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Cabinet Hardware 101

The difference the right pull or knob can make to the overall aesthetic of a space is just incredible. Cabinet hardware is the finishing touch for all cabinetry -- the statement jewelry to an otherwise nice outfit, if you will. A shaker style cabinet door can be made modern or traditional based on a small piece of metal.

Because it's such an important fixture to the overall design of a space, we want to give cabinet hardware the appreciation it deserves. We've put together a tried and true guide to choosing pulls and knobs with finish, size, style and placement in mind. We don't wing-it with hardware and hope that after this insight, you won't either!

1. Consider the Scale

Pulls come in various lengths. The most common for a kitchen or bathroom are 5 to 6" in length. This can be appropriate on 36" tall cabinets but if the cabinet is taller, like 48", it's going to feel unbalanced. In this example image, you can see that both wall cabinets and base drawers received 10 to 12" pulls, depending on the width and height of the cabinet. This highlights the impressive custom design and size of the cabinetry. On the island doors, we used knobs from the same finish and style. These cabinet doors are only about 24" tall so we needed to scale the hardware to fit.

The size you select should feel appropriate to the cabinet it is being applied to. You may need 6 to 8" pulls on your base cabinet drawers but a 10" version of the same style on the 24" trash pull out.

2. Mix and Match Pulls with Knobs, but Keep it Consistent

Pulls and knobs are meant to work in harmony together, so if you love the look of both, you're in luck. Keep within the same family or style of hardware and you'll find knobs that coordinate with pulls. The way to do this well is to assign parameters on where a knob will be used and where a pull will be used. In this example, we used long pulls on the mirrored door sections of these tall bathroom cabinets and placed round knobs on the lower sections. It feels refined and appropriately weighted.

In a kitchen, this could look like having vertical pulls on the wall cabinetry, horizontal pulls on all of the drawers and knobs on all of the base cabinet doors. If this hypothetical kitchen had a second, higher row of wall cabinetry, we'd suggest knobs for those doors.

3. Select a Style to Complement the Design

Does a piece of cabinet hardware really have that much "pull" in the overall aesthetic of a space (pun intended!)? It's truly remarkable the contrast two distinct hardware options can create in the same space. Thankfully, choosing hardware comes after the overall design concept has already been nailed down. If a room is classic in style, don't choose a straight, blunt-edge pull that leans modern. In this example, we wanted the bathroom to feel like an updated take on clean-line traditional. The polished nickel faucets and towel ring have a clean, yet curved silhouette, giving them that transitional feel. When picking out hardware, we kept that in mind and chose these brushed nickel linear pulls with the perfect detailed end-caps that give traditional style in a new look.

We suggest getting 2 to 3 samples of pulls and knobs of similar styles to what you're hoping for and visualizing them in your space or on your cabinet sample. The more materials you can gather together from the overall design will help determine which hardware style is the best fit.

4. Mixing Metals & Finishes

Polished nickel, brushed nickel, champagne bronze, brushed brass, polished brass, antique brass, oil-rubbed bronze, matte black, chrome...the options feel truly endless. And even if you know you love brushed brass finishes, it's not even that simple because the hardware company's version of brushed brass will be drastically different than the lighting designer's. It can be challenging to exactly match every metal and finish in a room, which is why we love and embrace mixing metals and finishes. In this example, we chose unique matte black pulls and knobs for the bathroom cabinetry and polished nickel faucets, bath hardware and sconces. Why does this combination work? Because the beautiful gray veining in the countertops and flooring pull in the nickel tones while the black of the tile in-lay and the bathroom window coordinate with the cabinet hardware.

A tip to doing this well is to make sure each finish has a "buddy" - a second element in the space that nods to each metal selection. Have intention with the materials you are choosing that there's not an odd-duck that feels incongruent with the overall design. Otherwise, get creative!

5. Double Up

While we love a long, stately pull, we also love the look and functionality of two drawer pulls. When a cabinet (other than a paneled fridge) is longer than 30", it's more practical and generally better looking to install sets of pulls. In this example, pulls are installed equidistant from the outer edge of the drawers and centered vertically on each drawer front. The acrylic pulls with brass details give an airiness to a cabinet loaded with hardware.

If installing hardware yourself, please invest in a cabinetry hardware jig (Kreg makes a great one). This will keep every hole precise and your hardware level and standardized. There's no turning back after putting a misplaced hole in a cabinet!

Cabinet hardware feels undervalued while also being completely overwhelming! We hope this guide helps you creatively and intentionally make selections for your project. When in doubt, get lots of samples of finishes, sizes and styles!

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