Decorative hardware can make a strong statement, or be quietly understated while complementing the overall look of a space. And today's vast array of hardware choices creates a
nearly limitless number of design possibilities. As a result, consumers are actively seeking knobs and pulls that reflect their personal taste, according to manufacturers recently interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
In response to consumers' growing appetite for choice, manufacturers are offering decorative knobs and pulls in myriad shapes and sizes, and in many different materials. The demand for personalization has also given way to a surge of new materials, including glass and stone, creating a strong demand for hand-crafted knobs and pulls, say manufacturers.
They’re also seeing a move toward substituting matching cabinetry pulls for standard-issue refrigerator pulls. Simultaneously, stainless steel appliances continue to drive interest in metal finish hardware.
On the functional side, hardware choices are accommodating the growing need for task-specific storage as consumers demand multiple work centers.
These “nuts and bolts” that hold a beautiful design together are truly the hardest working parts in the space – and they just keep getting better.
As a result, slides are closing more slowly, extending farther and carrying more weight as drawers are becoming the choice among consumers for dish, pot and pan storage. Hinges continue to work hard, but stay behind the scenes, while other interior fittings are becoming more prominent and stylish in response to demand for the inside of the cabinets to be as pretty as the outside.
In terms of decorative hardware, personalization remains a key factor in determining the style, finish and size that’s chosen, maintain manufacturers.
“I see the number of well-informed clients with specific design goals growing every day,” states Dan Kennard, president/director of design, Fusion Hardware Group, Inc., in Norcross, GA. “They’re shopping for high-quality products with designs that make visual sense.”
And, most often, consumers are seeking simple, stylish, well-designed pieces. “We continually hear from kitchen and bath designers the term ‘simple, yet elegant’ when describing cabinet hardware. Yet, that term covers so much, and has different meanings,” shares Bob Schaub, owner/president of Schaub & Co., in Grand Rapids, MI.
As a result, Schaub says many of his firm’s new products have “significant details within the piece, allowing for two-tone finishes – namely relieved surfaces on raised scrolls, or relieved surfaces on inlaid scrolls.” “Very high-end designers are seeking the unusual with the deeply sculptured look,” note Harvey and Corinne Weinberg, co-owners of North River Mint, in New York, NY.
“The trend is ‘versatility’ products that create conversation. These products make a statement, but still permit the kitchen or bath cabinetry to remain center stage,” offers Donna Flack, category manager of decorative cabinet hardware and wall plates, Liberty Hardware Mfg. Corp., in Winston-Salem, NC.
“We also see sleek, contemporary hardware, parts with smooth lines that blend in and make the furniture stand out and look good. Consumers – and furniture makers – are more aware of having integrated furniture in which the components all coordinate and look good; no one component stands out,” asserts Doug Mockett, owner of Doug Mockett & Co. in Manhattan Beach, CA.
Mockett further reports seeing “more and more people doing, or re-doing, their homes with modern appliances and, therefore with modern cabinetry and accessories for the cabinetry, such as drawer pulls and towel racks/holders.”
Michael O’Mara, product manager/decorative hardware for Amerock, a div. of Newell Rubbermaid, in Columbia, MD concurs: “Wood-clad refrigerators and dishwashers have led to the growing presence of appliance pull hardware, [and] as the cabinet sales grow fastest in dark to medium-dark stains, this will continue to impact consumers’ hardware finish choices. And as the popularity of larger, taller cabinets increases, you’ll see more matching, proportionally scaled hardware choices for them.”
“Recently introduced appliance options like dishdrawer dishwashers, microwave drawers and compartment refrigerators have required a new level of scale and function for hardware,” observes Kennard. “Appliance grabs used to mean ‘refrigerator’ and ‘10".’ Now, they’re all over the map in terms of size, design and shape.”
“More of our large refrigerator pulls in wood and metal are now being used on big drawers, pantry doors, etc.,” adds Todd Smith, president of Smith Woodworks & Design, Inc., in Califon, NJ.
STYLE IN TRANSIT
Stylistically speaking, “we’re noticing more Old World, rustic designs in the market because of America’s natural inclination for traditional design,” notes O’Mara. “And contemporary is definitely softening up from a design perspective.”
The demand for both looks, he says, is leading to an increase in transitional hardware styles. Indeed, transitional styles are particularly hot now, manufacturers agree, since this allows consumers to mix various elements of traditional and contemporary designs.
