Affordable Accents

Home buyers are trying to balance the need to save money with the desire to create a great kitchen, and decorative hardware can help them reach both goals. Even inexpensive standard cabinets take on an upscale look with the right doorknobs and drawer pulls.

Decorative Hardware Image

"You can take a standard off-the-shelf cabinet and customize it with pulls," says Matthew McEnteggart, a designer in Brooklyn, N.Y. "On a simple straight maple cabinet, the perception of it can go from modern to Arts and Crafts to Shaker, all based on the hardware you choose."

What type of hardware is popular with today's budget-conscious buyers? Rosa Perlinger, a sales coordinator for an Austin, Texas-based hardware store, says she is seeing more contemporary design than ever. "For awhile, we were doing a lot of Old World and Tuscan. Now, we're seeing more modern, clean lines."

You can take a standard off-the-shelf cabinet and customize it with hardware

What homeowners don't want are the polished brass ball knobs that seemed to be in every kitchen in the 1960s and '70s, says Barbara Umbenhauer, previously the marketing manager for Rich Maid Kabinetry. Instead, she sees an interest in box locks and the "long, European look. No one wants basic anymore."

Just because people need to watch their budgets doesn't mean they're not willing to spend money on quality details, says Catherine Trugman, an interior designer and kitchen and bath designer with Atlanta-based Mosaic Group Architects and Remodelers. They just want to feel like they're getting a good value for the dollars they are spending.

Homeowners don't want basic anymore. They spend money on accents and accessories.

Trugman says that how cabinet hardware feels is as important as how it looks. "If a piece of hardware is cheap and poorly made, it will feel like the entire cabinet is cheap and poorly made. It doesn't feel like a value to people. They may not want to spend $50 per drawer pull anymore, but they'll still spend $12 per pull, which is a step up from the very basic."

As a result, she is seeing people move away from trendy, novelty hardware and shifting toward timeless, quality design. "They understand the life-cycle cost of things," she says. "If they get something that is well-made and feels good when they touch it, they can keep it for 25 to 30 years, especially with classic cabinet design." In terms of finishes, Trugman says brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and stainless steel remain very popular for cabinetry hardware. They're not only classic looks, they also hide fingerprints. "People have very busy lives," she says. "They want things that are easy to maintain."

Homeowners are moving away from trendy, novelty hardware and shifting toward timeless, quality design

That doesn't mean there can't be a bit of sparkle with the hardware. In fact, Trugman is a fan of glass hardware. "We use it in a butler's pantry as opposed to a whole kitchen," she says. "It makes it feel like a piece of furniture."

Umbenhauer would enthusiastically agree, and encourages home buyers to select hardware that suits their personal tastes, much like accessories on a little black dress. "Hardware is the final touch, the jewelry of the room," she says. "This is their opportunity to make their kitchen unique. It's their space.

Hardware is the final touch, this is their opportunity to make their kitchen unique