Pulls, knobs and exposed hinges can completely change the mood of a kitchen. They can complement the room or create a distraction. Hardware can make guests cringe or want to caress it.
The industry likes to say that there are two types of cabinet hardware, decorative and functional. But most decorative elements – pulls and knobs – are highly functional, and lots of hardworking hinges are pretty good to look at, too. The lines are sometimes blurred, but decorative hardware is probably best described as having aesthetics as its primary value, while functional hardware has become more about performing tasks and adding technology such as soft closing, touch-to-open, motion sensing LEDS, invisible device chargers and the like.
When it comes to what’s trending, almost all the mainstream manufacturers are going with metal or black tones, sleek profiles, and masculine simplicity. That’s in part a reaction to the trend away from natural wood and toward monotone paint. Satin or brushed brass and copper are perennial favorites for hardware, although brushed or polished silver are still in demand. But matte black has emerged as a very popular choice in both hardware and accents, and it delivers a stark and powerful impact when it’s used to set off basic white casework. Gold is occasionally used on a white background, too, but champagne brass is more widespread.
The pulls have stretched out a bit too, and they’re often quite a bit longer than they used to be. However, they are for the most part still too tight fit for larger, thicker fingers or hands with arthritic knuckles. One answer to that has been a trend toward hidden hardware, where the pulls are replaced by touch-activated, spring-loaded, magnetic door closing and opening.
A few manufacturers are going retro and offering surface-mounted latches for doors, which they seem to like to pair with clamshell pulls. But most designers are sticking with either pulls everywhere (no knobs), or else pulls on drawers and knobs on doors. Also popular is using one type of hardware on base cabinets and a different one on the wall-hung units.
If the woodshop is adding to an existing kitchen or bath, there may be some constraints because the older doors are drilled for 3” pulls and the client wants to update to the trendy long and skinny. In the old days, shops would just add backplates to cover the holes, but those are not so trendy now. Shops can occasionally find longer pulls with 3” stubs, and suppliers such as Outwater Plastics & Architectural Products (outwater.com) do stock extensive catalogs of backplates for both knobs and pulls.
The new big thing from Blum (blum.com) is called Revego, and it really is big. Physically. It’s a system that lets kitchen designers hide large swaths of cabinetry and appliances behind what amounts to the modern equivalent of a barn door. The hardware supports both single and double doors that transform spaces from kitchen to dining and living spaces, essentially by hiding walls of shelves and casework. The company describes the hardware as “an innovation that allows you to open up entire spaces when you need them and close them off again when they are not in use.” The doors can be opened and closed with and without handles, and they disappear into a narrow cabinet, or pocket that’s about 4” wide for a single door and 6” for a double.
Salice America (salice.com) also has a new pocket door system. The Italian manufacturer’s Exedra2 is the next evolution of the original Exedra pocket door system which enables the simultaneous opening of two linked doors. The new system is available in two versions. In Exedra2 Star, the compartment that houses the mechanism is always hidden by a cover panel which is fixed to the front of the system. In the second version, Exedra2 Smart, the door edges are visible when they are folded into their compartment and, as a result, the system requires less depth of the cabinet. There’s no track at the bottom, which makes the system adaptable to options that are raised from the ground or placed on a cupboard or a chest of drawers. Opening and closing the doors with one hand is effortless, making this a functional and practical solution in a host of applications from kitchens and living rooms to walk-in wardrobes, home office solutions, laundry rooms and other storage applications.
Pulls and knobs
Square, straight, long, and minimalistic are the trendy words in decorative hardware. Pulls such as the champagne bronze Square Bar (item 1699) from Decore-ative Specialties (decore.com) define the moment. Described as “a square twist on the classic T-Bar,” the company says that this pull brings crisp, clean lines to any project. And that is definitely the main trend in hardware right now. Another pull, the Artesia (item 1714) strikes a similar note, albeit in a slightly more decorative manner. This champagne bronze pull eschews the round studs on the Square Bar pull, but it does incorporate a cylindrical shape for the fingers.
A similar theme is offered by Hardware Resources (hardwareresources.com) in its Renzo cabinet pull and knob from the Jeffrey Alexander collection. With a hint of Art Deco, “the thoughtfully balanced lines blend with a boldly stepped profile.” The almost square and slightly decorative pull can be matched with coordinating knob sizes, and it’s available in five center-to-center options in seven trendy finishes.
