Cabinet Hardware: How to Choose Between Knobs, Pulls, or Nothing

Posted January 22, 2020 by Katlyn Droke

Cabinet hardware is a small piece of kitchen and bath renovations that can make a big impact. They have huge visual impact and are one of the first things homeowners notice once they get past the big items like cabinets, countertops, and floors. These pieces add that final bit of polish to a finished design — they make a space look complete. However, homeowners in the process of renovating have often spent so much time dreaming of those cabinets, countertops, and floors that they haven’t really thought deeply about what kind of hardware they want on their cabinets. Sometimes they’re just getting overwhelmed with so many options to choose from (although that can be a good problem to have). Either way, this post is here to help any homeowner who wants to focus on the finer details of their kitchen designs: the knobs and pulls. 

Pick the best kitchen hardware-- like knobs and pulls-- for your cabinets.
Learn how kitchen hardware like knobs and pulls can amp up the style of any room.

First, let’s get some myths out of the way. 

Myth: Kitchen knobs and pulls are only for kitchens. 

False. Cabinetry in other rooms like bathrooms, garages, or closets can look fabulous with so-called ‘kitchen’ hardware. 

Myth: You must have knobs or pulls. 

Not true. More and more often, designers are foregoing knobs and pulls. This can give the cabinetry a sleek, minimalist design. Plus, there are ways to avoid sacrificing functionality.

Myth: Cabinet hardware must match your kitchen style.

Go ahead and use contemporary, modern knobs in your traditional farmhouse kitchen! 

All-in-all, don’t let myths and old wives’ tales hold you back from creating a kitchen you will love. 

Find out which kitchen cabinet knobs best suite your kitchen design and color scheme.
Find out which cabinet knobs best suit your space.

All About Knobs

Knobs have been a mainstay in kitchens for decades, and they’re often treated like kitchen accessories that can be updated on a whim to match new styles. Lately, the most popular knobs are those that match other pieces of kitchen hardware (like sinks, faucets, and oven hoods) and offer a stark contrast to the cabinet colors. Knobs come in many different shapes and sizes. You can typically find them in square, rectangular, oval, and bar styles — some even have unique shapes like a french twist. Round knobs with antique finishes like weathered nickel and oil-rubbed bronze are a classic, go-to look for knobs that shine on any cabinet door. 

Traditional cabinet pulls in a modern kitchen.
Cabinet pulls are the more traditional kitchen hardware option.

All About Pulls

Kitchens of yesteryears (like pre-WWII) primarily had pulls because they were easier to craft and affix to cabinet doors than small, perfectly round knobs. As we progressed into the modern decades, pulls faded from top design styles in favor of knobs. But now, that shift seems to be changing again. Pulls are back in popularity and are being chosen more often over knobs. 

Overall, there isn’t much of a difference between knobs and pulls other than looks. Both will protect cabinet doors and offer the same functionality. To that point, you’ll find that most of the cabinet hardware trends relate to design and style choices.

Stainless steal kitchen cabinet pulls on dark shaker-style cabinets.
Remodeling your kitchen? Get inspired by our favorite cabinet hardware trends.

Favorite Knob & Pull Trends

#1: Knobs/Pulls to Match the Sink

This may seem like an obvious trend, but it’s one to call attention to as other hardware trends gain popularity. Homeowners are starting to treat hardware like showpieces, rather than basic necessities, and we’re starting to see that flourish with new design choices. Imagine copper pulls to match a flashy copper sink or granite knobs to parlay the clean darkness of a granite sink. 

#2: No Visible Hardware At All

Kitchen designs with a high-modern or minimalist (“scandi”) style are now opting to have nothing visible on their cabinet faces. To avoid knobs and pulls, some cabinet doors will have hidden grooves that make it easy to grasp. Some have hidden pulls. Regardless of how you do it, the only thing to keep in mind for this look is how it might be hard for young, little fingers to grasp and open a cabinet door. This also makes it hard to lock cabinets to keep curious little ones out. As a result, many are opting for knobs or pulls on base cabinets with nothing on wall cabinets. 

#3: Detailed Knobs Contrasting Clean Cabinets

Knobs with intricate designs and details offer a neat contrast to smooth, clean finishes of cabinetry. Think beaten copper, weathered brass, colorful etched patterns, or even floral ceramics. This is perfect for homeowners who don’t want to be flashy but still want interesting, show-stopping detail in small doses. 

Stainless steel cup pulls on shaker style cabinets in a farmhouse kitchen.
Eye-catching cup pulls look great on Shaker cabinets–especially in farmhouse style kitchens.

#4: Cup Pulls

While standard bar pulls are still a strong choice for kitchens, there is a burgeoning new trend of using cup pulls to add a spark of uniqueness to cabinet doors. The cup pulls tend to dominate the look of the cabinet, but in a good way. It’s making moves in many farmhouse and cottage styles. 

Kitchen hardware including both knobs and pulls on shaker style white cabinets.
Why settle with one kitchen hardware style? Opt for both knobs and pulls in your kitchen.

#5: Why Not Both?

Carefully crafted designs can utilize both knobs and pulls! Knobs on doors and pulls on drawers is a popular new look that adds variety and interest to kitchen hardware. This is also great for cabinets or doors that are not standard shapes. Really skinny drawers may benefit more from a skinny bar pull than a knob. Small cabinet doors may need small knobs so that pulls don’t overwhelm it. 

Vintage kitchen hardware and eco-friendly knobs and pulls are a great option for unique kitchens.
From vintage to eco-friendly, it’s easy to find kitchen hardware that stands out.

#6: Recycled Knobs or Pulls

If you want to lessen your carbon footprint and achieve a unique look, visit your nearest antique or thrift store for knobs or pulls that are looking for their second (or third) home. This is a fantastic way to recycle and reuse while also achieving a now one-of-a-kind look in your home. If you find a set of cabinet hardware in a thrift or antique store, you can be sure that no one else you know will have those exact knobs or pulls. 

#7: Blast to the Past

A new trend with cabinet hardware is like the recycling trend but with more meaning involved. Homeowners with older homes that they’re restoring are opting to give homage to the past by using knobs or pulls from the decade or era that their home was built in. This is a great way to establish some vintage charm in a renovated kitchen. 

How do you decide what looks best? If you’re stuck, try them both on for a trial run. Get a sample of each and install them for about a week to figure out how you like seeing them, using them, and cleaning them. Plus, you can always visit a Cabinets To Go showroom and talk to one of our design experts, who know exactly how to help you achieve your preferred look in your dream kitchen or bath.