Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Decorative Hardware - From Function to Style.

For many designers and homeowners decorative hardware is the “eye candy” of the kitchen.  Before we talk about decorative hardware let’s review a “loose” history of hardware in general.

Hardware, mainly in houses and barns for agricultural purposes, were hand forged for centuries.  Hand forging dates back to the 12th century.  It was all about function and durability.  Style and finish were not a consideration.  Hardware started being mass produced during the industrial revolution in the 1870’s.  With the improvements in mass manufacturing of that era, style and finish came into play as it related to door hardware.  Decorative and functional hardware for the kitchen became more common in the 1930’s, as noted on Amerock’s website.  Most likely there were other innovators back in the day but Amerock is the only modern survivor we know of.  At the same time kitchen cabinets went from being free standing to built in fixtures in the home.  Decorative hardware didn’t enter the modern era until the mid 1970’s when wholesale distribution to the kitchen and cabinet industry expanded.

Candler Collection

CabinetWare is one of those wholesale distributors, beginning in 1980.  For many years the decorative hardware choices we could offer our customers was pretty narrow.  If you’re an “experienced” kitchen & bath industry professional you will recall that white plastic along with venerable polished brass knobs and pulls were the mainstay for at least a decade.  Today there are literally 10,000+ decorative hardware options to choose from.  This is the result of the explosion of designs and finishes since the mid 1990’s.  The internet also helped fuel this change.  CabinetWare was one of the earliest to sell decorative hardware on the internet beginning in 1997.  We feel that we have some experience when it comes to decorative hardware.

The option of styles and finishes for “eye candy” can overwhelm some people.  They tend to pick a common mushroom knob in a finish they like, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Simplicity and function over style.  At the other end of the spectrum the plethora of choices send other people on a quest to find that special piece.  Style and finish take precedent versus function, and there is nothing wrong with that either.  Good designers and savvy homeowners find a good blend of function, style and finish in their decorative hardware selection.

Anything goes.  That pretty well sums up the new normal.  The major decorative hardware companies have from 50 to 100 finishes.  Just as polished brass dominated the market in the past we have seen brushed nickel, stainless steel, weathered nickel and oil rubbed bronze as the current popular flavors.  Anything goes and what was once old is now new again.  Polished chrome is slowly making a come back along with smooth and sleek contemporary styles.  Other recent trends are coordinated hardware for the home.  Now you have the option of matching bath hardware to the decorative hardware on your cabinets.  Oversized knobs for bi-fold doors in bathrooms and large kitchen doors are also available.  Other options include larger pulls to go on today’s larger cabinet doors and drawers.  Massive sized appliance pulls in matching styles and finishes are also available for the refrigerator.

As you can see, there are many options when it comes to “eye candy”.  From traditional styles and finishes, to contemporary and eclectic hardware, there is something for everyone’s taste.  Function, style and finish.  Most importantly, choose something that YOU like!

Abernathy Collection


  1. This post was definitely relevant nowadays.. Your overview from the beginning of the hardware up to the latest changes was greatly stated.. You had shown the advantage of kitchen cabinet installation than the other choice..Well done..

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. There is definitely a lot of "eyecandy" in this post! It's amazing how much decorative hardware can make a difference in a room. I am really surprised to see how much you can do. Thanks for the great post!