How to Handle Design Decisions

Expert advice about selecting kitchen cabinet hardware and fixtures.

Written by:Cambria USA
weybourne black and white kitchen

This splendid kitchen features both the Cotswold Cup Pull and the Cotswold Ball Knob in burnished brass on the beautiful island cabinetry. Photography courtesy Armac Martin

Fixtures and hardware provide the finishing touches to your freshly installed sink and cabinetry. But when it comes to making those choices for our own homes, how do you know which finishes are popular, and how they will look down the road? And does anyone actually know what “knurling” is? We sought expertise from Alex Yacavone, Design Studio Manager with industry leader Kohler, and Bo McGrail, whose great-grandfather founded cabinet hardware mainstay Armac Martin nearly a century ago.

Choosing a timeless look is often the way to help a space feel fresh for years to come. Bo McGrail points out that Armac Martin’s Cotswold design remains a bestseller because its traditional lines are an ideal accompaniment for the perennially popular Shaker-style kitchen with its symmetrical cabinets and framed doors. This splendid kitchen features both the Cotswold Cup Pull and the Cotswold Ball Knob in burnished brass on the beautiful island cabinetry.

Feel the Difference

Achieve Balance

Coordinating fixtures and hardware is key; their materials and design should relate to one another and the space thoughtfully. “It is always good to consider: who is going to be the star?” notes Yacavone, who recommends balancing a bolder fixture with more pared-back hardware or vice versa. Meanwhile, McGrail recommends focusing on literal balance—how a pull or handle feels in the hand when opening a door or drawer.

Touching Sentiment

McGrail calls texture a “massive” element in fixture and hardware design. Five years ago, he says, diamond patterns were all the rage. But linear ridging is what’s coming into fashion now. This is also where the term knurling comes into play—it’s the process by which lines and patterns are carved into the surface of a piece, whether for design or to offer helpful traction for slippery fingers.

Before It’s an Afterthought

What is one of the key mistakes people make when choosing hardware? McGrail says it can often be trying to save a penny at the end of the process. “They’re using top-quality materials on the cupboards. They’re using all the top appliances,” he notes. “So to scrimp and have lesser quality on the handles—the parts you’re going to touch—it’s such a shame.”

Kohler Artifacts Pull Down Kitchen faucet

“It can be intimidating picking out something that feels permanent,” says Alex Yacavone. “So it’s important to focus on what feels classic for you.” That could be something that offers a twist like Kohler Occasion sink handles, which boldly pair black and brass. Or you could choose the Kohler Artifacts Pull Down Kitchen faucet (above), which wraps modern convenience in a classic brass package.

The Finish Line

The impact of a fixture or piece of hardware is largely shaped by its finish. Fortunately, these pieces offer a range of metallics in levels of shine from dull to burnished—and even non-metallics for those who think outside the metallic box.

kohler black faucet
kohler occassion sink handles

Trend Game | Particularly in the bathroom, Yacavone is seeing color use that feels playful yet thoughtful. This pairs beautifully with the brass and natural metals that McGrail sees as on trend among hardware offerings—adding that burnished nickel still remains a popular choice in the United States.

Living Situation | When it comes to finishes, it’s more likely you’re getting one with lacquer—the clear coating that protects metal helps to ensure its look does not change. For contrast, some consider unlacquered or “living” finishes meant to evolve with the passage of time.

In the Mix | Matching can be smashing, but feel free to thoughtfully mix. “Mixing metals can be a great technique to make a space feel fresh,” says Yacavone. Armac Martin has a popular line called MIX with backplates and handles that contrast. McGrail often sees customers use it in kitchens to give islands their own sense of identity.

Rare Apparent | While in the right design scheme, black or white can fit the bill for hardware and fixtures, they are far less common. “As a standard, we see many more brass or antique finishes,” confirms McGrail.

Get the Look

Explore the design featured in this story.