The expression "the little things mean a lot" holds true in many aspects of life. In the kitchen and bath, it's often the "little touches" - such as decorative and functional hardware - that help to finish a design.
As we emerge from a difficult economy, many consumers remain cautious with their purchases - yet after a long, hard few years, they also long to "spruce up" their living spaces. And those little touches are just the way to update the kitchen without breaking the bank.
"People today seem interested in doing modest kitchen updates," rather than full-scale remodeling, notes Daryl Nauman, key accounts manager for Hafele America Co. in Archdale, NC. "This may be limited to updating decorative hardware and installing a few highly functional accessories into existing cabinetry."
But, just because a total remodel isn't always in the works doesn't mean that decisions aren't well thought out. "Both the design community and the American consumer remain very interested in their kitchen hardware, as the kitchen is a very active room. Thus, a lot of time is spent getting it right," stresses Bob Schaub, owner of Schaub and Company in Grand Rapids, MI.
Jessica Wolma, director of marketing for Amerock in Huntersville, NC, concurs that, with the current state of the economy, many homeowners are looking to "reinvent" their rooms with small renovations that will create a more satisfying space. This often includes "unifying the design and décor within their homes," she stresses.
"Investing in small changes that make a big impact - such as tying together a home with coordinated hardware from the windows to the cabinets - is a perfect place to start," she continues. "These types of projects are expected to continue fueling the need for a wide variety of finishes and styles to more easily coordinate across multiple categories."
Nauman agrees that there is now a much greater interest in coordinated offerings when it comes to decorative hardware. "This encourages designers to use mixed materials, such as wood ornamentation with coordinated metal trim pieces that match cabinet handles and knobs," he notes.
Wolma believes it is becoming increasingly important for hardware manufacturers to supply a range of coordinating options, "because this is essential for fulfilling desire for coordinated design throughout the home as the popularity of the open floor plan grows."
While many are coordinating their looks throughout the home, most are doing it with transitional-style pieces.
Kevin Dewald, product and marketing manager, Belwith Products in Grandville, MI, notes that transitional styling - the integration of traditional style and contemporary into one design - is steady right now.
"‘Safe' designs - not bold and fussy - will continue to be the trend over the next two to three years, as we continue to move past the current economic climate," reports Warren Ramsland, president of Top Knobs in Hillsborough, NJ.
"Transitional designs work well in many environments, and offer a safe design that will not fall out of style as some pure contemporary designs will," Dewald offers. "Transitional, classic designs are more timeless, and these styles will withstand the test of time."
Greg Sheets, product marketing manager for Hafele America Co., agrees that decorative hardware designs and finishes are trending toward more transitional styles. "Lines are cleaner and more linear with less ornate detail. More bar type handles are being mounted on square or round rosettes, and matching knobs are often set the same way," he notes.
"Bar pulls, appliance pulls and oversized knobs between 1-1/2" and 1-3/4" in diameter are all gaining in popularity," adds Malon Rogers, senior product manager for Liberty Hardware in Winston-Salem, NC. "Larger hardware allows homeowners to make a bold and distinctive statement."
"Design trends continue to evolve, as does the size of cabinetry," adds Wolma. "As kitchen and bath cabinets continue to increase in size, so does the demand for larger knobs and pulls."