ORB door handles that are brown?

bpollenDecember 3, 2013

I finally ordered a new entry door. I ordered bronze hardware, but I have to buy and provide the handleset.

In looking at door handlesets at Home Depot and Lowe's, all the bronze handlesets look black! No kidding. Venetian bronze, aged bronze, oil rubbed bronze doesn't matter. They all look black. I asked another customer, in case my eyes were deceiving me. He thought the color was black, too.

I looked at new porch lights and noticed the bronze ones of those were BROWN, not black.

Does anyone know where to get reasonably priced bronze handlesets that are brown, not black?

If I can't get brown, I'll have to try to change the door order. What a mess. It's taken me two months to order that order, what with contractor meetings, hardware and color of hardware discussions, measuring, etc.

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It's all a fake finish so just keep looking for one that is brown.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 6:04PM
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Check out the Emtek and Baldwin sites.......they have brown. I would think they carry lines that are reasonably priced.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. The Baldwin ones are black, unfortunately. In pics they look very dark brown, but at Home Depot and Lowe's they are black, sometimes with some coppery/orange highlights.

I'll keep looking and will check out Emtek. Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 12:42PM
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Well, I did more investigating on the Baldwin, Schlage, and other sites, reading about their finishes. Per the Baldwin site, oil rubbed bronze IS black. It is not brown and not intended to be. It starts out as matte black then gets a patina and highlights over years, being a living finish.

Venetian bronze (the one that seems to me to be the finish with the orange highlights) is more of a dark brown than black, although it looked black to me in the store, as well, but it had orange highlights. It's supposed to replicate wear that normally takes years, I think.

Not sure what aged bronze is supposed to be. Baldwin says it's like an aged brass, but other sites indicates it's a dark bronze, if they have "aged" at all.

Who knew? I didn't. That would explain why the cheaper door I did not get because it came with black hinges instead of bronze...turns out it came with black because most door handle bronzes ARE black. The door man didn't know that, when I asked why I could only get the hinges in black, even though I could order a bronze threshold.

I wish I had known that before. I hate black hardware on a door. It looks like a Spanish style to me, which I don't care for.

I may try painting the handleset bronze. Since it's black underneath, it might work.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 1:10PM
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I will second Emtek as being brown and not black. I have both exterior handle sets and interior knobs and they are definitely not black.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 8:20PM
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EMTEK! I looked at Emtek online, and they are indeed brown...and very pretty, too. Their models include some reasonably priced ones, as well as high end. They even have a deep burgundy (which looks like a reddish brown). Their bronze is called "medium bronze." I found lots of pics of Emtek hardware in the Houzz website. The hardware definitely looks brown.

Thanks for all your suggestions. I don't see that there is a store here for me to view them or buy from, so I guess it'll be an online purchase, which is fine. Esp if I stick with a model that I see in a Houzz pic. Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 12:45PM
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All of these finishes are created with chemicals or paints so each manufacturer will sell a different shade and that might change as manufacturing materials and techniques change and as fashions change. It does seem as if the browns have become more black in recent years.

But to make informed decisions about faux metal finishes it is helpful to know what they are trying to copy.

"Oil-Rubbed Bronze" is a very old finish developed exclusively for cast bronze statues. Bronze is copper with 5 to 20% tin. Cast bronze used for bearings, ships hardware, etc. has a lower copper content and some zinc to give it strength and corrosion resistance so it is usually a pale color similar to brass (copper & zinc). Statuary bronze contains more copper to give it a natural yellow-brown to reddish-brown color to suit the artist. After cleaning and polishing a casting the natural bronze is often chemically treated to form a patina that would normally require many years of exposure to the weather. The resulting color can vary from medium brown to almost black.

This process requires a lot of time and hand work and will have flecks and highlights to suit the artist. Intentionally created reddish-copper highlights on a very dark patina is very dramatic and is often called Venetian Bronze in the art world. The final finish is then protected from further oxidation and contaminants by hand rubbing with an oil (like lemongrass and/or paraffin oil) or a wax which should be repeated every few years.

When done right, ORB is a beautiful finish with potentially unlimited color and highlight variations. It is well suited to art but is difficult to duplicate for hardware and plumbing fixtures. Unfortunately, manufacturers resort to a lot of tricks in order to simulate ORB but in my opinion it is rarely successful and impossible to coordinate even within one manufacturer's collection.

