Monday, March 7, 2011

Door Knobs and Hinges

For reasons I can't not comprehend, there is rarely a mention of door hardware in design. Not on any of the design shows I've seen (except for This Old House) in fact, I am always surprised, perplexed and so disappointed at the end of a show when I see the builder grade hardware still present for the big reveal! Another reason I rarely watch these shows. Rarely, is it mentioned in design books. And, other than advertisements for hardware companies, it's not really a topic in any shelter magazines. And finally, when I did a Google search...nothing on the blogs! Now I do realize this may not be a full blown obsession for most, but nothing??? 
Polished nickel door knob. Gorgeous and one of my favorite finishes.

I always love a square hinge, but also have radius in my house.

Well then, let me be the first to say hardware is an important element in the design of a space. For those of you who may be she serious? Who cares about something so small when trying to furnish an entire room... a house? Anyone who's renovated an old house and wanted to be historically correct or at least period accurate, is likely nodding with understanding.

A recent find when out shopping with a friend.
 In my opinion, paying attention to this type of detail is what elevates a space from something attractive to something really, really special. Many have homes that were outfitted in builders grade hardware, meaning soft metal (some even feels like tin and dents easily) fake brass round knobs and 3.5 radius hinges. Especially suburban homes built in the last 30 years. These make me cringe. I must admit, they are one of the first things I notice when I visit someones house for the first time.

These are from Lowes and are in our basement. When the contractor showed up with all the fake brass junk, I looked
at him and said "don't even think about putting any of those in my house." I went out and bought all the hardware
and even new cleats in brushed nickel for the staircase railings. My contractor confessed to me that he went
out later that day and bought all the same door knobs and hinges for his own basement media room! 

Two years ago, my husband and I went to look at some million+ homes. Not because we are in the market for a mansion, or ever will be, but simply for fun and to take a scenic drive. These particular homes were on a hilltop and the property had spectacular panoramic views. The house was nice. It was not remotely special. All the light fixtures and door hardware were so mediocre and even dismal. I have seen equal or better choices at Lowes and Home Depot. The floor vents, another serious pet peeve of mine, were the typical hideous muddy brown. The choice almost all builders provide.

French styled lever on a client's pantry door. Tres chic!
 Upon leaving, the sales person asked me what I thought?  I said the views are the only thing that make these homes unique. He was a 30 something guy and instead of trying to "sell"  me on everything the house had to offer or being annoyed with my candor, he said what would you change? And, I told him starting with the sun room we were standing in. The white tile was bad enough, but as you may have guessed,  the perimeter of the room was littered with the mud colored vents. Against that vast sea of white, I wanted to say for a million dollars...WTF? Turns out he was related to the builder and offered me a job on the spot to re-source all the hardware, etc...Sorry, we were just out for a drive trying to decompress during our own renovation along with other factors that made the timing all wrong. I never got around to going back to see if they changed things and/or sold the home. I certainly hope so.

Acorn tipped brass square hinge at the A&A house that
 I promised to do a follow-up post from here!
 No matter what size the budget or the space I am hired to work on, I always bring up hardware. The fact is, most people do not think about their door hardware. I have been witness to many surprised looks when I approach the subject. Some people, no matter my enthusiasm and push to change it, simply do not care nor are they willing to allocate a portion of the budget to it. Which can be anywhere from several hundred for one room to thousands for a whole house. While I understand it, I would prefer in certain situations to postpone a purchase of something large to incorporate new hardware. My only exception is bathrooms. I insist on new hardware as part of the overall design plan.  That may even extend to something fabulous for the glass shower door.

This stunning double handle is one I had flagged for my own master bath renovation, yet to be
done, but I knew it would be perfect for this client. This master bath renovation I did in 2008
and is one of my favorite projects to date.
 I always say: change the hardware, change the space. And, it truly does.  Occasionally, I get the opportunity to work with someone who is willing and even excited to change their hardware.  Recently, I had a friend hire me to help her choose new door hardware. Months earlier she had purchased all new door knobs, but decided they didn't seem right and she returned everything. She also said the hinge sizes and types were all too confusing. For me this is definitely enjoyable and for others, seems like an agonizing process.

