Designing a kitchen isn’t as simple as following a recipe. There’s always a surprising number of decisions to make, and choosing the right knobs and pulls for cabinets is often something that catches people off guard. The options for style, size and finish are just so abundant, and many kitchens need a carefully thought-out combination of knobs, handles and other hardware to convey the perfect look. Here’s how you can get your cabinet hardware just right.
The two main reasons you may want to use more than one style of cabinet knob and pull are simple: style and function.
From a style perspective, mixing different types of hardware can give a kitchen lots of character, adding subtle visual interest. Especially in a larger kitchen, you may want to avoid the repetitiveness of using just one handle for every single door and drawer.
For example, the kitchen shown here has round knobs for swinging doors, bin pulls for pullout drawers, a small handle for a flip-up door over the drink station and large handles for the paneled fridge.
No single one of these hardware options would be the ideal ergonomic choice for every application, so mixing them just makes practical sense.
So how do you mix your hardware so everything makes practical sense but also looks elegant and organized? Ultimately a lot of it will come down to personal opinion and comfort, but here are some guidelines to help simplify the decision-making process.
For an even more coordinated look, you can use the same metal finish for your cabinet hardware and your faucet (and even other details such as light fixtures and switch plate covers).
The kitchen shown here mixes metals, but the small hardware elements are all gleaming brass, creating a sense of consistency.
This is certainly not a hard-and-fast rule, but it can help create an organized look.
In the kitchen shown here, the typical swing doors (on the upper and lower cabinets) have simple round knobs, while most of the drawers have bin pulls. But you can see in this view that apparently one drawer has a handle instead of a bin pull. On closer inspection, this turns out to be a swing-down door that most likely hides a dishwasher. A bin pull could work here, but this handle can be grabbed from more directions and can be a bit easier ergonomically when opening a dishwasher. Plus, it signals a different function.
Sometimes mixing pieces that look almost the same can create a look that feels “off.” Two handles or knobs that look very similar but not exactly the same can come across as mismatched instead of intentionally coordinated.
To avoid this issue, make sure when mixing multiple styles that they’re noticeably different in scale. The kitchen shown here has medium-size handles for most lowers (likely 3-inch hole spacing), small (around 1-inch) latch pulls for the upper cabinets and much larger handles for the paneled appliances.
What can’t be changed so easily are the holes drilled in your cabinets, which is why it’s important to carefully consider all the shapes and sizes available and make a choice that will be functional for you now and later, regardless of what style you find fashionable today.
- When using hardware with small metal elements (such as a crystal knob that has a metal neck), it’s best to match that metal to your other metal hardware.
- Create simple rules for yourself about which type of hardware will go on each cabinet. For example, in this kitchen (and the previous), accent knobs are used just on the upper cabinets, so the change in materials is very obviously planned and rhythmic.
- If you want to, you can forget all the other rules. In this kitchen, just a few handles are in a steely silver shade, while all the rest are boldly brass. It helps here that the cool metal tones are picked up in the faucet and appliances.
Ultimately the decision to mix the two handle finishes had to come down to a sense of whimsy and a gut instinct.
So what types of hardware should you use for different situations? Here are some tips on the major options and how to mix them.
Still, both options can work, so personal style is a big factor. And quality drawers, like the one shown here, that glide easily without much force can overcome the issue altogether.
This apron-front sink has a low pair of doors at a different height than the other panels around it. If those doors had horizontal handles like the others, they wouldn’t line up. Using two little round knobs creates a more elegant solution and suits the contemporary farmhouse charm of the sink.
Notice how in this kitchen the pairs of knobs on the cabinet doors line up nicely with the bin pulls below. The one standalone knob next to the oven is asymmetrical but still elegant.
However, short finger pulls can be useful when mixed in for semihidden cabinets such as ones on the back of the island, where protruding hardware would be in the way of knees and elbows.
Depending on the manner of latching, they can take a bit more effort to open than a typical pull, potentially acting as a mild child safety lock or a deterrent for clever pets. But primarily they serve as a style statement.
It should be noted that because latch pulls come as two pieces they can’t be attached to just any door: They need one that’s flush to the frame so the two elements can connect properly.
Latch pulls can be combined with simpler knobs for the majority of the doors so that the more commonly opened cabinets don’t require the extra step of unlatching.
Preferred grasp. Do you like the feel of a knob or a pull better? Would something square or rounded suit you?
Maintenance. Shiny polished finishes can take more work to keep clean than brushed finishes. Think about the time you want to spend keeping everything looking good.
Drill holes. If you aren’t planning on refinishing your cabinets, you may be stuck with the existing hole locations. For example, if you have pulls that have 3-inch center-to-center screw holes, your new pulls will need to be the same size (unless you find hardware with a backplate that will cover the old holes). Going from knobs to pulls is much easier (for doors) because you simply drill another hole.