Bringing the bling back into kitchen hardware

As
an element of design, door and cabinet hardware often get the short shrift.
Utilitarian, to be sure, they function as a means to open a drawer or door. And
sometimes, on modern cabinetwork, they’re no-shows: A touch-latch mechanism
provides the way in.

But
knobs, pulls and handles can be eye-catching glamorous, colourful, tactile.
They can totally transfer the surface of a cabinet, door or piece of furniture,
elevating its style and perceived value. They can be perky, funky, rustic or
whimsical; if that’s the mood you’re after.

For
instant design gratification, there are fewer quick fixes than hardware.

Furniture
manufacturers certainly know how to sell it. At the high end, especially,
attention is showered on hardware that lends punctuation, even exclamation.
Weight and technique such as hand-cast metals, as well as scale are celebrated.
Even suggested provenance is romanced: “This pull was inspired by the hardware
on a Parisian door.” Gleaming polished nickel pulls or crystal knobs are
likened to jewellery: They dress up or complete a look, like a fabulous fashion
accessory.

Some furniture hardware is thoroughly
site specific. A graceful mahogany vanity/desk introduced by The Platt
Collections at the spring High Point furniture market, for example, is part of
a group incorporating the emblematic breast cancer awareness logo into the
design. For this particular piece, the brushed nickel pulls were crafted in
that familiar form. A silver-leaf-trimmed matching mirror in the shape further
underscores the design and drama.

For
years now, the trend of more furniture-look cabinetwork has dominated kitchen
design. And cues are being taken from high-end kitchen designers such as
Christopher Peacock, whose signature classic style translates most simply with
pristine white cabinets, polished nickel pulls and white Carrara marble
countertops.

It’s
such an elegant look worth mimicking that it no doubt has inspired homeowners
who can’t afford six-figure kitchen remodels to perhaps spruce up existing
cabinets with sparkling new hardware. Restoration Hardware is all over it, with
a formidable selection of pulls in a variety of shapes, such as modern-looking
square, in several finishes, including polished nickel. Refinishing cabinet
fronts and perhaps replacing one counter with new stone might be in-tandem
applications, depending on budget.

“The
bling certainly has come back to hardware,” says Adrienne Morea, president and
designer for Atlas Homewares. Her products often are cued to couture. A recent
introduction of white leather and lacquered white pulls, for example, was
inspired by Chanel.

We’re
probably not talking about $2 knobs here. There’s a huge visual as well as
weighty difference between standard fare at the big box stores versus something
of more substance and style. But consider that, even at a pricey investment
($10 to $20 or more per knob) that may not require more than a DIY
installation, is achievable for most people, compared to tens of thousands of
dollars to rip out cabinets and renovate, not to mention putting up with weeks
or months of rehab.

Bsides,
the idea of renewing rather than redoing has a nice sustainable ring to it.

“People
who can’t afford a new kitchen can go in and spend a few hundred dollars on
knobs that really will give new life,” says Morea. “One singular piece can
really transform.”

You
can start with the front door. It’s a visitor’s first impression, so this is a
good place for added value. A well-designed substantial brass (finished as you
like), bronze or wrought-iron entry system will add tremendous curb appeal,
that is, if the door is up to the task. Don’t invest in high-end hardware, for
example, if your door is hollow core.

Upgrading
interior door knobs also is an option. If you don’t want to replace all or
can’t afford to, focus on places where it might make a difference, such as a
powder room. A Swarovski crystal door knob and upgraded pulls on cabinets are
gracious touches that guests will appreciate.

One
of Atlas Hardware’s newest designs features crystal paves set into brushed
anodized aluminium, like exclusive cufflinks set with pave diamonds.

If
your look is more tailored, you may appreciate the luxurious look of supply
Italian woven leather, a la Bottega Veneta handbags, with a new collection introduced
by the British-based company Turnstyle Designs Ltd. The company also created a
man-made version of Shagreen (ray and shark skin), whose granular texture
contrasts with its shiny chrome frame. Another design features pretty turquoise
shells set into bright chrome.

A
more sculptural look comes into play with Rocky Mountain Hardware’s five latest
introductions from the hand of San Francisco artist and furniture designer Ted
Boerner. The ambitious collection, which is cast in recycled, art-grade bronze,
includes 27 new pieces of door hardware and cabinet pulls available in nine
standard finishes. They are architectural, with chunky handles, asymmetrical
knobs and a hand-wrought quality.

“These
pieces are created in relationship to the eye and the hand,” says Boerner.
“They celebrate touch, feeling, and an immediate sense of human scale.”

Patterns
in small doses are easier to assimilate than wall covering or a large sofa.
There are so many patterns and shapes from which to choose, you’ll probably
satisfy some niche decorating, such as coastal style (coral, starfish, ropes),
sports themes (baseballs, footballs).

A
wide range of metals from shiny to matte to rustic also extends the possibilities.
Even the glossy-finished can sport a hammered look, an intriguing polished
nickel combination offered by manufacturer Hamilton Sinkler.

Influences
from Old World architecture (Greek columns, and key design), different design
periods like Art Deco all are represented. So is green. Hardware made from
woven bamboo or recycled glass are among current offerings. And straight from
women’s fashion runways, metal studded belts, handbags, clothing and bracelets
have an analogous look in polished steel-studded mango pulls at Atlas. “It’s
directly translatable,” says Morea, who happens to be a former jewellery
designer who has taken some designs and turned them into hardware.

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