I helped a client select these gorgeous knobs and they are now throughout her house.
 The doors have matching bronze hinges, but photographing hardware with a basic
 digital camera is a bit difficult and all the other images came out too blurry.
 In my own home, because of my obsession, I experiment a lot more than I should or would ever recommend to a client. I do think you should choose a finish and stick with it, at least by floor. I fully admit to not doing this. But, where there has been a change, the doors are not in view of others with a different finish. So in the case of hardware, do as I say, not as I do!

Polished nickel 4" square hinge in my power room.

My favorite egg knobs. Simple and they look good in both modern and traditional spaces.

Also as much as I like beautiful hardware, I certainly don't think that means one must give up a sense of humor about design, which is probably why I knew I had to have this sign for my power room. It lets people know when the room is occupied in French and when it is vacant! It came in other languages, but this made sense for us. I imagine the rich and famous probably have something similar for the doors to the loo of their poshly appointed private jets!

No more asking if someone's in the loo.
If you can afford to replace your doors, do it. But, don't think just because your doors are hollow core builder's basic they are not worthy of beautiful hardware. Quite the opposite, these doors need attention the most. And, it is far cheaper to replace the door hardware than the doors. And, don't be afraid to change the hinges to something larger or square. I hired a skilled carpenter to chisel many of the frames in my own home to accept the new hinges (and Mr. A&A did a few) and I just can't say enough about what a difference it makes!

Go ahead's available for you to check out the hardware now!
 All images except the first two (which are from a vender source) were provided by A&A and may not be copied without permission.


  1. Beautiful post Rebecca!! I so agree with you. I looked long and hard for hardware for my kitchen when we did a re-do of painting the cupboards. I will say it was a bear to find hinges that would work, but with lots and lots of looking I found what I wanted. I think hardware is the jewelry in a room!!! Love the occupied sign for the bathroom, I need one for my guest bath, Love that!! Ks

  2. Great post! I have been thinking a lot about door knobs and hinges lately because all the other hardware like my faucets have been changed to brushed nickel. But I have those shiny brass builder-door knobs all over my house still! I know it will be a big expense to change all the brass but whenever I go into a house that house brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze, I hate mine even more! Do the other finishes hold up as well as the "brass"? We have been in our house for 12 years and I must say, the ugly brass handles actually look brand new on all the doors except the one to the garage. In your opinion, which look will end up being more "timeless" - the oil rubbed bronze or the brushed nickel? I would hate to have to change them out again in 5 years!

  3. I really enjoy your posts, so thought provoking. It's true knobs and hinges really can make or break a space and your acorn hinges are just lovely. What made me fall in love with my current home is the hardware. It's an 80 year old home with all the original doors with their brass and crystal knobs...I just love it! Hope you had a great weekend Rebecca! xx Danielle

  4. Love it. Hardware is the jewelry of the home. I did a post recently about a custom sliding door pull that I had a metal artist make for a client. Personal and fun!

  5. I totally agree with you about the importance of hardware. I don't understand why people will spend so much money on big items and skimp on the hardware. the last thing I did in my house before I had my last baby was have all the hollowcore doors replaced with solid wood two over two panel doors and the old handles replaces with brass Emtek old town cystal handles. It was the best money I ever spent...everyday when I see them they make me happy! xo Caroline

  6. I SO agree with you on the hardware issue. So often overlooked, it really can change a space. When be bought our current home, 4 years ago, it would drive me crazy that there were so many different styles of doorknobs throughout the house. Different metals. Some glass. Nothing matched. So, when we were putting in windows (and selecting that hardware) we knew it was our chance. Now, all my knobs and hinges match.....and though I don't often think of it, it has made a huge difference.

    Great post!
    xo Elizabeth

    ps: Now, there WILL be something online when someone goes to Google door knobs! :)

  7. I've spent the last few years making a point of replacing doors(I despise the hollow core doors that were originally installed in my house)with solid wood ones.Once a door is replaced, I thumb through my ever present Van Dyke's Restorers and order hardware. However, my favorite is a black and cream bone doorknob from Anthropologie.