This may be the reason a lot of it is starting to look like matte black spray paint.

Here are the most common manufacturer finishing methods:
The cheapest simulated ORB finish is paint.
Next is the chemically accelerated oxidation of brass plating.
Next is the chemically accelerated oxidation of solid brass.
Next is the chemically accelerated oxidation of copper plating on solid brass (probably the best compromise of cost and quality).
Of course the real thing is the chemically accelerated oxidation of high-copper content cast bronze but I doubt it would be used except perhaps for a solid exterior accessory like a door knocker, etc.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 2:46PM
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Thanks, Renovator, for the descriptions of the various types of bronzes & bronze finishes. That does explain a few things.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 4:16PM
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What I know about ORB is from my many years studying art and architecture. I've never seen a plumbing fixture made of bronze so its not clear to me why anyone would want to simulate such a thing.

Many years ago I specified a dark brown toilet and will never again put something brown in a bathroom.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 12:29AM
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LOL I'm glad you're not doing brown toilets anymore!

But I don't follow your argument against ORB fixtures. By that logic we should see a lot more brass. Traditional and classic chrome, after all, is just a finish as well.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 8:33AM
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Brown toilets? Euuuuuuwwww.

Why I would choose bronze is...mainly it's the brown color I'm after. I have an old house with different kinds of hardware. So for the new ones, and some changeouts, I wanted to go with brown, since to my eye, that is neutral and would blend with satin nickel/stainless in the kitchen and with brown/bronze lamps, and bits of antique gold in a few lamps/drawer pulls. Brown also fits a little better, I think, with the traditional or cottage-y type of old small house I have. I love the satin nickel/brushed chrome finishes, but that looks a bit modern for my front door, I think. Although I'm doing silver finishes in the kitchen.

Because I'm going with bronze, though, I'm having to be careful to select a style that is not too bulky, large, or rustic, since bronze/brown can be a bold statement and look heavy for my small house. I'm not going for a rustic look.

Anyway, that's why I'm going with brown bronze. I thought it more appropriate for my house than the silver finishes. Maybe I made a mistake. I don't know. I labored over that decision and finally just had to pick and move on.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 9:08AM
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It just seems odd to me to make a fake finish that is intended to look like something that never existing like a bronze faucet. Have you ever seen a real cast bronze faucet?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 8:43PM
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Not until you asked and I looked! What solid cast metal is shiny, mirror-like chrome supposed to mimic?

I guess it's similar to my objection to blue Italian ice. WTH is it supposed to be? And orange lipstick. Just stuff that some people like even though it doesn't tie back to anything natural.

Not to worry, I'm sure within a decade it'll be outdated and you'll be able to say "told ya so!" Just like brass, which ironically IS what most quality faucets are made of!

Here is a link that might be useful: Solid bronze fixtures

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 9:40PM
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Chrome, Nickel and brass plating are time-honored protective and sanitary maintenance finishes applied to cast metals used to make plumbing fixtures. My objections to Oil Rubbed Bronze is that it is not a protective finish; it's difficult to clean and maintain and there is no oil, bronze, copper, or tin used to make it. It is a faux fashion finish that tries unsuccessfully to copy the handcrafted finish of one-of-a-kind art objects.

My rule of nothing brown in a bathroom is based on my clients' personal preference for clean looking accessories in areas dedicated to person hygiene. Some people would refuse to stay in a hotel room if it had brown faucets. I happen to be married to one of them.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 11:11AM
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Fair enough!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 11:13AM
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I don't know how the subject got into plumbing fixtures. I'm not looking for brown/bronze for the bathrooms. It's for the front door hardware. And I was going for brown, which just happens to be made of bronze.

Mixing the hardware colors is a problem. I am going with silver colors in the kitchen and baths (chrome and/or nickel and/or stainless). Visually, I don't like gold colors mixed with the silvers (polished brass, or what is REALLY a favorite of mine, antique brass), so I chose to go with brown hardware, where silver isn't used.

But I still have gold things sprinkled throughout the house (in some artwork frames, antique brass floor lamps, etc.). But since the frames are for the most part also brown wood, I think that will blend all right with the brown hardware.

