It's a small thing, often overlooked amid major items like furniture and paint colors when you're decorating a room. But don't underestimate the power of household hardware.
These small items — doorknobs, drawer pulls, cabinet-door handles — are "the jewelry" that can add style and sparkle to any space, says New York-based interior designer Young Huh. Just as the right necklace can turn a simple dress into a fashion statement, a striking new set of knobs on an old cabinet, or vintage crystal doorknobs can bring a huge dose of style to your home with minimal expense, she says.
In many homes, these hardware items are mostly ignored. Interior doors may have mismatched, inexpensive knobs that were installed at different times. Drawers and cabinets may have functional but unappealing knobs or bars.
Swapping these items out is often easy, and Los Angeles-based designer Betsy Burnham says her clients are frequently surprised at the visual impact of something as simple as carefully chosen hardware. Last summer, she added door pulls made of rope tied in small nautical knots to the built-in cabinets at a California beach house, inexpensively adding a dash of personality to the space.
Here, three interior-design experts — Huh, Burnham and designer Brian Patrick Flynn of Flynnside Out Productions — offer advice on choosing the right hardware and using it to coordinate the look of a home.
One of the most popular styles now is lacquered or aged brass. "Ten years ago," Huh says, "it was all about nickel: brushed nickel, shiny nickel. Now it's the resurgence of brass." Designers are using "bold tones, and things that look worn," she says, by installing unlacquered brass that tarnishes over the course of a year, or paying extra for "pre-antiqued" brass that already has a colorful patina.
Flynn uses a lot of brass, especially "satin or antique finishes, because they're more sophisticated and less formal than polished, glossy styles."
In addition, "a newer option I'm seeing and totally love is matte black hardware," he says. "This is excellent for modern kitchens or for adding dark contrast to an otherwise light and bright space. The matte finish helps camouflage any scratches or smudges you'd deal with on glossy black pulls and knobs."
Another dramatic favorite of Flynn's: unlacquered iron.
UPGRADES AND CHANGES
Burnham and her staff recently gave a preteen girl's bedroom a more grown-up look by "changing the vibe from kind of old-fashioned to Bohemian." Their changes included a new set of striped, bone-inlay knobs from Anthropologie that gave the furniture a funky appeal.
The same approach can make grown-up furniture look just right for a baby or child's room: If you are turning a guest room into a nursery, Burnham says, change the cabinetry hardware to something "sweet or pink or shiny," or choose knobs shaped like birds or other animals.
If you're shopping, Huh suggests hunting for an affordable piece of furniture and then making it look more expensive by adding dramatic hardware.
The range of available styles is enormous, and shopping for new or vintage items online is easy. Even if you'd prefer to buy in person, Burnham says a bit of online research "makes your creativity kind of percolate a little bit."
"Just pay attention to dimensions," she warns, because you "may not realize that in person, an inch-and-a-half sphere is quite large." Measure the size and location of the holes left behind by your current hardware, she says. If you buy replacements that don't match, drill new holes and fill the old ones.
And amid all the focus on style, do choose hardware that is easy to grab and use.
CONSISTENT OR CONTRASTING
Take note of all the hardware and metals in a room, including lamp bases, and decide whether you want them to match or whether you'd like to inject some dramatic contrast.
Either method works, as long as it's done deliberately. "If you don't do it consciously," Huh says, "then it could all look really messy."
"You don't want to have shiny brass in one case and unlacquered in another and nickel hardware on something else," she continues. "Having similar tones is a good way to start. When you feel more expert, then mix metals."
In a kitchen, "your finishes should probably match," Burnham says. "You wouldn't want the finishes to be fighting just a little."
"In addition to pulls and knobs, I think nailheads can make a huge impact in a space," Flynn says. "After updating cabinets and drawers, I'll also give closet or interior doors a unique look by adding a nailhead border around the perimeter. This can elevate a basic hall closet into an architectural feature."
You can buy nailheads at a craft store, or roofing tacks from a hardware store. Then cut fabric batting to size and use spray adhesive to cover the door with the batting. Stretch your fabric across the door and attach it with staples. Finally, place nailheads over the staples and secure in place with a mallet or hammer.
"Although it may seem small, hardware can make the biggest impact of all elements in a space," Flynn says. "With so many styles and finishes to choose from and so many available price points, there's no reason not to update hardware regularly to give a room a fresh new look."