When to Use Kitchen Cabinet Knobs vs. Pulls, and More Hardware Questions Answered
Three pros weigh in on sizing, placement, and more.
Published Apr 24, 2021 12:46 AM
Picking out kitchen cabinet hardware is like getting the dessert menu at the end of a meal. It’s a sweet way to end things. Still it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the choices before you: latches, knobs, handles, pulls—some matte black, others antique brass; some tiny and seamless, others oversize. The only thing that will make it feel a bit less daunting is being informed.
“Sizing and function are the two most important factors when considering what cabinet hardware is best,” says Kimberlee Gorsline, founder and principal designer of Kimberlee Marie Interiors. So let’s begin with the most common choices for kitchen cabinets: knobs and pulls. The two options serve a space differently, but their end goal is really the same—to give you access to the stuff that’s on the other side. Here’s everything to know about picking them out for your space, from the right sizing to placement.
Should I Get Knobs?
The general rule of thumb is that knobs are best for cabinet doors, though occasionally you can break the rules. “We might do a single knob on a smaller drawer,” says Gorsline. It doesn’t matter what shape you go with (they come in round, square, oblong, octagonal—you name it), what’s important is they’re placed 2 1/2 or 3 inches from the corner of a door.
Should I Get Pulls?
Pulls offer a bit more flexibility in a kitchen because you can put them on both drawers and doors. “Overall I think that pulls are easier to grasp than knobs,” says Michelle Lisac, founder and principal designer of Michelle Lisac Interior Design. Their function can’t be beat, especially if your cabinet fronts are on the larger end and you need a bit more leverage to open them.
What Size Should My Knobs and Pulls Be?
Start by accounting for the length of your cabinets. “If you have a long drawer, you will need a long pull to support the weight of pulling out the drawer,” explains Gorsline. For smaller nooks, like spice pull-outs or slim doors that hide cutting boards, go with knobs that are 1 inch in diameter or smaller. Otherwise, knobs that are between 1 ¼ and 1 ⅜ inches will suffice.
All that said, there are benefits to supersizing your knobs. Not only does it make them easier to grab, but the visual effect (especially if they’re painted the same color as your cabinet doors) is showstopping.
Pulls are a bit trickier to get right. For ease, consider picking one size and using them throughout on your cabinetry. A 3¾-inch distance between the screw holes looks nice on most cabinets and is large enough to grip comfortably.
What Finishes Can I Choose From?
Let your cupboard color and style guide your hardware material. A few of our favorite pairings include iron with beadboard fronts, nickel on wood doors, and transparent against high gloss. “In some scenarios hardware is best applied like jewelry, and in others, you want it to be understated,” says Caitlin Murray, founder and creative director of Black Lacquer Design, who is currently obsessed with the former (she’s into organic shapes that look sculptural, like abstract brass snakes).
“I’m currently loving an unlacquered brass, but I also love pulls with a combination of either textures or finishes, like Emtek’s knurled bars,” says Lisac. Style aside, her most important rule is to not buy “cheap” hardware. After all, “these are items that you are literally going to be touching every day,” she adds.
Can I Mix Knobs and Pulls in the Same Space?
So you want the best of both worlds. There are two ways to go about incorporating knobs and pulls seamlessly in one kitchen. The first route is to put knobs on all the upper cabinets and pulls on all the lower cabinets, creating a harmonious visual appearance. The second option is to put knobs on all the doors and pulls on all the drawers, prioritizing function. And who said you can’t throw out the rule book entirely? Shea McGee mixed knobs, latches, thin pulls, and cup pulls in her kitchen—and thanks to the fact that they’re all the same brass finish, it totally works. Open sesame.
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