Four dramatic new collections from Top Knobs (topknobs.com) illustrate the most popular trend in pulls. The Ellis, Morris, Bit, and Regent’s Park series are all elongated, stark, metallic, functional, robust and in no way shy or demure. They make a very strong statement as they alter and almost subjugate the personalities of the cabinets, counters, and backsplashes.
Richelieu Hardware (richelieu.com) carries these same themes but one of its new lines adds a twist. Beyond the brass and black minimalist pulls, the company has included some Contemporary Metal and Crystal knobs and pulls that add a bit of whimsy. They feature crystal accents that are designed to catch the light and generate a sparkle.
And the simple, elongated trend also extends to the latest decorative cabinet hardware from Amerock (amerock.com), where styles such as the new Exceed are vaguely reminiscent of the 1940s and ’50s. The line comes in several finishes and pull lengths, and there’s a hint of Grandma’s white tiled bathroom about the clean but hauntingly retro lines.
Berenson Hardware (berensonhardware.com) is based in Buffalo, N.Y., and the company has been a leader in decorative hardware for half a century. The latest offering pushes the term contemporary to its limits. They come in black, white, and gold finishes and they inhabit the most remarkably angular, geometric forms. The matching knobs are equally bereft of soft curves or even softened corners.
Two new collections from Hickory Hardware (hickoryhardware.com) are titled Dover and Maven. The Dover line is very classical, with bowed curves and simple form. The Maven collection “showcases an expert mix of mid-century inspiration and soft geometric flair. Inspired by retro hardware and décor, with a modern simplicity for kitchens of today, Maven is fashion forward and fun.”
Drawers and slides
Soft-close drawer slides are always trendy, and both manufacturers and outsourced cabinet suppliers are constantly upping the quality. Elias Woodwork (eliaswoodwork.com) has just added seven concealed full-extension Blum slides to its catalog, ranging from 13-3/4” to 21-5/8” long. The zinc-coated steel hardware has a concealed roller carriage mechanism with permanently lubricated synthetic rollers. There’s a locking device that provides both automatic latching and easy release for drawer removal, and the slides come with tool-free height adjustment. Elias has also added some Blum self-closing and full overlay blind corner hinges, which means there’s hardly a cabinet configuration the company can’t supply now.
Fulterer USA (fultererusa.com) is also supporting the high-end drawer slide trend. The company recently introduced the new FR 3001, which is a full-extension, concealed, under-mount slide with a 75 lbs. load capacity. Made with galvanized steel, it’s designed for face frame cabinets (the 3000 and 3002 are for frame-less), and it has a very smooth soft close mechanism. It’s designed for four-sided, 5/8” thick drawers, and there’s no notching required. The rear mounting brackets and locking kits are included.
Grass America’s new Dynapro2.0 offer a full-extension undermount and smooth-running action with a high load-carrying capacity and a sleek look. The system provides options for a front locking device, with 1D, 2D, and 3D adjustments in the side, height, and depth. Adding to the aesthetics of the design, its soft-close system is fully concealed in the drawer slide’s cavity. Depths range from 9” to 21” and the drawers have a dynamic load capacity of 90 lbs. They also have a liquid damper for soft closing, a support roller for uniform drawer height, wear resistant nylon rollers for quiet operation and precision, and synchronized full extension.
At the top of the housing market, kitchens are trending larger, and more commercial in nature. They are also moving outdoors. Last year, Accuride (accuride.com) rolled out the new heavy-duty ST8200, which is designed to give restaurant and high-end kitchen designers the option of a premium slide for warming and refrigerated drawers. It uses a full-extension, roller-bearing design and it lets cabinet shops screw-mount the slide’s outer member directly onto a cabinet surface. When the job requires stainless panels, this is a convenient alternative to welding, although users can still opt to weld if they choose. The slide comes in two variants, the ST8200 for side-mount and the ST8201 for bottom-mount drawers. Both are available in even lengths from 16” to 30”. They have a maximum load rating of 275 lbs. and feature gravity-activated self-close action. Additionally, the ST8200 series includes an auto lock-in feature to ensure a drawer is closed.
The impressively customizable Avantech You drawer system from Hettich America (hettich.com) plays into another trend – slimline and sleek. Borrowed from commercial casework, the concept of a complete drawer system with integrated slides is becoming more and more popular in residential use.
