Imagine this, you’ve just spent the last year or so working on your home renovation, putting in countless hours and (more importantly) money into the project. You’re in the final stages of the project which should be the easy part. Just needing to complete the finishing touches like installing your light fixtures, figuring out furniture placement, and placing your cabinetry hardware. Then you go to actually install said hardware and you think, but wait where should it go?? Emily always refers to hardware as the “jewelry” of the home, like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. Basically it should be fun, not stress-inducing. But this simple task can even make a pro stop and question themselves. So today we are here to give you all the rules on where to place your cabinet hardware, let you in on some tips and tricks, and tell when to throw all those rules out your kitchen window (and of course a roundup of all our go-to favorites).
For all you renters, or those who are just looking to update your kitchen without having to go into full-on demo mode, one of the easiest, cheapest, and most rewarding hacks is to simply swap out that dated hardware for something shiny and new (aka not from the 90s). Choosing the right style of hardware can truly transform the space. However is you are in a full-on reno, you have to ALSO think about things like placement because if it isn’t quite right something will inevitably feel a bit off.
There are some overall general rules to help get you started and avoid that “off feeling”. What are they you ask? It’s pretty simple, put knobs on your cabinet doors and pulls on your drawers. Done! Post over, you are all dismissed. But really, every kitchen and bathroom vanity is different so sometimes you need to set the rules aside and learn when and where to break them which I’ll show you plenty of past project examples below. An easy example is if you have a drawer with a smaller face (the width of the drawer front) then opt for a knob instead of a drawer pull so it doesn’t take up the entire width making it look crowded.
In the end, the following are just guidelines to make the process as stress-free as possible but if you have an idea you love it’s your kitchen/bathroom after all, so do what makes you happy!
The 3 Most Common Styles of Placement for Your Knobs
First up, the ‘Traditional Placement” which is actually one that EHD hasn’t really implemented a ton in past projects. BUT luckily Velinda showed us a great example of it in her tiny kitchen makeover. The trick is to completely center your knob vertically and horizontally to the face frame of your shaker style cabinet. This placement is great to use in a house that leans very traditional. However, as you can see by pairing this placement with a cleaner more modern micro knob like Velinda did it instantly makes the combo more modern. Very clever!
Consider the diameter for your parameter: If you have a shaker style cabinet door, make sure to measure the width of the face frame (the vertical piece that sticks out from the rest of the door) to pick out the right diameter knob. Ideally, the knob's diameter is small enough so that you can see some of the frame on either side so the knob.
Now although this example above may not technically fall within the “traditional placement guidelines,” it shows the same idea if your face frame is much more narrow in its width. Placing them approximately 1″ inward and down from the frame will give more of a traditional feel.
The more “Classic Placement” is to center the middle of the knob to the edge of the face frame. If you choose to have your kitchen cabinet doors be a partial or full overlay like the example above rather than inset into the cabinet frame (see Velinda’s cabinets above) than this is a great choice since the hardware will be lower on the door face giving your eye some breathing room.
In Emily’s powder bath they choose a pendant drop pull (yes, yes technically not a knob) which if it was placed centered horizontally as well would’ve lined up awkwardly. So instead, she used the classic placement which looks great and speaks to the metal grate on the door face. Perfect!
Last up, The “Modern Placement” which has been heavily used throughout our EHD projects. With this, you align the bottom (on upper cabinets) or the top (on base cabinets) to the edge of the face frame. This is one that you will want to measure more than twice before drilling a hole through your probably expensive cabinet door since the exact placement will be determined by your knob diameter instead of measuring (read: eyeballing) it on the face frame. A foolproof solution is to either make a cardboard template or you can get a cheap standard template since the hole is determined by your knob diameter. I also love this full tutorial by our friends over at Young House Love.
Looking back to the master bath in the Portland House, I think that since the knobs were small in size it could’ve also looked great in the Traditional style as well but then again I wasn’t there when they were deciding on the placement so maybe it visually felt too far away from the pulls. This is why it’s a good idea to employ a friend to hold your hardware in different locations so you can step back and see how it looks overall. Just remember to buy them a drink after or they have to be a really good friend.
And if you still don’t see the subtle difference between the three, here is a full infographic to give you more of a visual aid and maybe save it for later a date (ahem, Pinterest, ahem)…
You might be thinking by now (or earlier) these rules all sound great but what if I don’t have shaker cabinets and instead just a flat panel, what then?? Well, in the Mountain House Kitchen we decided to place them about 1.5″ from the top of the door and 1″ inward. This is a bit closer than the 2-3″ standard recommendation because we took a few things into consideration. The knobs that we choose were micro which was more modern with a lower profile. Also, the cabinets were inset meaning the door faces were a bit lower than average so you could visually get away with them being a 1/2″ higher up.
