Get A Grip: A Practical Guide to Choosing Modern Kitchen Cabinet Hardware
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Get A Grip: A Practical Guide to Choosing Modern Kitchen Cabinet Hardware

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By Kate Reggev
From handles and hinges to latches and catches, here's what you need to know about the different kinds of modern kitchen cabinet hardware on the market and where to find them.

They say that design is in the details, and when it comes to the hardware on drawers, cabinets, and other storage millwork, we’d have to agree. You may have noticed how swapping out the knobs on a piece of old, tired furniture with modern brushed nickel pulls, for example, can give it a whole new look, or how using concealed hinge on a cabinet door can transform a kitchen. It can be difficult to get a handle (pun intended) on all the different modern kitchen cabinet hardware ideas out there—especially when some are hidden—so read on as we delve into the different types of cabinet hardware for kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas of the home. 

Part I: Handles

At a renovated home in Nevada, cabinetmaker Ben Wilborn carefully matched the grain of the kitchen cabinets, and the homeowners paired the wood with modern stainless steel cabinet pulls.

At a renovated home in Nevada, cabinetmaker Ben Wilborn carefully matched the grain of the kitchen cabinets, and the homeowners paired the wood with modern stainless steel cabinet pulls.

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There are just as many types of cabinet handles out there as there are types of cabinets, but the most common ones you’ll see are knobs, pulls, cut-outs, and "invisible" spring hardware.

Knobs

In the transformation of a 1950s mid-century modern home in Portland, Oregon, metal cabinet pulls complement the strong wood grain of the cabinets at the splash of color from glazed tiles from Ann Sacks.

In the transformation of a 1950s mid-century modern home in Portland, Oregon, metal cabinet pulls complement the strong wood grain of the cabinets at the splash of color from glazed tiles from Ann Sacks.

Knobs, which are attached with a single screw, are most frequently used on cabinets, and are available with a built-in screw, known as a one-piece knob, or with a separate top and fastener, known as a two-piece design. Modern drawer knobs are made in a variety of materials including brass, zinc, stainless steel (sometimes found in kitchens), bronze, glass, crystal, plastic, wood, and other natural and man-made materials. 

The type of knob that works best in a kitchen will range in size and style depending on the color and type of cabinetry you have (which is also why so many people go with simple white cabinets in their kitchens!). Knobs also come in a range of shapes and sizes, but are often designed for comfort and ergonomics, so there are rarely sharp edges that could potentially hurt someone pulling on it.

Pulls

In a centuries-old building in Montreal, Belgian architect and designer Gaeten Havart undertook a DIY kitchen renovation that makes the most of inexpensive materials. These simple cabinets and modern cabinet pulls are from Ikea and painted with a matte black finish.

In a centuries-old building in Montreal, Belgian architect and designer Gaeten Havart undertook a DIY kitchen renovation that makes the most of inexpensive materials. These simple cabinets and modern cabinet pulls are from Ikea and painted with a matte black finish.

Another type of door hardware for opening cabinets are pulls or handles, which are attached to cabinet door fronts with two or more screws. You may have had experiences where you were trying to swap out old cabinet pulls for new ones, say, for example modern glass cabinet hardware, only to realize that the pulls had two screws that were a different distance apart from the new ones that you purchased. Don’t worry—you’re not alone! This happens often because the distance between two screws varies depending on pull type, manufacturer, and other factors.

Shop Rejuvenation Drawer Pulls
Rejuvenation Manzanita Drawer Pull
Rejuvenation Manzanita Drawer Pull
With an elegant, updated traditional design, the Manzanita Drawer Pull is a favorite on cabinetry in kitchens, baths, and laundry rooms. Available in several finishes and sizes, this drawer pull offers balanced symmetry and timeless style.
Rejuvenation Upton Drawer Pull
Rejuvenation Upton Drawer Pull
With a slim, streamlined design, the Upton Drawer Pull brings a contemporary look to any space. Made from solid cast brass, upgrade your cabinet hardware with this high-quality drawer pull for a timeless look.
A consistent use of modern brass cabinet pulls on both the drawers and appliances creates a unified, elegant approach to this kitchen in San Diego by InPlace Studio. A polished brass toekick completes the look.

