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8 Top Hardware Styles for Shaker Kitchen Cabinets

Article By: Rebekah Zaveloff

Shaker-style cabinet doors are so flexible stylewise that they can go either traditional or modern depending on what you pair them with. Decorative elements like lighting, tile and hardware can really change the tone and overall style of a kitchen. Cabinet hardware is often referred to as the jewelry of a kitchen, and just like with an outfit, it can really alter the overall look of your space. 

1. Traditional Nickel or Steel Knobs and Bin Pulls

Shaker cabinets are known for their simple, clean lines, and often you’ll see them paired with simple, unadorned cabinet hardware. Whether your style is vintage or modern, you’ll find that a Shaker door is one of the most versatile doors styles available. A vintage-style kitchen with white Shaker cabinets is often seen finished with a combination of timeless cup or bin pulls and knobs.

Traditionally you’ll see knobs on doors and bin pulls on drawers. For drawers 30 inches and wider, two bin pulls are often used.

What they do for the kitchen: Add retro flair.

What they work well with: Inset cabinetry with exposed hinges, stainless steel, white marble and honed black countertops, industrial-style lighting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On vintage bin pulls, the face screws are functional; on reproductions the face screws may be faux, with the pull attached through the back.

2. Vintage Glass or Ceramic Knobs

Vintage-style glass, also referred to as Depression Era glass, is another classic hardware choice for Shaker cabinets. With a stained cabinet finish, it’s nice to create some contrast with the hardware by using a white glass knob. 

Putting knobs on drawers is a great vintage touch, though pulls are more user friendly for everyday use. 

This type of knob comes with and without a face screw, as well as in a variety of colors, transparent and opaque, as well as clear. 

What they do for the kitchen: Create a historical feel that can go Victorian, Arts and Crafts or colonial revival.

What they work well with: Glass-front hutch cabinets, stained wood cabinets, butler’s pantry or scullery-style cabinets, subway tile, black and white kitchens.

 

3. Vintage Pulls With Exposed Screws

This type of hardware is reminiscent of vintage double-hung window hardware and can add a great vintage or industrial touch to a new kitchen. It looks completely different in a nickel finish than in oil-rubbed bronze or antique brass. 

Antique Brass Aubrey Pull – $10 »
I love the authenticity of this pull with the exposed screws, and it comes in a bunch of finishes and sizes, so it can work in lots of different applications. I’m quite partial to antique brass these days, especially on darker cabinets, and I love the high contrast of oil-rubbed bronze on white cabinets. 

What they do for the kitchen: Add a utilitarian and industrial feel.

What they work well with: Other humble and hardworking materials, such as subway tile, stainless steel countertops, commercial-style appliancesfarm sinks and industrial-style lighting.
4. Tubular Bar Pulls
A traditional-style kitchen with Shaker cabinets gets a modern touch with nickel or stainless steel tubular bar pulls. This type of hardware is often seen on slab or flat-panel doors, but it works equally well on a Shaker-style door. Tubular bar pulls can be long and dramatic or short and classic.

Laurey Stainless Steel Melrose Bar Cabinet Pull – $12 »
Tubular bar pulls are sometimes referred to as barrel pulls and are offered by almost every hardware company. They come in a variety of sizes and finishes, making them a great choice if you’re looking to add modern flair to your Shaker-style kitchen cabinets. 

What they do for the kitchen: Modernize it

What they work well with: Long and skinny mosaic tiles, oversize and rectangular tiles,ebony or espresso stained Shaker cabinets, modern pendant lighting.
5. Flat Bar Pulls
In this kitchen, the hardware’s accentuated length and polished nickel finish add a little modern glamour. In the same way a font choice affects the look of a logo, the decorative hardware of a kitchen can transform the overall experience of the space.
Italian Designs Classic Pull – $15.95 »
Flat bar pulls come in multiple lengths and finishes, from sleek stainless steel to hand-forged white bronze. 

What they do for the kitchen: Add a contemporary edge.

What they work well with: White or dark Shaker cabinets, square-edged stone or concrete countertops, full-height glass backsplashes, oversize rectangular tile in a stacked pattern

Flat bar pulls are a terrific way to modernize a Shaker-style cabinet, complementing it with a linear and squared-off look. As you can see, when run vertically and horizontally, the hardware really creates a focal point in the kitchen.

6. Accented Wire Pulls

This kitchen leans more traditional, with tall crown molding, a decorative hood surround and a bronze faucet, but the cabinet doors are still classic Shaker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antique Pewter Cabinet Pulls – $5.19 »
These pulls go by different names, but they’re basically wire pulls with decorative details. 

What they do for the kitchen: Allow you to add more decorative moldings and traditional elements.

What they work well with: Traditional elements like plate racks, crown molding, bronze accents and decorative hood surrounds.

