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.

Making our Design Choices Fit our Family

In our previous Production (i.e.: tract) homes, we inherited whatever floor plan the builder designed and basically worked with what was there. We’ve never had a dedicated mudroom, a proper foyer, enough outdoor lighting or even a garage large enough to fit two cars. While our homes never lacked square footage, we were still required with each home to adapt to the space. So when we were designing our custom home, our main goal was to ensure we create a space that fits our family and not the other way around. We learned pretty quickly what wasn’t working for us in our past houses and, below, are some of the design changes we made this time around while building this home with our family’s needs in mind.

No Sink in the Island

Photo credit: Monika Hibbs

I feel like this first choice is a controversial one with two distinct trains of thought – you’re either team for sink in the island or team against…

In our previous homes, the sink was always integrated in the island. We were definitely team “FOR” sink in island until we lived with it for a few years. The counter around the sink was always wet from splatter and the space never looked clean.

So this time, the sink will be by the window! Our island is smaller than our last (also a design choice since we found we didn’t need another 9-foot island) and we think it’ll now be the perfect size for hosting (whenever we can host) and for our little family, plus it’ll make keeping the kitchen looking clean that much easier.

Toilets with Concealed Trapways

Ok, so maybe jumping from the kitchen to the toilet is not the best segue but I am actually really excited about this choice! Have you ever bent over to clean all of the creases in a standard toilet? Yes, so you understand! Now imagine having two little boys with their own bathroom and you will WISH you had a curve-less toilet – one wipe across and done!

Luca is obviously still way too small to start thinking about how often he will “miss the bowl” when learning to pee standing up (and, lets be real, all the boys/man in my house will forever have moments where they miss the bowl, even after years of practice…) but Theo is at the age where he thinks its fun to try standing. He’s got pretty good aim but there are times where I wonder if there was more that landed on the floor than in the bowl… So toilets with concealed trapways, while slightly more expensive than the standard ones, was a non-negotiable for me this time around!

Joint Mudroom and Laundry Room

This choice came as an unexpected “non-choice” for me. While we’ve never had a dedicated mudroom, our laundry rooms have always been a decent sized, designated space. So when we started drawing out our floorplans, I had always envisioned two separate rooms but budget and square footage constraints meant that we had to combine the two.

When we were planning out our layout, Theo was not even three years old and hadn’t yet discovered the world of sand, dirt, mud and puddles. Fast forward 18 months and I literally have to get him to undress outside our current rental home before he comes in because of how filthy he is! Add to the fact that, eventually, Luca will be joining the mess and I am now so grateful to know that they can come in through the garage straight into the mud/laundry room and put away their dirty clothes before even entering the main living space.

Inspiration photo by Kate Marker Interiors

Cold AND Hot Water in the Garage

Paolo has always enjoyed detailing his car. He puts on his headphones and spends hours scrubbing every crevice of his car (and I usually get him to do mine too!), then, he tops it off with pressure washing the outside at the end. Last summer, since we were all stuck at home due to the pandemic, Theo also started spending a lot of time outside amusing himself with different water games. The one con with any of our outdoor water activities (aside from watering the grass) was that the water was always freezing cold!

So this time around, when we discussed plumbing with our builder, Paolo’s first request was that the hose bib in the garage have both hot and cold water! His hands won’t freeze when he’s washing our cars, Theo’s lips won’t turn blue when playing with his water table and, as for me, I’ll be able to hose down my children (see point above!) when they come home messy without feeling as though I am torturing them!

Access to Basement from Garage

This last one was not a must but a strong want for our family. Given Paolo’s shift work schedule, he sometimes comes home in the middle of the night and is not yet ready to go to sleep. We decided to add a staircase from the garage down to the finished basement so that he can go straight down to watch TV after work and not risk waking the family (and the dog!) by walking past the main living space.

We also figured, from watching how my nephews (aged 21 and 15) go straight to the basement of their own house with their friends, that Theo and Luca will one day appreciate being able to go straight downstairs with their buddies without having to engage in the always awkward parent conversation that would be required if they all came through the front door…

While I’m sure that even with a custom home there will be things that we wish we had thought of or designed differently, I am really excited for the lessons we’ve learned in past homes and the opportunity we now have to make this house fit our family’s needs.