A consistent use of modern brass cabinet pulls on both the drawers and appliances creates a unified, elegant approach to this kitchen in San Diego by InPlace Studio. A polished brass toekick completes the look.

Some pulls and handles are specifically made for appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and other appliances where you might have panels installed on the front of the item to match the surrounding cabinetry. Typically, appliance handles and pulls have been designed to higher standards than traditional, mid-century, or modern cabinet drawer pulls because they need to withstand more wear and tear—your fridge door has suction that resists opening, and you probably open the fridge more times than most of the cabinets in your kitchen. As a result, many appliance handles and pulls are larger, wider, or thicker than similar cabinet hardware.

Cup & Finger Pulls 

More traditional cabinet cup pulls from Ikea can still have a modern sensibility when paired with other sleek finishes.

More traditional cabinet cup pulls from Ikea can still have a modern sensibility when paired with other sleek finishes.

One popular subset of modern drawer cabinet pulls are cup pulls, sometimes also known as half-moon pulls because of their half-circle form. Rather than wrap your fingers around a bar, as is the case with most pulls, users slip their fingers in the underside of a cup handle, pulling towards themselves. A similar but even more modern version of this is the finger pull, where a U-shaped pull gets installed to the inside edge of a drawer, leaving an L-shaped pull that your fingers slide under. These two types of modern cabinet pulls are installed using a specific mounting method, and they can only be installed in one direction, facing down.

Spring Mechanisms 

Minimalist design can sometimes be a mystery, like modern kitchen cabinets that have no visible hardware. However, a quick little push on the edge of a cabinet can reveal an interior spring mechanism that holds the doors closed.

Minimalist design can sometimes be a mystery, like modern kitchen cabinets that have no visible hardware. However, a quick little push on the edge of a cabinet can reveal an interior spring mechanism that holds the doors closed.

You may also have seen cabinets that are so modern and minimalist that they have no knobs or pulls whatsoever—and they look like they’re impossible to open! The trick is, in fact, a mechanism with a spring located on the inside of the cabinet. When you push on the corner of a cabinet, you compress and then release the spring, which in turn pops the cabinet open. In order to close the cabinet, you simply push it closed until you hear the little "click" that means the spring is back in its locked position.


Cut-Outs 

At a home in California, wood and glass take the lead, including wood drawers with cutout pulls for a custom but simple look.

At a home in California, wood and glass take the lead, including wood drawers with cutout pulls for a custom but simple look.

Finally, another popular way of opening cabinets without the use of traditional pulls or knobs is through cut-outs in the cabinetry. These are frequently found on custom cabinets where a minimalist look is desired, or where the budget is tight and saving on hardware is desirable. Cut-outs can come in a range of shapes, and are often designed to facilitate ease of opening. 

Part II: Hinges

At a home in San Francisco, the non-visible modern cabinet door hinges of this bar and surrounding cabinetry are due to the frameless cabinets and hinges that mount directly to the interior of the cabinet.

At a home in San Francisco, the non-visible modern cabinet door hinges of this bar and surrounding cabinetry are due to the frameless cabinets and hinges that mount directly to the interior of the cabinet.

Modern cabinet door hinges are a critical part to any cabinet, and are also quite complex; there are about a dozen (if not more) different types of hinges, depending on whether you have face-frame cabinets or frameless cabinets. Face-frame cabinets include a frame made of 1-½" to 2" wide solid wood that attaches to the front edges of the cabinets. This type of cabinet construction is common in American-made cabinets, and hinges will then mount directly to this frame. However, if you have frameless cabinets—which are typically made in Europe, like IKEA cabinets—your cabinets are basically just a four-sided box with no frame around the front edges. In this case, the hinges will mount directly to the interior of the cabinet. 