While we are already on the subject another design dilemma that we ran into in the Mountain House was where to align hardware of different sizes on the same wall. As you can see above there are 2 different size handles on our cabinets so we started with the pulls on the glass cabinets which were placed 8″ from the bottom of the door to the bottom of the hardware. Then we aligned the rest and centered the larger fridge appliance pull since it was a couple of inches longer.
Latches are like the cousin to the knob. You may not see them often but when you do then the whole family is back together again. For the Portland kitchen, we decided to place them 4 – 5″ from the bottom of the face frame, there is some wiggle room with these as they work better higher up than a knob.
Now Where to Place Your Drawer Pulls
The placement of your drawer pull all really depends on the style of the pull itself. There are many options to choose from but the most popular are: bar pulls, bin pulls, finger pulls, ring or drop-handle pulls & recessed pulls. The example above used bin or sometimes referred to as cup pulls, typically you will want to center them vertically and horizontally to a drawer face.
If you have a drawer that is 24″ or wider you can split the drawer into thirds and double up on your hardware centering them in the left and right portions of the drawer. Orlando has a great example of this in his parent’s kitchen renovation, he already had a few styles of hardware mixed throughout so instead of adding another size he kept it streamlined and doubled up on the wider drawers.
Although, this more traditional approach can mean that you are now spending twice the amount of your hardware budget. For a more modern and hopefully budget-friendly approach you can find wider pulls like the ones we used in the Portland Kitchen.
Or use a longer finger pull instead and center it along the top of your drawer. Do note that sometimes with finger pulls you may need to have your contractor make a divot along the top so the drawer sits flush to your hardware like we did above. Otherwise, your drawer won’t shut:) Thanks again to our patient GC, Jeff Malcolm.
When it comes to integrated (panel-ready) appliances don’t forget about the all-important appliance pulls. You could probably get away with a regular pull on some appliances like we did with the ice machine but ones that are heavier like the fridge drawers require hardware that is very strong and made to last.
If you are one to skip over all my jibber jabber (I don’t blame you) to get on with your morning and just want the spark notes version of the post then we have all the info below, enjoy!
Some Rule Exceptions
I have to admit that I love when designers take a risk and break all the rules like the kitchen below and it just WORKS.
It seems so simple to use the same exact style and size hardware throughout but this had to have taken some forethought to make sure it would not only work functionally but visually as well for each cabinet. Bravo! To be fair this is the kitchen of Schoolhouse Electric owner, Brian Faherty so he knows what he’s doing:)
Other Exceptions (Bathroom Edition)
I think you can generally follow the rules above when it comes to bathroom vanities but sometimes they just need to be adjusted and end up looking really good. Or you might buy a vanity that has pre-drilled holes for your hardware so the decision will be made for you. Above, Emily B. opted for two knobs instead of pulls which was the right call in her tiny main bath, saving on space and a little money.
In the upstairs guest bath of the Mountain house we decided that two micro knobs was the right choice instead of mixing up styles. But as you can see neither are in their “correct” location. Why? Well, it would’ve looked a bit strange had we not aligned them to one another since they are on the same unit.
For the kid’s bath in the Mountain House, the wood hardware was such a contrast to the white and those square knobs would’ve looked too crowded higher up so instead we again opted to align them to the drawer pulls.
Ok now that we have ALL of that covered, let’s shop a little huh?
1. BAGGANÄS | 2. Knurled | 3. Link | 4. BORGHAMN | 5. Black Beech | 6. Elroy | 7. Deep Gold | 8. Mission | 9. Modern Solid Brass Gold | 10. NYDALA | 11. Brass Backplate | 12. Beckett | 13. Walnut Beech/Brass | 14. Mills Pull | 15. Large Massey
1. Dish | 2. Trask | 3. Boulevard | 4. Vernon Mushroom | 5. Cassidy | 6. T-Bar | 7. Brass BAGGANÄS | 8. White Marble Notched Cylinder | 9. Mid-century Modern Cabinet Wood | 10. Bark Aster Marble Ball | 11. Black BAGGANÄS | 12. Knurled | 13. Solid Brass Round | 14. Tolson | 15. Sprocket
If you still have questions about where to place your hardware in your own home that is completely understandable. This is meant to act as a guide but not the end all be all rule. Do what you think will work best visually (and functionally). If you are still stumped then come on over and join our EHD Insider Community and share your own space, there are plenty of people (including the EHD team) that will be more than happy to give our two cents about your conundrum. See you over there or I’ll talk all things hardware with you in the comments below!
Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: All the What’s, Why’s & How Much’s of the Portland Kitchen (+ Big Reveal)