To that end, Flack comments: “People have become more aware of the need for compromise when combining lifestyles in one household. These compromises in taste include incorporating transitional styles into the mix, allowing all interested parties to maintain some sense of identity and individuality.”
In terms of finishes, “Satin chrome is the hot finish right at the moment and well it should be,” proclaims Mockett. “It goes well with almost everything.”
“Satin nickel continues to lead with ‘antiques’ in warm bronzes following,” counters Flack.
“The hottest new items for us are a wood knob and back plate in the 1950s Modern or Space-Age style, and a brass Shaker design knob with a diamond-shaped back plate,” describes Smith.
“The bulk of the material used… continues to be based in metal,” adds O’Mara, who’s witnessing more bronze-based materials even though satin nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and stainless steel continue to thrive.
“We’ve also seen an upsurge in bronze colors. Designers we’ve spoken to have commented on their usage more and more on wood cabinets to bring warmth into the space,” the Weinbergs say.
Indeed, bronze tones remain strong, notes Schaub, adding that his firm now has 14 variations of bronze. However, while metal finishes remain popular, color is making a comeback, this time “as a base in such luxury materials as glass, acrylic and resin,” declares Flack.
“There’s more color being used in the kitchen as an accent. Therefore, there’s more color happening in hardware,” notes Martin Megna, owner, Megna Hot Glass Studio, Sag Harbor, NY. He cites sea foam green as a popular complement to concrete countertops, for example.
Pulls are also getting longer, while textured knobs that are much bigger in a variety of unusual shapes are getting more play, says Flack.
ON THE JOB
Consumers are also demanding more task-specific storage space that holds and conceals an ever-increasing amount of gadgets, technology and necessities. As a result, there’s a growing demand for functional hardware that allows for a better use of space, facilitates easier access and is more load-bearing while still being transparent.
“In kitchens, it’s important to use all of the space and get to it easily. Consumers also want less noise, so soft-close and close-dampening systems are becoming more evident,” states Philip Martin, director of marketing for Häfele America Co., in Archdale, NC.
“Organization is uppermost in today’s kitchens as people increasingly take the time and trouble to incorporate usage and storage into their plans. Consumers are also growing more aware of ergonomics and accessibility issues, which is making them demand design that includes these features,” says Wolfgang Branner, v.p./marketing for Blum Inc., in Stanley, NC.
“In a world growing ever more hectic, everyone appreciates things that work smoothly and quietly,” Branner adds, pointing to Blum’s TANDEM plus BLUMOTION and BLUMOTION for doors as examples.
Adjustability is also a huge trend in functional hardware. “The idea of adjustability seen on the three-way hinge – back to front, side to side and horizontal and vertical adjustment capability – is moving to slides,” indicates Calvin Luce, director/distribution sales, Accuride International, Inc., in Santa Fe Springs, CA. As an example, he cites Accuride’s new Eclipse slide which not only allows the drawer front to be adjusted vertically, but also horizontally.
Functional hardware that allows easy access to everything from pantry items to wires is at a premium, too. “As more technology, components and gadgets become a standard part of our lives and homes, we’ll need easier access to their wiring for maintenance and upgrading purposes,” elaborates Luce, who cites Accuride’s M.A.C. (Media Access Center) 50 and M.A.C. 100 as examples of products that address this need. They allow users to turn a shelving unit housing media components like TVs, computers, DVD players, etc. a full 90° to access their wires.
Branner adds that access is key for pantries, as well. In fact, he notes that lift systems are gaining ground as more sophisticated storage systems continue to go mainstream.
Functional hardware is also getting more ergonomic, say manufacturers. “People want kitchens that function as great as they look. A savvy, aging population and food-conscious younger consumers are demanding ergonomic kitchen design,” believes Branner, noting a resulting trend toward full-extension drawers in lieu of base cabinets with doors and shelves because “drawers bring their contents to you, while shelves tend to make you work for them.” The same full-extension or deep drawers that serve consumers well in the kitchen will also be useful elsewhere in the home, he adds.
“As Baby Boomers age, and with the disposable income they have to spend, products will need to fit their use and space,” remarks Martin. “For instance, height-adjustable tables are not just for the big corporations, but can be easily – and economically – done for consumers in home-office applications. Universal Design is promoting this concept, and designers see this as a way to bring additional value to their clients.”
Looking ahead, manufacturers are seeing several trends on the horizon for both decorative and functional hardware. For instance, Flack sees a continued trend toward decorative hardware designs “that are unique and fit a variety of style trends, allowing the consumer to maintain the fascination with rapid home remodeling.”