The brushed nickel drawer pulls in this blue and white kitchen in Brooklyn, New York by Elizabeth Roberts Architecture & Design tie into the brushed nickel of the sink hardware and oven, keeping the color and material palette simple.

The brushed nickel drawer pulls in this blue and white kitchen in Brooklyn, New York by Elizabeth Roberts Architecture & Design tie into the brushed nickel of the sink hardware and oven, keeping the color and material palette simple.

Based on this, you can then figure out the relationship between your cabinet doors and the frame or exposed edge of the cabinet—do the doors cover part of the frame or edge, or are they inset so that you can see that frame? Depending on whether it’s a single cabinet door or a double cabinet door, the frame or edge might be covered by one or two cabinet doors. 

Modern cabinet finger pulls in a more bright and shiny chrome dot the drawers in this sleek kitchen in Venice, California.

Modern cabinet finger pulls in a more bright and shiny chrome dot the drawers in this sleek kitchen in Venice, California.

You’ll also want to think about how visible your hinges will be—do you want them to be a major design feature and mounted directly to both the outside of the frame and the outside of the cabinet, known as a surface-mounted hinge? Or take a more minimalist design approach and have them virtually invisible from the outside when the cabinets are closed, known as a concealed hinge? Are you worried about the noise of cabinet doors closing, and think that soft-closing hinges are important? 

Small tee-shaped brushed nickel pulls are a modern choice in this kitchen in Brooklyn, with light wood cabinets and invisible hinges.

Small tee-shaped brushed nickel pulls are a modern choice in this kitchen in Brooklyn, with light wood cabinets and invisible hinges.


Part III: Tracks and Slides

Specialty drawers like spice drawers, customized freezers, and other specialty appliances often use ball-bearing slides, tracks and latches in concert with cabinet pulls. Here, modern brushed nickel pulls are used in a very wide, rectangular setting.

Specialty drawers like spice drawers, customized freezers, and other specialty appliances often use ball-bearing slides, tracks and latches in concert with cabinet pulls. Here, modern brushed nickel pulls are used in a very wide, rectangular setting.

Finally, one of the more technical parts of cabinet hardware are the ball-bearing slides or tracks and latches that are used to open and close drawers and cabinets. Sliding tracks are what allow drawers to open and close smoothly, and using drawer slides that have soft-close ball bearings allow them to close slowly so that they don’t make much noise or rattle everything inside. Drawer slides are available in side-mount, center-mount, and undermount versions, depending on the amount of space you have between the drawer and the cabinet opening. 

Part IV: Latches and Catches

At a home renovation in Connecticut, cabinet fabricator Michael Madore experimented with what he calls an "aggressive" metal-sanding process to pull out the grain from the whitewashed oak plywood. For the hardware-free cabinets, Julie Salles Schaffer looked to a drawer pull detail derived from Giò Ponti’s work—though she admits the radial edging is an effect entirely her own.

At a home renovation in Connecticut, cabinet fabricator Michael Madore experimented with what he calls an "aggressive" metal-sanding process to pull out the grain from the whitewashed oak plywood. For the hardware-free cabinets, Julie Salles Schaffer looked to a drawer pull detail derived from Giò Ponti’s work—though she admits the radial edging is an effect entirely her own.

Latches for cabinets aren’t quite as common as they were about a 100 years ago because of improved hinge technology, but you can still find a variety of latches and catches for keeping cabinets closed. A latch is mounted to the outside of a cabinet, and typically features two pieces: a mechanism with a turn or a lever on one side that controls the "tongue" of the latch, and a "shell" with a cavity to house the tongue on the other side. On the other hand, cabinet catches are usually installed on the inside of a cabinet, making them invisible from the exterior, and can consist of a magnet, a clip, or a ball that holds the door closed unless a certain amount of force is applied to open it.

Open rectangular cutouts in modern wood cabinetry were the way to go in this bathroom vanity.

Open rectangular cutouts in modern wood cabinetry were the way to go in this bathroom vanity.