The History of Copper in Building and Home Decor

Used for centuries, copper is quite a dynamic material. Craft workers and designers alike use copper regularly, not only for its staying power but for its ability to form intricate shapes and forms. Because of its corrosion resistance and molding potential, copper is sometimes used in building construction, and has created some of the most iconic structures we know today.

Notably, designers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Michael Graves used copper in their work, highlighting its amazing showmanship. Jim Austin, writer for Metal Roofing Magazine (2006), wrote that copper was the “Peacock of metals.” Not just for show, copper is amazingly durable, and is being used in things like roofs, gutters, wall cladding, and more.

Post medieval copper alloy pan pipes, 15th century, Creative Commons


Believe it or not, copper was the one of the few metals used by humans for over 5,000 years. Some of the earliest discoveries of copper were in Mesopotamia, circa 4500 BCE and Egypt, circa 3500 BCE. During this time, copper was made into decorative jewelry. 

The Bronze Age between 4000-3000 b.c. showed humans using bronze (a combination of copper and other metals) to create tools and weapons. In the 15th century, copper sheets were engraved and used as printing plates. In the 1700s, we had copper coins, and by the 1800s, there were entire cities dedicated to the mining of copper. Copper cables and plumbing became commonplace and are still being used today.

Learn more about the history of copper here:


Some of the earliest copper usages in building materials are copper pipes. In Egypt, copper tubes were found in the Temple of King Sa’Hu-Re in Abusir, built in 2750 BCE. During a dig, archaeologists found a pipeline that was 328 feet in length. 

We still use copper pipe in construction today, but people have found several other uses for it as well over the years. While not all that common today, copper gutters and roofing were at one point very popular, not only because they are rust resistant, but also because of its tolerance and adaptability to freezing and hot temperatures, from -196 degrees to 250 degrees. 

This is also true for fireplaces, oven hoods, and indoor and outdoor lighting. Though decorative, they provide the necessary durability to last decades.


Because it’s so mailable, copper is applied in home design regularly. To this day, antique collectors search for copper jelly moulds and kitchenware as accent pieces. Historically, you’ll see copper in cabinet pulls, light fixtures, faucets, and furniture embellishments, as it gives character and warmth to a space.

Decorative copper elements were used hundreds or even thousands of years ago in decorative friezes. Friezes have been used for centuries ‌to tell stories and bring a sense of grandeur to a building.

Today, as most trends tend to resurface over the decades, you’ll see copper make the rounds in swag lighting decor, accent walls (indoor and outdoor), and more.

From the Statue of Liberty to the copper roof of the Berlin Cathedral Church in Germany, copper is here to stay (and make an impact!) What would you use copper for?

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