Together with Reinaldo Leandro, Ashe helms the New York architecture and design firm Ashe & Leandro. Their projects range from a London townhouse to a Martha’s Vineyard home.
The well-traveled decorator mixes streamlined pieces and global antiques. He is currently designing a furniture collection for Restoration Hardware.
From Tutankhamen’s gold throne to the bronze Giacometti lamps commissioned by Jean-Michel Frank, metal furnishings have long lent sparkle and style to interiors. André-Charles Boulle lavishly decorated Louis XIV’s furniture with gilt bronze, the Arts and Crafts movement celebrated humble copper, and, in the 1960s and ’70s, Gabriella Crespi and Karl Springer made brass chic.
For designer Ariel Ashe, metal furnishings play a key role in rounding out the mix of materials in a room. “Your eye is always drawn to metal,” she says. But she adds a note of caution: While a French gilt mirror brings richness, too much glitter can be a distraction.
Decorator Vicente Wolf seconds the call for restraint, but likes to shake up expectations. “Everybody thinks gold leaf is traditional,” he says, “but I love using it in contemporary environments to add a sense of warmth.” He also embraces different types of metal, from copper to brass to gold. “Mi them together gives a space depth,” he says.
Wolf considers this table, with its laser-cut circles in a gold-nickel finish, both chic and versatile. “It would work equally well in a mod, Austin Powers–style space or a crisp, architectural setting,” he says. “You can see through the base, which creates a floating effect.” Ashe would pair it with clean-lined furnishings: “This has just enough curve for a room.” A chrome version is also available. 11" w. x 11" d. x 22" h.; $2,145;
“Sheet metal is very cool right now,” says Ashe, admiring the copper-plated steel of the body and tubular legs. “I’d use this as an accent chair in a bedroom.” Wolf is a fan of the folded contours—“It looks like origami”—and imagines it pulled up to a desk or at a breakfast table. “That’s your ‘bang’ in the room,” he adds. A variety of powder-coated colors are offered, as well as a seat pad. 19" w. x 19" d. x 33" h.; $299;
Made of molded ceramic with a crackled, gold-leaf glaze, this stool is designed for indoors and out. “It has a Brancusi quality, and the warm finish is beautiful,” says Wolf, who would set it between club chairs or in a garden. “It looks contemporary but has an organic feel,” Ashe says. She envisions a pair flanking a fireplace or serving as cocktail tables. “It catches the light nicely,” she adds. 19" w. x 19" d. x 19" h.; $625;
With its brass-plated frame and leather-wrapped handles, this is a “great value,” says Wolf. “It can work in any environment, from modern to eclectic.” The glass shelves—one clear, one antiqued—are a clever design element, he adds. Ashe is also a fan. “Leather, glass, and metal are always a handsome combination,” she says. 33" w. x 14" d. x 33" h.; $599;
“This has a 1920s feel, but the finish brings it up to date,” says Wolf of the brass-veneered table. Ashe considers the demilune shape ideal for an entryway. She would soften the piece with a few eclectic accessories: “I see an antique wood mirror or a color-field painting above this.” A larger size and a stainless steel version are offered. 43" w. x 16" d. x 25" h.; $1,125;
“So pretty and feminine,” says Ashe of the three-drawer desk sheathed in copper. “I picture this in a teenage girl’s room, paired with a simple black chair.” Wolf points out that the design marries Indian techniques and European lines. This could double as a bedside table or serve as an extra surface in a kitchen, he suggests. 47" w. x 24" d. x 31" h.; $1,298;
“Very sculptural—this reminds me of a Giacometti,” says Ashe of the lamp’s base, made from sand-cast bronze. “It would be beautiful on a lacquer bureau.” The angular shade and textured body make for a strong combination, according to Wolf. He also likes its taller height: “In a foyer, this would throw good light.” Shown in a gold finish, it comes in two other metal finishes and a variety of shade colors. 30" h. x 13" w. x 13" d.; $2,318;
Ashe admires the perforated edge on this brass pendant, designed by Aalto in 1939. “This has a youthful look—it would be great hanging above a bar,” she says, adding that she would keep the other furnishings dark to offset the high-shine finish. Wolf would use a series of three in a foyer. “I love how it reflects whatever’s around it,” he says. Additional finishes are offered. 7" dia. x 8" h.; $320;
“It’s a throwback to the 1970s,” says Vicente Wolf of this pedestal table, which has a faceted base of brass-plated steel. “I like the play of the travertine top against the polished metal,” he adds. Ariel Ashe praises the oval shape—the lack of corners makes for comfortable seating. She pictures a set of sleek walnut chairs around the table, in keeping with the midcentury vibe. Other stone and metal options are available. 78" w. x 40" d. x 30" h.; $12,000;
“I love the patina on this,” says Ashe of the copper-clad daybed. “It would be striking in a modern loft, topped with white cushions.” Wolf agrees: “This makes such a bold statement,” he says, but he also admires the precise detailing, including the tiny nailheads along every seam. Other metal finishes are available. 85" w. x 44" d. x 25" h.; $14,000;