The new 8850FM from Knape & Vogt (knapeandvogt.com) is a 200-lb. rated drawer slide with a best-in-class soft-close module. It features the patented Force Management Technology that delivers the lowest opening pull force with effective dampening to eliminate drawer slamming. The full-extension drawer slide has both traditional and 32mm hole patterns and an unhanded design with lever disconnect for easy drawer removal. It’s recommended for drawers up to 42” wide.
Shelves are trending. In fact, they’re downright hot and, in many cases, they’re replacing wall cabinets. Some are floating on hidden hangers, while others are installed with fixed brackets. Woodcraft Supply (woodcraft.com) has added a third option: folding. The company has just introduced a couple of new WoodRiver proprietary brand folding shelf brackets that securely lock themselves in position when raised. They can be attached to a wall or any vertical surface where a temporary shelf is needed, such as the end wall of a block of cabinets. Both the 12” (item 128944) and 8” (item 128943) versions are rated for 130 lbs. per pair.
Being cooped up at home for a couple of years, and cooking at home, has taught consumers that they need to properly vent kitchen odors and expel airborne pollutants. Range hood fans are getting more powerful. For example, Cabinet Parts has introduced a family of Omega National Products range hood ventilators that offer 300, 450 and a whopping 650 cubic feet per minute of extraction. The largest of these new stainless-steel units can be connected to an 8” round, 6” round or 3/4” x 10” rectangular duct.
Sugatsune America (sugatsune.com) has introduced a soft close/open sliding door system that looks like it would be ideal for areas such as enclosing under stairwells or hiding entertainment electronics. It features a two-way damper that avoids slamming a door open or closed. The kit (item MFU1200-40-L) offers easy installation, and it’s designed to close flush against surrounding walls, providing a clean appearance. The unique movement first recesses the door inward, and then slides it sideways. There are no floor tracks required, and no handle is needed on the door front for opening. The system is designed for use with 1-3/16″ to 1-9/16″ (30-40 mm) thick doors, and it requires some space behind the adjacent wall for the door to slide into.
Two innovative Docking Drawer device-charging solutions from Häfele America (hafele.com) illustrate an evolving trend in cabinet hardware that continually finds ways to better serve our modern lifestyle. The all-new Edge Mount Charging Unit is a small yet mighty piece of hardware that includes both USB-C and USB-A charging ports, and it can power-up devices very, very quickly. It attached discreetly to the front bottom edge of a countertop of desk. The other device is called the Blade or Blade Duo (depending on the version) and it can be used in many ways. In the kitchen, for example, it sits in the back of a small drawer and reduces clutter to deliver a sleek, clean appearance. In the workshop, it powers tools on the workbench while charging cordless tool batteries. A built-in smart chip instantly recognizes the charging needs of individual devices, and then responds with the appropriate level of power.
Doug Mockett & Co. (mockett.com) has introduced a clever through-the-desktop charger for smartphones. The black device called the WCS10-90 just attaches to the bottom face of a counter or desktop (from 19/32” up to 1-3/16” thick), and it doesn’t require the woodshop to cut a grommet hole in the finished surface. Just plug the transmitter into a power source, and the customer can then place a phone directly on the desk to charge. There’s an indicator light and a beeping sound to confirm a successful pairing. An included decal is designed to affix to the surface directly above the transmitter underneath, to give users a target zone.
Hera Lighting (eclectic-ware.com) manufacturers a vast array of high-quality LED under-cabinet and display lighting for kitchens, baths and commercial spaces.
Adding technological updates to existing spaces or new cabinetry got a lot less complicated when Tresco Lighting, a Rev-A-Shelf division, added Swidget (trescolighting.com/swidget). This is a series of smart Wi-Fi enabled switches or outlets that accept inserts to control lights, program schedules, create scenes, set automations and more. They use the Swidget App, or they can be paired with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home to enable voice commands. Tresco describes them as a future-proof versatile solution for a connected smart home.
Whether the woodshop needs to key into decorative or functional hardware, or perhaps even functionally decorative elements, visiting the websites above should yield plenty of choices. Other reputable sources include A&H Turf & Specialties Inc., Atlas Homewares, Barker Metalcraft, Lee Valley & Veritas, Notting Hill Decorative Hardware, Pride Industrial, Rockler, the Sawtooth Shelf System, Stronghold Brackets, and Wood Technology Inc.
This article was originally published in the August 2022 issue.