: Golden eye - Be prepared to splash out when going for gold
'All that is gold does not glitter," wrote JRR Tolkien back in 1954. He was writing about something deeper than design, but you have to admit that he had a point.
In all aspects of life, it's wise to be wary of bling. Much as I love the metal itself, I'm not a fan of glitzy gold homeware. It's meant to be glamorous, but often ends up looking kitsch. And I don't mean cool ironic kitsch. I'm talking tacky. So this is why I'm approaching the current trend for gold in interiors with caution.
That said, there are many ways of indulging a penchant for gold. One of them is to spend money. Gold has always been expensive and this is especially true when it comes to bathrooms.
Retailers are reporting a lot of interest in gold taps and fittings as an alternative to chrome, but the reputable shops will warn you to stay away from the cheap stuff. "Don't go for gold unless you can afford the best," says Susan Shanagher of Tile Style. "Cheap gold taps will discolour fairly quickly."
Tile Style, recently announced Store Of The Year for 2016 at the Retail Excellence Awards, does stock gold fittings, but only from their high end suppliers. That's because they think that cost-cutting and gold just don't mix. If you want to cut costs, don't go for gold.
A gold mixer tap from Silverdale, for example, will set you back about €1,400. A standard but serviceable version from another company in chrome would cost €250. "One way of keeping the cost down is to buy separate hot and cold taps," says Shanagher. "It's the mixer that's expensive."
A pair of gold taps and a plug chain from Silverdale cost €276. But, before you get excited, remember that if you're putting in gold taps, you also have to consider the shower. Chrome and gold don't sit easily together and selecting one set of gold fittings can set you off down an expensive path.
The cheapest gold shower from Tile Style costs €2,500. You'd get an identical shower in a chrome finish for €2,000 and a perfectly serviceable mid range model, also in chrome, for €1,200. If you've splashed out on gold taps and a shower, but can't afford the gold towel rail, Shanagher recommends you go for a white one instead.
Of course, if money is no object, you could always go for a free standing gold washbasin (€20,825) from Touched Interiors. Or their futuristic gold plated black high gloss bubbles bathtub (€41,327). Gold and black bubble forms are actually attached to the free standing, gold-lined tub. The suppliers describe it as "a piece of international desire", but some might say that you'd need to be touched to spend that much on a bath.
Another way to bring gold into the bathroom is by using gold tiles. Unfortunately, there's no cheap way of doing this either. Arabian tiles by Original Tile, are made with real gold leaf, compressed into a glass tile with an undulating surface. Individual tiles (60 x 30 cm) cost €103 each, also from Tile Style. That leaves you with a cost of €572 per metre before you've even thought about installation.
The tiles work best on a feature wall and combine well with very plain porcelain tiles, which is probably all you'll be able to afford after forking out for gold tiles.
"The plainer the other walls are, the better your feature will look," says Stephen Leonard of Tile Style. "Keep the same tiles on the wall and floor, and go for something neutral that doesn't upset the gold. I'd recommend a matt finish. It creates a contrast and makes the gold more noticeable."
Paint, in comparison to high-end tiling, is relatively cheap. But can you use gold paint without creating a home that looks like a Shanghai massage parlour?
I must admit that my heart sank when I heard that Dulux were promoting gold as the Akzo Nobel colour of the year for 2016. Luckily, my fears were unfounded. Their colour of choice, ochre gold, is the opposite of brash. It's muted to the point of dullness and they've built an earthy palette around it using quiet pinks, startling mustard, and a particularly beautiful duck egg blue.
And, for €53.99 a pot, it's an affordable way of bringing a touch of gold to the décor. Zoe Carney agrees that old gold is the way to go. "I find bright gold a little harsh but I love old gilt furniture. I've got an antique gold chair, a little bit battered, with the gilding peeling back from the woodwork.
"You can see a lovely green undertone coming through beneath the layers of gold. I chose not to re-upholster it because I love the fabric."
Carney is the owner of The Velveteen Rabbit, which sells vintage furniture and accessories from all over the world. "Everything has its story. I love old things, even when they're slightly imperfect, and I don't upcycle. I make repairs and adjustments to the pieces rather than changing them."
For this reason, she tends not to have old pieces re-gilded. "I have a lot of gold pieces, but in dark, muted gold."
These include a French gilt love seat (€695), a gold mirrored coffee table (€855), and a gold oval mirror (€325). Ironically, if these were new, they might be too glitzy for contemporary tastes. But now that they're a little the worse for wear, they carry an impression of faded grandeur that's classy without being ostentatious.
For more information on the products mentioned, see tilestyle.ie, dulux.ie, touchedinteriors.co.uk, thevelveteenrabbit.ie.