Hang on a second: Before you decide to take on the hassle and expense of a full-fledged kitchen renovation, consider a painless, low-cost alternative—installing new cabinet hardware. Typically, homeowners treat cabinet knobs and pulls as inconsequential—as “an afterthought,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. But on the contrary, he notes that in the kitchen, “small details can make a surprisingly big impact on the overall room design.” That said, replacement hardware isn’t magic; it can’t make damaged, timeworn cabinetry look new again. But so long as your cabinet boxes, doors, and drawer fronts remain in decent condition, you may be amazed by the extent to which the right choice of hardware can revitalize your kitchen. But “don’t focus on aesthetics alone,” Eldredge cautions. For the project to be an unqualified success, he says, new hardware must do more than merely look good. Because hardware gets handled over and over, multiple times a day, every day, there are some key practical considerations to keep in mind. To learn how to choose cabinet hardware that will work for your kitchen both aesthetically and functionally, keep reading below.
Simply walk down the hardware aisle of your local home center, and it won’t take long to realize that, as Eldredge puts it, “Homeowners are spoiled for choice” when it comes to kitchen hardware. This glut of options makes it challenging to choose just one of the the many styles and finishes. To make the selection process more manageable, Eldredge recommends narrowing the field incrementally, one stage at a time. First, he says, “decide which type of hardware to install.” Typically, homeowners select knobs for cabinet doors and pulls for drawers. Really, “it’s just a matter of comfort and convenience,” Eldredge says. There are certainly exceptions—kitchens that have only knobs or only pulls—but conventional wisdom holds that for ease of use, knobs pair best with doors and pulls pair best with drawers. Once you have settled the question of which type or types of hardware you prefer, you can move on to picking a style. To do so, Eldredge recommends taking cues from your cabinets. In a sleek, modern kitchen with crisp, clean lines, “people tend to go with streamlined, angular hardware,” he says. In kitchens with more traditional or ornate cabinetry, however, “You’re more likely to see hardware with finer details and curves.”
The next stage—selecting a finish—calls for a similar calculation, but this time based on the aesthetics of other design components of your kitchen. For instance, many experts recommend matching the finish of the cabinet hardware to the finish of the lighting and plumbing fixtures in the room. Others argue that it’s best for the hardware to match the appliances. Still other remodeling pros maintain that, above all, the hardware must complement (not necessarily match) the color of the paint or stain on the cabinetry. For light-colored or white-painted cabinetry, Eldredge says, “black and stainless steel are among the most popular.” For darker cabinets, on the other hand, it’s wise to “think about oil-rubbed bronze or brushed nickel,” he says. Ultimately, Eldredge admits, “guidelines are only guidelines; they can get you only so far.” That’s where the advice and guidance of a well-informed professional can really pay off. One advantage of working with a nationwide household name like Sears Home Services is that, unlike many a local contractor, the company doesn’t just send you to the showroom to make all the decisions yourself. Rather, as Eldredge points out, Sears “brings the showroom to you.” That way, you don’t have to guess how a certain hardware style or finish would look in your kitchen. “You can evaluate for yourself,” Eldredge says.
“How the hardware looks—that’s only half the equation,” Eldredge explains. After all, even if you’re not an accomplished amateur chef, “chances are good that you interact with your cabinet hardware morning and night, every single day,” Eldredge says. Under the circumstances, it’s only prudent to make sure you like the way a particular knob or pull feels in your hand as much as you like the way it looks to your eye. To that end, Eldredge says, “I always tell people to test hardware before installing it throughout the kitchen.” If the hardware pinches your fingers, or if its sharp edges seem likely to cause discomfort down the line, don’t settle. Keep looking. You’re probably not going to be satisfied with your choice if you can’t handle the hardware naturally, without a second thought. By the same token, take time to ensure that the size and shape of your chosen hardware suits the heft of your cabinetry. Whereas standard-size knobs usually suffice for doors of average dimensions, more substantial doors and most drawers open more easily with hardware large enough to accommodate several fingers. Generally speaking, “The larger the hardware, and the farther it projects outward beyond the face of the door or drawer, the easier it is to use,” according to Eldredge.
Finally, don’t lose sight of the larger context for a cabinet hardware upgrade. Kitchens are heavily trafficked and subject to frequent, hard use, so they inevitably collect grease, grit, and grime. It’s a not a question of if, but when. Complicating matters further is that, while it’s easy to spot crumbs and spills on countertops and other surfaces, it’s often not quite so easy when it comes to cabinet hardware. The point is that when you’re shopping for knobs and pulls, Eldredge says, “You’ve got to factor everyday care into your decision-making.” As much as you may love the look of elaborate, intricately designed hardware, it’s worth asking yourself if the aesthetic impact of those special details will be worth the extra effort required to keep the hardware clean. If, like so many other homeowners, you’re intent on keeping your kitchen as easy to care for as possible, the wise course is to opt for simple, unadorned hardware that will look great with nothing more than a wipe down. In other words, as Eldredge puts it, “Don’t set yourself up for years of frustration.” Before committing to a hardware style, material, or finish, “Go out of your way to make certain that you fully understand the maintenance involved,” Eldredge concludes.
Because homeowners—and their kitchens—differ wildly, they weigh different considerations when they select new cabinet hardware. Whatever the path, though, the process ultimately ends in one way—installation. If you’re planning to put in hardware of the same type and size as your existing knobs and pulls, then it’s an easy swap. You may even be able to handle it yourself, if the sheer number of doors and drawers in the average kitchen doesn’t give you pause. If, however, you intend to install hardware that, as a result of its style or size, requires drilling new screw holes, then either the challenge of making precise measurements or the need to use power tools may motivate you to leave the work in the hands of capable professionals. Sears Home Services sets itself apart from local contractors for many reasons, but especially because Sears coordinators guide you through every step of the process, from hardware selection all the way through to completed installation. Indeed, when you’re working with any professional, you have the right to expect the job to get done on time and on budget. But with Sears Home Services, you can expect all that and more—namely, a Satisfaction Guarantee that demonstrates a commitment to the success of your project.
This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.