7. Arced and Footed Bar Pulls

For a more classic look, there are arced and footed pulls. These go by many different names and can also fall into the wire-pull category. These pulls are traditional and just decorative enough without being too fussy for a Shaker door. Mixing finishes on dark and light cabinets helps to create contrast on each and keeps the kitchen from feeling stale.

What they do for the kitchen: Add a more traditional and decorative element.

What they work well with: Stone mosaic tile backsplashes, nickel diamond-mesh cabinet inserts, marble countertops with a decorative ogee edge. 

Go Ahead: Mix Your Finishes
When people say all white kitchens look alike, I can’t disagree more. Just changing the finish of the hardware completely changes the look of a kitchen, even when the hardware is exactly the same style.

Depending on the other finishes in your kitchen, you may consider satin nickel, polished chrome or nickel, or oil-rubbed bronze. Don’t feel like you have to match the cabinet hardware to the lighting or plumbing fixture finishes. I like to mix finishes by using antique brass light fixtures and polished nickel pulls to give a kitchen a more collected-over-time feel.

When using two or more cabinet finishes, as with the stained island and white perimeter cabinets shown in this kitchen, it’s perfectly fine to mix up the finishes of the hardware as well! Not everything has to match — the nickel finish wouldn’t look as good on the stained island as the antique bronze finish does, for example.

 

Universal Design for Kitchens

A Few Simple Changes Can Enhance the Functionality for Any User

Unlike universal kitchens designed years ago, universal design today doesn’t mean boring design, but quite the opposite. It is important to note that universal design practices are broader than that of barrier-free design, and are in fact universal. Almost without exception, features or flexibility added to a product to accommodate individuals with temporarily or permanently reduced abilities in some areas have proven to be beneficial to users in general. In many cases, more people without a disability will find features useful than the number of people in the original target audience.

A curb cutout is a good example. First, they were implemented for people in wheelchairs; however, they are used much more often by people on bicycles, baby strollers, pushing grocery carts or wheeled luggage than by people in wheelchairs.

If you’ve been designing kitchens with your clients’ needs in mind, you’re probably utilizing universal design. Your clients most likely have specific needs for their families. When designing a universal kitchen, you have to keep in mind the capabilities of each person utilizing the space. In most situations, we are dealing with families with small children, parents and in some cases, even grandparents, so we will take this scenario into consideration. Following are some simple ways to incorporate universal design into a kitchen.

Photo: KraftMaid | Passport Series

Surfaces: make sure they’re firm and stable. If there are overhangs on countertops such as snack bars, make sure they are supported well enough for anyone that might use it as an aid for getting up from their chair.

Dish Storage: the bottom shelf typically is the only shelf accessible to average-sized women, and it can also be too high to get a stack of dishes in and out of easily. Utilizing base cabinet drawers as dish storage will make dishes more accessible to people in wheelchairs, shorter people, elderly and for children. When possible, bring wall cabinets down to countertop height to allow more wall storage for dishes. 

Dishwashers: when able, raise the dishwasher 6 to 12 inches from the floor by adding a drawer below or by using two dishwasher drawers mounted side-by-side or on either side of the sink. 

Cabinet Pulls: there are several different options you can use for this application. The touch-latch option for doors and drawers on full overlay or European door styles make the doors longer than the cabinets to create a lip where you could put your hand behind the door to pull open. Knobs and pulls remain good options as long as they are not petite and smooth. Look for larger pieces with plenty of room for your fingers. 

Appliances: some refrigerators are extremely difficult and take way too much strength to open. If designing for somebody with little upper body strength, I would avoid large appliances with heavy doors. Microwave and refrigerator drawers would be better options. 

Light Switches: switches with large flat panels will work best.

Lighting: create well-lit space using combinations of under-cabinet lighting, general lighting, task lighting and decorative lighting. A dimmer switch on each fixture will allow adjustment for every user.

Counter Edges: A countertop that is a contrasting color from surrounding cabinets and the backsplash or countertop, with a contrasting front edge, makes for a visual aid to determine where one surface ends and one begins. 

Wall Ovens: Mount double ovens side-by-side rather than stacked, and mount them at about 30 inches above the floor. 

Faucets: choose faucets that have levers you could operate with a fist, or better yet, faucets with touch control options. Avoid faucets with controls that take a lot of finger strength or dexterity to operate.

Flooring: slip-resistant and non-reflective floors, distressed wood and slate are two examples of universal flooring.

Counter Heights: consider a table height for children, people in wheelchairs, and for those that find sitting and working easier. Create a standard countertop height for an average user, taller heights for taller people and for people that have difficulty bending over. The taller counter height can be anything higher than 36 inches and should be determined by the user.

ConsumerReports.org Buying Guide: Kitchen Cabinets

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring, Designer Amber Albrecht

Getting Started

Once upon a time, dovetail joints inside the drawers were practically all you needed to distinguish high-end cabinets. The distinction has blurred as more manufacturers offer premium features even on low-end lines. Indeed, we found you can have these and other once-exclusive features and still wind up with shoddy construction.

