Tips For Choosing Your Cabinet Hardware

Our home is still a ways from being finished but, as is customary, we have already had several design meetings with our millwork company to finalize the drawings for all of our cabinetry. And, this week, we finalized everything!!! So now comes the fun part – choosing the jewelry for our designs (i.e.: the hardware).

When we built our second Production Home, we asked Mattamy Homes to omit all of the cabinetry hardware and opted to install it ourselves after moving in. The reason was simple – we didn’t like anything that Mattamy was offering. At that time, I did quite a bit of research on different hardware styles, finishes, sizes, placement on the cabinets, etc. While I always liked our selections, I felt I played it safe in that I didn’t mix metals and kept the hardware in each space uniform. This time around, I’m trying to be a little more intentional about our selections by applying the tips I’ve learned along the way.

#1 Review your millwork measurements

My number one (that I have applied to my own home religiously) is to really review your millwork plans. I start by printing the plans (which include the exact measurement of each cabinet and drawer) for all of the rooms where we’re going to need hardware (kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room).

From there, group same size drawers (width wise) and cabinets (height wise) so that you know how many of a specific sized knob or pull you will need for the space. In our master ensuite, for example, we have 6 drawers and 4 cabinet doors that are all around 20-30″ wide (for drawers) and high (for cabinet doors), so it makes sense to order all of the same hardware since the pulls will look uniform throughout the space. In our laundry room, however, I have a mix of 10″ cabinets, 24″ drawers and even 48″ upper cabinets, so a one-size-fits-all hardware would not work there (my 3″ bar pull might look good on a 10″ cabinet but it’ll feel flimsy when opening our 24″ drawers).

The internet is full of resources for what size hardware works best on different cabinetry sizes. I personally like this latest one from Schoolhouse Living – it is simple and clean and the size options are universal.

#2 Finishes – same same but different…

There’s a lot of literature and opinions about mixing hardware and compelling reasons for and against doing it. I personally have never mixed metals before; having knobs and cups in one space was about as adventurous as I got in our last house. But this time, since we’re building fully custom, I’m throwing the conservative rule book out the window.

While I want to mix things up, I still want it to flow. In the laundry room, for example, I am aiming to maintain a cohesive look by mixing different hardware designs that are from the same color family. So our large cabinet doors will have polished nickel latches, while the pull-out drying racks and other drawers will have more detailed bar pulls in the same polished nickel finish.

Laundry Room Hardware Selections

#3 Texture vs. Design

Our current rental is a typical builder-grade Mattamy home. They used the same handles, in the same finish, throughout the entire house (kitchen and bathrooms). While it certainly is uniform, it also falls flat. So another way that we’re having fun with our hardware selections is by using different hardware shapes and sizes for different spaces.

The boys’ vanities, for example, are a forest green color with 5″ stone countertops. We want the countertops to be the focal point but still want interesting hardware, so I opted for simple black bar pulls that have a textured finish for added interest.

#4 Make a list of your selections

My final tip is something we are doing for all aspects of our home’s finishing choices (tile, lights, hardware, paint, etc.). While I love everything I am choosing right now, it’s inevitable that at some point in the future I will want to change things up and one of the easiest ways to spruce up any space is to swap out hardware. The one limiting factor with hardware is that you have to buy the same size or else you’ll have to contend with patching up holes in your millwork. And in the age of online shopping, you can’t always bring a handle to the store to compare, so by keeping a list of your hardware choices, ideally with an online link that provides a description, you can easily get the specs for your hardware to order different (but same size) ones in the future.

In our case, we will also have spaces that aren’t yet completed (such as our pantry) that I will eventually want matching hardware. By keeping a detailed list of our selections now, I can simply refer to the links later on to order additional knobs and pulls.

When you’re building a house, there are many big budget items, such as millwork, that consume a lot of your time and reflection. By the time you are picking hardware, it is not uncommon to be suffering from decision overload and to not give this aspect of the build the detailed attention it deserves. But you need to remember that hardware (and lights and tiles) is really what makes the space. While you might have paid a lot for cabinetry, a shaker door is a shaker door; dressing it up with the right hardware is how you can elevate the baseline. So if I can offer any advice when building your home, it is to really analyze your hardware selections by considering some of the above tips.

Things We Omitted in our Second Production Home

When we purchased our first builder grade home, we took all that we could get! Meaning, builder grade mirrors in all of the bathrooms (think – rectangle glass with no frame); cookie-cutter cabinetry hardware; “boob” lights; round doorhandles; basic baseboards and trim, etc.

By the time we purchased our second Production Home, we knew better than to just take what was being offered. Sure, certain things we agreed to pay the inflated upgrade cost because it was easier to have the builder install them (i.e.: we upgraded the baseboards, the door handles (which included matching door hinges and stoppers), etc.) but other things we simply asked to leave it blank and we handled on our own afterwards.

Now – full disclosure – unlike with a custom builder, you don’t save any costs by omitting what a production builder includes. At least with our Production builders, they just scratched our items off the list but didn’t provide any credits for doing so. Even so, below is a list of items we omitted in our second home so as to allow us the opportunity to put our own touch in the house afterwards.

Mirrors

Mirrors are probably the number 1 thing that will give away whether something is custom or builder grade. Production Builders are notorious for using rectangular frameless mirrors in every bathroom. What’s more, they install the mirrors before painting – so if you decide to change it out later, you basically have to first paint the whole wall. There are some great DIYs that can be done to builder grade mirrors (i.e.: to add trim) to make them look more expensive but given the number of affordable options that you can get at pretty much any home store, we chose to omit all of the mirrors in our second home and just installed our own. It made a huge difference!

Cabinetry Hardware

Omitting the builder grade cabinetry hardware was another no-brainer for us. Finding something we liked and mastering the art of installing the hardware ourselves (had to make sure everything was level and aligned before drilling any holes!) took some time but when I look back at the kitchen handles in our first home versus what we purchased on our own for our second home, I think this is definitely one of those items that you do not want to compromise on and that is worth omitting if your builder doesn’t offer exactly what you are looking for.

Another reason to potentially forego builder grade cabinetry hardware is because, at least in our case, our builder charged an upgrade fee to mix different hardware (i.e.: pulls on drawers and knobs on doors). So not only did they not have exactly what we wanted, they would have charged us more just to install different hardware (despite the fact that there’s no additional labour involved…).

Bathroom Accessories

Toilet paper holders and bath towel rods are another area where one can easily tell what is “builder grade” and what is custom. Sturdy accessories (as opposed to the cheap plastic-made-to-look-like-chrome accessories seen in builder grade bathrooms) are a great and inexpensive way to add a more personal touch to even the most builder basic of bathrooms. And, as an added bonus, you get to pick where you want to place your accessories!

All in all, I am not one to simply pay for something and not use it. I think that is why, in our first home, I let the builder install everything that was included. I thought it was irresponsible to simply forego something I was paying for (since the builder wasn’t offering a credit) just to then go out and spend more money on a higher end version of essentially the same thing… However, having lived with the above builder grade finishes in our first home and then seen the value added from doing our own thing in our second home, I genuinely believe that these are items that come at a relatively inexpensive additional cost but that offer a lot of value to your space.