Personal Best

Simplicity and individuality rule in today’s decorative hardware
By Alice Liao
July 05, 2011

With the economy still sluggish in its recovery, simplicity remains king when it comes to our homes and our kitchens. The aesthetic is cleaner, the cabinetry less fussy and the decorative hardware? Well, that may depend on whom you ask. Knobs and pulls, after all, are like jewelry for the kitchen. And as more consumers remodel for their own pleasure, their hardware choices are also becoming increasingly personalized.

Not surprisingly, the trend toward understatement in the kitchen has led to a demand for simple hardware designs with a modern or transitional bent. Even in parts of the country that tend to be more traditional, such as Louisiana, “contemporary sales are increasing rapidly,” said David Tyler, VP of marketing for Top Knobs. Similarly, straightforward geometric shapes continue to dominate, “but now they’re modified with smooth rounded edges,” giving them softness and greater versatility, said Nicole Fisher, senior marketing coordinator for Berenson Hardware.


Lest simple be boring, streamlined shapes are also getting a helping hand from a wider array of finishes, many of which have taken on more complexity and warmth. Dual-toned antique or “vintage” finishes are enjoying considerable popularity, noted Fisher, as they can offer greater depth than old standbys such as oil-rubbed bronze and brushed nickel, both of which may or may not be on the wane, depending on the style of hardware or, more importantly, whom you query. Some experts are still seeing interest in gold, but in a more muted variety, and though there have been rumblings about a brass comeback, “I have yet to see much evidence of it,” said Fisher.

In addition, manufacturers are marrying finish to form with greater abandon. Just as the growing emphasis on personalization has led to “the blending of styles…within one room,” noted Jessica Wolma, director of marketing—cabinet and drapery hardware for Amerock, Levelor and Kirsch, Old-World-inspired finishes are showing up on modern pieces, adding warmth and broadening their appeal. Conversely, classic designs, according to Adrienne Morea, CEO of Atlas Homewares, are finding new life in, say, polished chrome.

For consumers who truly want to distinguish themselves with their cabinet hardware, companies are experimenting with a variety of materials and shapes. Glass is ever popular and, in fused colors or mixed with decorative elements, can “really ‘tie a bow’ on a project,” said Morea. Those who like a hint of history may gravitate toward cup pulls and pendants, which Wolma noticed “are gaining in popularity.” Like your hardware bolder? At this year’s KBIS, Richelieu Hardware unveiled designs featuring irregular forms, raku ceramics, precious stone and porcelain, all of which are sure to make a statement in any kitchen.


And if not with material, then with size. Most experts agree hardware is trending larger. Morea’s company, for example, “just designed a lot of 28-mm pulls that are 12 in. to 14 in. overall,” she said. “That’s big!” Wolma attributes the interest in oversized pieces to the desire to “maintain balance and proportion within a space,” especially as kitchens continue to open themselves up to other living areas. Moreover, Tyler said, “A long pull on a tall cabinet lends elegance to the visual line of the cabinet door.” Staying with one size of pull or knob throughout keeps the look clean and is very much “in,” said Morea.

Given current consumer spending habits, one could also argue the entire category of hardware is, in fact, in. With budgets tighter, changing out knobs and pulls, as well as countertops and faucets, is an easy way to freshen up a kitchen. “The visual impact is dramatic, and the cost is much lower than replacing cabinets,” said Tyler.

Add personality to your kitchen with these knobs and pulls…

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