Remodeling and customizing your kitchen can be a big project. After planning and designing on the large scale it might be tempting to coast through choosing the cabinet hardware, but high-traffic rooms such as kitchens deserve detailed attention. Choosing the right hardware size requires a balance of style and function. Sacrifice one for the other, and you probably won’t be happy. You’ll be frustrated every time you try to pull open a drawer, or you’ll be disappointed every time you walk into the room.
Most knobs and pulls are only a few dollars apiece but when you consider the sheer number that you’ll need, those costs add up fast. For each standard lower cabinet with two doors and one drawer, you’ll need three pieces of hardware — and two more knobs or pulls for the matching upper cabinet doors. With that in mind, here are a couple of factors to consider:
At a home renovation in Connecticut, cabinet fabricator Michael Madore experimented with what he calls an "aggressive" metal-sanding process to pull out the grain from the whitewashed oak plywood. For the hardware-free cabinets, Julie Salles Schaffer looked to a drawer pull detail derived from Giò Ponti’s work—though she admits the radial edging is an effect entirely her own.
One of the most popular styles now is lacquered or aged brass. "Ten years ago," Huh says, "it was all about nickel: brushed nickel, shiny nickel. Now it's the resurgence of brass." Designers are using "bold tones, and things that look worn," she says, by installing unlacquered brass that tarnishes over the course of a year, or paying extra for "pre-antiqued" brass that already has a colorful patina.
Often, the hardest part in updating your kitchen hardware is deciding what will look best in your kitchen. The installation can be a simple DIY that will likely take less than two hours. However, if your kitchen cabinet hardware requires more than just a few screws but rather new fittings on your cabinets or drawers, contact a pro to ensure all of your new hardware fits perfectly.
Prior to making the purchase of your new cabinet hardware, take some careful measurements of the existing hardware. Write down sizes, as well as the spacing of the screws. This should eliminate the need to drill new holes. Accurate measurements are essential to avoid additional work or the need to return and exchange your hardware purchase. In fact, it is a good idea to bring some of your old hardware with you for size comparison purposes, unless you are shopping online for your hardware. In that case, simply have the hardware next to you.
Excellent post! I already knew about the different options, but it’s so nice to see it all compiled in one place. 🙂 Very handy! I love the look (or rather, lack of) of concealed hinges… but roughly $10 a pair makes me cringe. If I’ve got about 20 doors, I’m looking at $200–for HINGES! The visible hinges run about $3, for $60 total. 🙁 Hmm… debating.
And then there’s appliance hardware. Appliance pulls are not just hardware pulls that have a higher price point. It is a more durable hardware that look identical in style to your standard pulls, but are designed for the larger items in your kitchen like refrigerators, dishwashers, pantries, and oversized drawers. They come in a range of sizes from 6” to 36” and are constructed to hold a heavier weight, typically necessitating longer screws and a backplate for installation. The screws can be shortened to the needed size, but its best to follow the instructions and have these pieces installed by a professional to avoid hiccups.
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For customers who have homes near the ocean, Cliffside recommends choosing non-metal items such as marble or wood for your projects. Salt air acts as an abrasive, and quickly erodes the lacquer coating. If you absolutely need (or desire) metal hardware, Cliffside recommends solid stainless steel, or certain solid brass finishes such as Black, Polished Brass, or Polished Chrome. Note that, even in optimum indoor conditions, no Cliffside finish has a lifetime guarantee under any circumstances.
At this point, you will have narrowed down your hardware choices to a specific style, type, size and finish. Next thing to incorporate is your budget. A good starting point is to count how many knobs and pulls you will need for your cabinetry and determine a price range that is comfortable for you. Many hardware manufacturers have multiple lines of varying quality and price, so be sure to find a manufacturer that uses high-quality materials. Buying cheap can seem like a good idea in the short run, but cheaper metals will degrade faster down the road and face a much higher risk of breaking or bending. Stainless steel hardware, for example, should be solid (not hollow) with a durable but even finish.
Cup pulls are a nice complement to Shaker-style cabinets, particularly in a country-style kitchen. Recessed hardware can make for a particularly elegant and modern look, but also tends to be a bit on the pricey side. Slim, modern finger pull type hardware, which mounts to the top of a drawer or the edge of a cabinet, is a nice choice for flat-front cabinets in a modern kitchen.
Prior to making the purchase of your new cabinet hardware, take some careful measurements of the existing hardware. Write down sizes, as well as the spacing of the screws. This should eliminate the need to drill new holes. Accurate measurements are essential to avoid additional work or the need to return and exchange your hardware purchase. In fact, it is a good idea to bring some of your old hardware with you for size comparison purposes, unless you are shopping online for your hardware. In that case, simply have the hardware next to you.
Sandra, I’m so glad that I came across your blog! You’ve given so much great information that I can use every day in my job doing kitchen cabinet sales. And then there’s the whole DIY part for me personally! I’m really hoping that you can answer my question, though. I have a customer who is refacing her cabinets. She has frameless cabinets and used to have exposed hinges. She wanted concealed hinges so we had the hinge holes drilled 1″ (center) from the edge. She has her new doors but when she hangs them, there’s a 1/4″ gap between the door and center stile, even after adjusting them. We were using full overlay hinges. Can you advise which type of overlay hinge to use and how to rectify the gap? Thanks so much!
Hi Angie, I think that over time the rub n buff would rub off of the hardware from repeated touching. My hinges still look good two years later, but I can still see places where the finish is starting to rub off and the hinges are almost never touched. I do think that you could update your hardware with a good spray paint though. Just be sure to clean them thoroughly and use a spray primer followed by spray paint. I have update furniture hardware this way that is still going strong almost 10 years later. Good luck!
Some kitchen designs are beginning to display personality through eclectic and artistic approaches to kitchen hardware. Recent trends include nautical-themed rope drawer pulls and door handles, painted designs, numerals, insignias or monograms on drawer pulls. And pulls and handles made from antique buttons, glass or crystal will create a truly unique look that's sure to catch the eye and spark conversation.
If you don’t want to match to your faucet, then think about some of the other components in your kitchen. For example, if you have a black stone countertop, then antiqued metal or even satin black knobs could help tie the room together. Alternatively, base your color and finish choice on the cabinets themselves: Dark hardware to match dark wood or light hardware as a contrast. Choose more rustic finishes like antiqued or hammered metal to go with traditional cabinetry or go with sleek brushed metal for a more modern look.
Use the same guidelines for or your interior doors. If you like the idea of statement door knobs and hinges, go for lots of contrast— dark door knobs and hinges on light doors, for example.  As an aside, interior door levers, which you simply have to push down, are easier for aging hands to operate as compared to door knobs, which you have to twist.
Hi Diane….Glad to see you again and happy to see the progress on your lake home. I was a subscriber and then suddenly lost you about the time you started working on your staircase! I was afraid it had driven you away from your blog!! You showed up on another blog yesterday and now I plan to catch up on all I have missed. Thank you for accepting me again!!
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