Matching the metal colors has been very confusing. I can't afford to replace every piece of hardware in my house to match, and throw out art frames and antique lamps. An old house I think will have a mixture of metals, usually. I'm just trying to keep things from clashing, and to have an overall same feeling from room to room, for continuity. Then I have the one color scheme for the house.

Nickel entry door hardware would have been very pretty on my white door. But I just didn't think it was the right look. Very confusing.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 9:09PM
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For authentic artist-grade cast bronze exterior door hardware you might try the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Discount Rocky Mountain Hardware

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 4:08PM
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I just ordered an emtek knob for the bath so I'll post my impressions by the weekend if you're still interested in that brand.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 6:14PM
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Foodonastump,did you get that Emtek knob?

I'm about to order my entry door set (I got sidetracked by the holidays and by installation of granite countertop and other things that needed attention).

I finally found a place in town that carries Emtek, so I went to look. The ORB and medium bronze Emtek were very dark, too...not quite black, but black-brown, I guess I would call it. Not true brown like I've seen in photos on the internet.

I give up on getting brown. I guess the only way to get brown is if I buy something really cheap that has a brown painted finish. I'm not going that route, of course.

So I guess I'm being too picky. But really, the door hardware in person that I've seen for Emtek is really a different color than a photo of it on the internet. I've seen the same set in a photo and in person in the same finish. The colors are different. I'll just get a set of Emtek that I like the style of, and leave it at that. Maybe they lighten up over the years. At least the Emtek is not black, like Baldwin (the Baldwin website says point blank that the finish they call ORB is matte black).

Thanks for all your suggestions and all the information, everyone! I AM glad that I found Emtek. I like that brand better than the ones in the big box stores.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 3:07PM
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I replaced all the door handles in my house with Schlage, and their ORB is brown! I also have an ORB front door handle that is kwikset and it is discernibly brown. Both have the little flickers of bronze on edges and such to mimic wear, I think it is beautiful! Kwikset has a great re-key feature now so that one can re-key their own doors. Both are affordable and have performed very well for us. There is also ORB paint from Rustoleum, but I tried painting door handles and it comes off from rings and such making contact with the handles repeatedly (don't even try painting the strike plates- OY!). Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 6:59PM
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Bpollen - Sorry for the slow response. Yes I got the Emtek and it's fine. Not crazy about the excessive faux distressed look, rather that would happen on its own over the years but oh well. It's decidedly brown based though. I have to say, the latch mechanism itself feels flimsy and scratchy-loud in comparison to my cheaper Baldwin-Prestige (which from what I can tell is the same thing as Schlage and Kwikset these days.). All stuff I wouldn't notice had it not been me obsessing over it! (Don't mind the unpainted door!)

MrsRobinson - if you're referring to the "smartkey" feature and if you're concerned about security, you might want to google that. All locks can be picked or broken, but those seem seriously vulnerable. Wouldn't phase me as I rarely bother to lock my house anyway, but I thought I'd mention it.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 12:21AM
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Thanks to all for the posts on the brown color.

I'm perplexed by DearMrsRobinson's experience with Schlage and Kwikset being brown. I saw those in person at the big box stores, and they looked black to me. I held them out in the aisle, I asked another customer and the employee. We held a black stool next to them. There was almost no difference between the black stool and the handlesets. The employee said that it was probably the lighting in the store, and that in the light, they were more brown. But the bronze porch lights and such in the store, in the same lighting, looked brown. So...I don't know. Maybe the employee was right.

Anyway, I got an Emtek handleset. I have bronze-brown lamps and potpourri holders. When I hold the handleset next to them, the handleset is noticeably darker. But it IS brown, most definitely. And now that it's on the door, you can tell it's brown and not black, even from the street, and matches the bronze hinges perfectly. It's a beautiful handleset. with some subtle edges of gold here and there. I'm very happy with it. Got a good price online, too.

I went with a curvy lever for the inside. I was nervous about that, since I've never had a lever. I checked with the online vendor, and if I wanted later, I could order a knob for it. But the lever works great! I love it. So easy to open.

Thanks to everyone for your recommendations and information. It was so helpful. I'll post a pic soon.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 10:39PM
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