  8. Hi Rebecca...this is I think the best post I have read since I started blogging. Well done! I cannot agree with you more. I am in the process right now of replacing door knobs and hinges in my 1960's house. As I paint a door I replace the hardware. It's taking me a while but I'm trying to be patient. I can't wait to look around your blog. I'm a new follower. I don't remember where I found you...maybe a linky party? Anyway, thanks again. ~Ann

  9. great post.
    i love all hardware.
    it can make something that is really 'nothing',
    into really 'SOMETHING'!!


  10. Great post!! I totally agree with you!! When we renovated our last house, I made sure we budgeted enough for wonderful knobs and ball top hinges. I did most of the house in beautiful unlacquered brass and it most definitely made a huge difference!!

  11. Great post! I must admit, I never notice the hardware in a house. In my current house, it was all late 80s builders laquered brass, and most of it is still there! I didn't know the rules about whether to do the same finish around the house, or whether I could mix finishes. So, I updated here and there when we did light renovations through the years. I have oil rubbed bronze at the front door, satin nickel in my master bathroom and kitchen - its a bit of a mixed bag!

    In the new house, we spent quite a bit of time and attention on the hardware, as both my architect and designer see it as very important to the look and feel of a house. Both wanted Frank Allart, which is from England, and is quite exquisite. They have a finish called satin brass that ages beautifully, but looks incredible out of the box. Alas, it was double my already decent budget, and Baldwin Estate makes a lever that is almost identical. So, we went with Baldwin estate. I am planning my own post on the hardware for the house (once the doors are in), so I will reveal in there, and certainly link to this post

  12. I'm so with you...I am all about the details! Unlike carpets and sofa scale, the details of hardware are something I feel confident about getting right on my own, so I really enjoy this aspect of the design process! That acorn hinge gets me every time..and that loo hardware, LOVE unique details like that so much!

  13. Rebecca I adore your new look, still!! Love this post and the images of gorgeous hardware! You even featured the acorn tipped hinge!! yay.

    Do come and enter my Artful Offering!It is truly beautiful!

    Art by Karena

  14. Wow Rebecca I never really thought about it but you're right nobody ever addresses the hardware, I wonder why? There are so many great choices today and it is all about the details. Great post it made me think!

  15. Oh thank goodness! It's a relief to know I'm not alone in this pet peeve! :)

    This detail seems insignificant to so many, but once you change these details out from the boring drab standard hardware (I usually convince my clients this is necessary) it's quite shocking just how big of an impact it makes. It's all in the details. And this is a detail that should NOT be overlooked.

    This topic absolutely needs to have more articles/blogs on the subject, thanks so much to writing about it and for introducing us to some beautiful images.

  16. I loved reading this. I hate bad hardware too but it is the first thing to go when a budget gets out of control. Doing the "public" spaces in a house first makes sense but I like the idea of a luxurious private bath with a shower door handle like the one you've shown.

  17. What a great post! And there is beautiful hardware out there that is not much more than the builders stock - so, why not? It really is up to the homeowner, unfort., to require such details. For instance, no matter how much I tried to learn about the subject, I did not know about the hinges, and so now stuck with the curved radius standards! Anyway - already doing the egg handles, will you share sources?

  18. I work for The company that produces the first the hinge and the knob at the top. Thank you for putting it up. -Sa Baxter

  19. Hi! I some how found this post a while back ago and fell in love with what looks like an oil rubbed bronze door knob with the description "I helped a client select these gorgeous knobs and they are now throughout her house". I even pinned the photo on Pintrest, however I can not find anything quite like it anywhere. Can I ask where you purchased these from?

  20. The polished egg knob you posted (your favorite) is the doorknob of my dreams. Who makes it? Thank you!

  21. I am enjoying this blog. Its an informative topic. It help me very much to solve some problems.So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

    door hinges

  22. Where can I get the French powder room door sign? Thanks!

    Jeanine C

  23. HI! I love the powder room sign! Where can I get it!?!?!?!?!?!? :)


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