Though decorative and functional hardware may not top consumers’ lists of design considerations when remodeling kitchens and baths, it is a crucial element in the end product. That’s because hardware provides both critical functionality and a touch of style that can dramatically enhance the look and feel of the space.
In fact, according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News, hardware is often the one design element that pulls the entire look together.
“Generally, hardware decisions are secondary to the cabinets, surfaces and other elements in a design,” says Kathy Dustman, owner of Notting Hill Decorative Hardware, in Lake Geneva, WI. “However, when a great deal of effort is put into designing the kitchen…finally choosing the right hardware is critical to pulling the look together.”
Mihai Subran, product manager for Decorative Hardware, Richelieu Hardware in Montreal, Canada, agrees. He believes that the right hardware has the power to change not only the look of the kitchen, but the value perception of the space as well, with quality hardware enhancing the sense of elegance that consumers desire.
Although hardware trends have evolved from elaborate “jewelry” effects to quieter accent pieces, this doesn’t change the importance of its impact, according to Daniel Tripp, product marketing manager for Hafele America Co. in Archdale, NC. He states, “Today, hardware complements the look and design that is going on, as opposed to being the star of the show.” But while he notes that the trend is toward understated hardware, Tripp adds that this accent role still has a significant impact on the room’s design by tying the look together.
Doug Mockett, CEO of Manhattan Beach, CA-based Doug Mockett & Company, Inc. agrees. “The main role of hardware is to accent the overall design. Subtlety is key – encroaching on the design is not the idea. While the role of the hardware is simply to enhance, not to take the spotlight, it is extremely important not to overlook the hardware. A key piece of hardware can turn an otherwise ordinary piece into a stunning one.”
Hardware is also an easy element to change out, creating a fresh look without much fuss. “Designers and homeowners can showcase a variety of styles through their choice of form and finish,” says Katie Hindman, brand manager for Amerock in Atlanta, GA “Budget-conscious consumers will often opt to change out their hardware for a fresh new look.”
David Tyler, v.p./marketing at Top Knobs in Hillsborough, NJ, agrees. “Hardware is such an economical and easy way to update that it should be an after-sale promotional idea for designers looking to draw new business from existing customers.”
Design preferences vary widely, and while the hottest trends generally lean toward simple, clean lines, there’s still some demand for decorative details, manufacturers say. “Complex designs make for an interesting landscape, but the idea is to keep it clean,” says Mockett. “If even the most complicated designs can still somehow maintain a simple elegance, then it is a very effective tool in enhancing the overall aesthetic. A clean, sophisticated look will always rank more favorably as a timeless classic. Even with the demand for extravagant designs on the rise, it’s important to maintain some level of simplicity.”
Subran says, “Transitional designs are the big thing now, a switch from classical intricate details, because end users are more conscious about their budget and shop for long life products.” He says that Richelieu predicts that “the Art Deco influence of the ’20s and ’30s will be more present in the next two years, accompanied by silver colors.”
Hindman sees forms becoming more simple and clean. At the same time, she says, “Subtle textures and patterns are being used to create interest and balance.”
Chad Wheeler, division manager kitchen and bath for Hettich America L.P., in Buford, GA, adds, “We’re seeing more integrated handles being used that don’t take away from the look of the cabinets.”