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Kitchen jewelry: Knobs and pulls add sparkle and glamour

By Allen Norwood
Correspondent

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  • Domestic jewels

    Prices for cabinet knobs and pulls start at about $3 apiece and go to $30, $50 – or lots more. “From $3 to $13 (apiece) is kind of normal,” according to kitchen designer Carol Lindell. Even a small kitchen can require dozens of knobs, so hardware can get expensive.

    To see how different hardware and hardware placement can change the look of a kitchen, visit www.houzz.com or the National Kitchen and Bath Association at www.nkba.org.

    Here are some sources designers and contractors often turn to: Hardware Resources: www.hardwareresources.com; Top Knobs: www.topknobs.com; Blackhawk Hardware: blackhawkhardware.com; Restoration Hardware: www.restorationhardware.com; Rocky Mountain Hardware: www.rockymountainhardware.com; Richelieu: www.richelieu.com.



Think of cabinet knobs and pulls as jewelry for your kitchen. They complete the ensemble. They’re the bling that adds sparkle and glamour, like diamond studs.

When choosing, though, select knobs and pulls not only with your eyes but also with your fingers. They have to work, after all. You must be able to open doors and drawers comfortably. Get past the form, local experts say, as you consider the many options available today, and use your hands to test the function.

“It really is a tactile experience,” said Carol Lindell, owner of Design Centers International on South Boulevard (dcihomeresource.com). “It depends on the touch and the feel. Truly grip it, and open the door.”

Popular finishes

Generally, designs seem to be getting more contemporary, in keeping with today’s sleek, open kitchens. Angular designs that are at home in Arts and Crafts or Prairie-style homes are popular. But the hardware industry is also expanding and adapting to the times in other ways. Among the latest additions are antimicrobial and antibacterial collections.

The most popular finishes for cabinet hardware right now include chrome, brushed and polished nickel, and oiled bronze.

Few customers choose black, the pros say, and no one chooses brass. Lindell said when clients want to splurge on something distinctive and personal, they turn to a source such as Rocky Mountain Hardware, where pieces are designed by artists and crafted by hand. Visit the company website ( www.rockymountainhardware.com) and you’ll discover simple sculptural pieces beautifully finished. Definitely not costume jewelry.

The colors in the silver family, including pewter, are popular because they complement the current trends in cabinet color and appliance finish, designers say. “They’re always strong, because stainless steel appliances are so strong,” said Lisa Carlay of International Kitchen and Bath in Davidson (www.internationalkitchenandbath.com).

New cabinets today often are painted gray or another deep neutral. The silver family complements those hues. Polished nickel and chrome look good on white cabinets, too.

Some customers choose crystal combined with chrome – “maybe twice a year,” Carlay said – which looks good on gray or perhaps a cool blue.

Today’s cabinets often are Shaker style, with flat panels surrounded by simple frames on door and drawer fronts. That understated style can be made to look contemporary or traditional, depending on hardware choice.

That accounts for the current popularity of two strikingly different handle styles, Carlay and Lindell say.

A long stainless-steel bar handle, mimicking the one on your refrigerator, creates a sleek, contemporary appearance. “I especially like them installed horizontally,” Lindell said.

Or, use a cup or library pull, like the hefty ones on old-fashioned desks, for a timeless traditional look.

Looking for eco-friendly collections or hardware for the health-conscious? Richelieu makes products for both of those markets ( www.richelieu.com). Collections with antibacterial or antimicrobial agents built into the finish are intended to slow the growth of germs. Several collections are made with recycled materials.

Blackhawk Hardware in Park Road Shopping Center has the best-known retail cabinet hardware display in the area. It’s 80 feet long, said Don Wilkerson, decorative hardware manager. The store’s business plan has long been to have the largest selection around, with samples that customers can handle.

“We have, I don’t know, thousands (of knobs and pulls),” he said. “Customers can touch and feel them. And they do.”

Test some samples

With few exceptions, handles and pulls go on last, usually on site after the cabinets are installed. “You have the outfit,” Carlay said, “now you go looking for the jewelry.” Designers carry sample boards into kitchens and bathrooms so customers can make sure their selections complement other features and finishes.

It’s another opportunity to choose with your fingers as well as your eyes, to check function as well as form.

Be sure that the specific hardware you love will work in specific locations. Some knobs, for instance, might be hard to handle on a small drawer with a deeply recessed front. Or large ones installed in tight corners might not allow adjacent doors and drawers to open.

Generally, big pulls are easier to handle than small knobs. Those long bars and cup pulls that are popular now are easy to use, Carlay and Lindell say. Don’t stop there, though: Be sure your fingers will fit under the bar or inside the cup.

If the knob or pull you like doesn’t feel good, perhaps it’s available in a different size.

And if the unique, over-the-top knob or pull you’ve fallen desperately in love with doesn’t feel comfortable, don’t despair: “Use those clever ones on the powder room vanity,” Lindell said. “It’s never opened.”

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