She also sees modern and contemporary design styles gaining momentum as European and Asian-inspired styles become the choice for Generation Y. “These ‘Gen Y’ers’ see their homes as being an equal part of their fashion statement. Advanced technology is influencing their choices, as well as other aspects of their lives.”
Kennard sees the trend toward aging in place impacting decorative hardware. “In the area of function, we see greater concerns about ergonomics and ease of use.
Specifically, with an aging population and more assisted living and transitional living development underway, we see consistent requests for products that are easy to grasp, operate and maintain,” he says, noting that it’s the primary reason Fusion offers a broad range of ADA-compliant door hardware for residential use.
As task-specific storage options that can conceal the ever-growing amount of “stuff” that goes into kitchens – and baths – functional hardware will continue to evolve to accommodate, and look good doing so, believe manufacturers.
“The market is definitely going more upscale, as people are more willing to spend money on functionality and style that isn’t necessarily seen,” believes Luce.
Martin also sees continued demand for “easy access to the space, from lift-up doors to full-extension interiors that pull out. Soft-close and close-dampening will be standard on anything that moves – and it will [eventually] be just as standard as the clip concealed hinge is today.”
“Plus, there will be more products designed for the North American market,”concludes Luce.Decorative Hardware Makes Statement While Functional Offers More Access, Dealers Say
Decorative hardware is becoming increasingly personal as consumers are on a quest for just the right hardware that complements their kitchens and baths.
“Years ago, no one paid attention to the other bright metals in the room. People just picked the hardware on the cabinetry they chose. Today, there’s a strong move toward satin nickel driven by the greater presence of stainless in kitchens today,” notes Michael Graziano, CKD, CBD, CR and owner, Aladdin Remodelers, Inc., Massapequa Park, NY.
“We’re seeing a variation in styles now. I probably still do more knobs than anything else. We’re also doing more contemporary designs with clean lines, so we’re doing a lot of long bar pulls,” reports Linda H. McLain, CKD, Signature Kitchens & Baths of Charleston, Inc., Charleston, SC.
As for finishes, she’s specifyng a lot of oil-rubbed bronze and satin nickel, as well as some antique pewter. “We also do a lot of furniture-look pieces that lend themselves to matching wood knobs.”
In fact, McLain says, “since there are so many furniture pieces, we’re seeing more individual hardware being designed for those pieces.”
“We’re also doing a lot of oil-rubbed bronze or wrought iron, and for more unusual applications [maybe] twisted iron,” Carla Nitz-Gamper, CKD, CBD, CR and president, Elementé Design & Remodeling, Atlanta, GA.
“We’re seeing more nickel hardware, French steel and antique brass. And fiche hinges in steel and antique brass are growing in our market,” notes Beverly Ellsley, Beverly Ellsley Design, Westport, CT.
Functionally speaking, the big push is toward roll-outs. “Everybody wants everything that rolls out, from drawers to shelves and spice racks that are now often replacing the 3" wall fillers. We’re also installing metal dividers in drawers, and for pots, pans and cookie sheets,” indicates Graziano.
Going forward, McLain feels refrigerator pulls are the next “big thing” for hardware, and is installing more of them. Graziano agrees: “We are finding more and more people using matching hardware on Sub-Zero refrigerators because they realized you don’t need a big, heavy pull. The doors open easily enough to use a matching piece of cabinet hardware.”
Looking into his crystal ball, he believes the selection and the offerings are going to have to be made larger in order to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for more hardware choices.
Nitz-Gamper also anticipates more choices. “We’ll see more new materials, such as glass and stone,” she concludes.
Decorative & Functional Hardware Trends at a Glance
- Decorative hardware today is the jewelry of design, and for every style and taste, there seems to be a decorative hardware choice available.
- Traditional and contemporary decorative hardware styles run neck and neck in popularity, but the big winner now is transitional designs.
- Appliance, cabinet and faucet design have emerged as hardware design influences, with pulls getting longer, and more cabinet pulls replacing standard refrigerator pulls.
- Metal finishes such as stainless steel, brushed and satin nickel, and oil-rubbed bronze dominate both traditional and contemporary designs.
- Color also makes a comeback on such materials as glass, acrylic and resin.
- Functional hardware choices are accommodating the growing need for storage, acting as the nuts and bolts that hold a stylish design together. For instance, functional hardware allows full access to drawers with full-extension slides.
- Manufacturers are also responding to the demand for better functionality by offering soft-closing hardware and producing drawer slides that will carry extra weight as drawers become wider and larger.