A little research beforehand can save you time at the store and the thousands you can lose on less-than-stellar cabinets. Start by checking online manufacturer and retail sites and catalogs and taking a good look at store displays; you’ll be able to tell the quality cabinets from the polished pretenders once you know where to look. And trust your taste; readers who chose cabinets solely on the basis of advice from contractors, designers, or architects were twice as likely to report a problem as those more involved in the selection, according to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. 

Put Your Money Where it Counts

If you’re on a tight budget, skip the non essentials and focus on convenience. Work-savers include a lazy Susan, a pull-down soap and sponge holder, and deep drawers for pots. Glazing, while nice, typically adds 10 to 20 percent to the cost. Remember to factor labor into your budget, since installation can easily account for more than half of the cabinet’s cost. 

Consider Renewing Your Old Cabinets

Replacing cabinets is typically the priciest part of a kitchen remodel. Readers who hired contractors paid on average more than $9,000 for new cabinets, and about a quarter of the readers paid more than $15,000, according to our survey. A couple of long weekends’ work can change your kitchen’s look for a tenth that cost. If your old cabinets are plumb, square, and sturdy, consider refinishing them with some simple sanding, painting or staining, and drilling. You can even dress them up with custom-built doors, possibly with glass panes, and still save a bundle over all-new cabinets. Even having a cabinetmaker reface old cabinets with veneer costs less than replacing them. 

You can also make old cabinets work better than new by adding pull-out shelves, lazy Susans, and other inexpensive upgrades. The final touch: install several under-cabinet halogen, xenon, or fluorescent task lights wherever you or a family member will be dicing, doing homework, or reading a recipe. 

Types of Cabinets

Cabinets can vary greatly in price. Here’s an overview of the three types of cabinets in broad price segments that you’ll find at stores. 

Basic

Often called stock, these are inexpensive, off-the-shelf cabinets, ready to assemble and install. Many use frameless construction where the door has no lip or “reveal” around it.


conrpts basic cabinet.jpg

Photo: Consumer Reports

PROS: These are a money-saving choice if you aren’t too picky about the style options or don’t demand a perfect fit. More have better drawers, sold-wood doors, and other once-pricey features. And we’ve found basic models that perform better in our wear tests than some more-expensive models. 

CONS: Many basic boxes are thinly veneered particle board, rather than higher-quality plywood. Style and trim options, sizes, and accessories, are still limited. And figure on an hour or more of assembly time for each set of base and wall cabinets. 

Midlevel


conrpts midlevel cabinet.jpg

These semi-custom models are a sound choice for most kitchens. Many use face-framePhoto: Consumer Reports construction, where the solid-wood frame shows around the door and drawers.

PROS: Midlevel models offer many made-to-order custom options, including size, materials, finish, elaborate crown moldings and other trim, and accessories such as range-hood covers. That can make them the best-value option overall.

CONS: As with basic cabinets, features and quality can vary considerably. Boxes may be veneered particleboard rather than high-quality plywood. 

Premium

Short of custom made-to-order cabinets, these semi-custom models offer the most style and storage options.


conrpts premium cabinet.jpg

Photo: Consumer Reports

PROS: They generally come with plywood boxes and other premium materials and hardware. Widths may come in ¼-inch increments, rather than the typical 3-inches.

CONS: While generally less expensive than fully made-to-order custom units, models with the most features and highest quality can cost as much as some full-custom units. 

Features

What separates a well-made cabinet from a cheap imitation? Here are the cabinet features to look for-and what to avoid. 

Cabinet Box: Best is ½-to ¾-inch furniture-grade plywood. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is OK, but avoid ⅜-inch coated particleboard.

Doors: Most manufacturers offer a similar range of door-style options for all their price levels. Look for a solid-wood frame surrounding solid-wood or plywood panels. Veneered particleboard or an MDF panel is OK, but avoid laminate or thermofoil over particleboard.

Drawers: Well-built drawers are critical, because they get the most use. The best ones have solid-wood sides, dovetail joinery, and a plywood bottom that fits grooves on four sides. Avoid stapled particleboard.

Hardware: Full-extension drawer guides are better than integrated side rails or under mounted double-roller designs. Some premium models have a “soft close” feature that stops drawers from slamming shut. Many cabinet models allow you to upgrade the drawer guides. As for door hinges, we didn’t find any significant differences among the different types. 

Shelves: Look for ¾-inch plywood of MDF. Lesser quality ⅝- or ½-inch particleboard shelves may sag.

Mounting Strips: Ask the contractor to use ¾-inch hardwood strips or metal strips with bolt holes. Thinner wood, MDF, or particlebard can be a concern with heavily loaded wall cabinets. 

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.