Kitchen Handles: Buying Guide
Kitchen design guides often focus on the most visible, larger elements that make up a room, but the impact that kitchen door handles and pulls can have on a space should not be underestimated.
In this guide we'll explore the types of kitchen cabinet handles that might provide the ideal finishing touch to your kitchen aesthetic, and we'll discuss the materials and finishes to look out for when you go to buy kitchen cabinet handles.
Types of kitchen cabinet handles
Kitchen cabinet and door handles are among the key features that set the look and feel of your room. Choosing a particular type of handle can be the difference between a sleek contemporary look and a cosy traditional vibe.
There are also functional differences between the different styles of cabinet handle, making them an important consideration when planning the ergonomics of your kitchen.
If your kitchen design is based around clean lines and subtle modern features, then this type of kitchen door handles may well set it off nicely. Bar cabinet handles are generally not intended to create a strong visual impact, instead offering simplicity and practicality with a one-piece attachment.
There are various styles of bar handle to choose from, including T-bar and drop-bar, and the thickness, finish and colour of the bar handles you select can make a big difference to the feel and functionality of your kitchen.
Also known as D-shaped handles, bow handles bring stylish curves to your kitchen cabinets and can be incorporated effectively into traditional and contemporary designs alike.
Comprised of a single piece of material, often metal, with ends that curve to meet the surface of your cabinets, bow handles are simple and easy to use. They offer a similar level of practicality and accessibility to bar handles, making them a popular choice in kitchens used by people of all ages and abilities.
Cup handles are an iconic design classic dating back hundreds of years, and adding them to your kitchen will instantly add traditional charm to your design.
Benefits of cup handles include the fact that fingerprints are kept hidden thanks to their overhanging design, and they tend to be extremely robust and unlikely to break.
If you are aiming to create a country style or Shaker kitchen, then cup handles are an absolute must-have, with brass and pewter materials providing a timeless look.
Knob handles come in a wide variety of styles and sizes, from unobtrusive designs that can be tucked away on the corner of a cabinet door, to big bold styles that shimmer and shine.
The majority of knob handle designs feature a smooth round protrusion, although you can also find knob handles in weird and wonderful shapes to suit almost any kitchen design.
Before you buy kitchen door handles in this style, be sure to consider who may be using them regularly as certain types of knob handle can be difficult for some people to grab hold of.
T-bar handles are those that feature a long bar attached to a cabinet by two right-angled fixings. They are among the most elegant-looking bar handle designs, and they offer good clearance between handle and cabinet surface, making them easy to use.
If you are planning a modern kitchen characterised by minimal design touches, adding T-bar handles to your cabinets could prove to be a masterstroke.
If you want to keep your kitchen cabinet fronts sleek and smooth, adding flush handles might work well as part of your design.
Flush finger pulls create an inset in your cabinet door, removing the possibility of anyone bumping into your cabinet handles or catching their clothes on them. You can find flush handles in shapes and materials that will complement the rest of your space.
Kitchen door handle materials
Matching the material of your kitchen cabinet handles to the other materials used across your space is a key design challenge.
Kitchen cabinet and door handles come in a wide range of materials, some of which complement a shiny, high-gloss kitchen design while others lend themselves better to a softer, traditional feel.
Metal kitchen cabinet handles range from the practical and affordable, through to high-end design classics.
Stainless steel is among the most popular types of metal used in kitchen cabinet handle design, offering a range of benefits. Stainless steel is easy to clean, does not show scratches or other marks easily, and tends to be at the more affordable end of the price scale when you come to buy kitchen cabinet handles.
However, if the shiny qualities of stainless steel don't suit your design, there are plenty of other subtle, understated options. Nickel handles, for example, offer a similar aesthetic to stainless steel but with a somewhat classier look.
Copper and bronze bring a sense of weight and solidity with less shimmer, and copper has the added benefit of being an antimicrobial material that is resistant to bacteria. Meanwhile pewter and brass handles are often found in ornate shapes and designs that hark back to a bygone era.
Walnut, oak and beech are among the most popular materials used to create wooden kitchen cabinet handles, which offer the possibility of a natural look and feel along with a lighter weight of handle.
When compared to many metal handles, wooden cabinet pulls and bars can bring the overall weight of your kitchen cabinet down. They are also softer to the touch in many cases, and if you're designing a kitchen with a warm, cosy, traditional feel, the softer feel of wood and its natural grain appearance might be just what you're looking for.
That said, wood tends to be more prone to scratches and other damage than metal, and may not be quite as easy to keep in top condition, so you may not choose to buy these types of kitchen door handles.
Kitchen door handle finishes
Depending on the type of material you choose for your kitchen cabinet handles, there will be a range of finishes available to you.
Some metal door handles, such as those made from brass, chrome and nickel, can be given a polished finish, whereas other metals like copper, stainless steel and dark brass are popular when a brushed finish is applied.
With matte and antique finishes to consider as well, it is worth spending some time perusing the range of options available to you.
Brass, copper, pewter and steel handles can all be treated with corrosive materials to create an aged effect. Paint is also used to give some metals a patina, which describes the weathered look that old items take on over time.
Antiquing tends to make metals look darker and older, giving them a prestigious feel that works wonderfully across kitchen cabinet handles in traditional kitchen designs.
For a distinctive look on decoratively designed metal cabinet door handles, a brushed finish really stands out.
Creating a brushed finish on materials like copper, dark brass, nickel and stainless steel involves polishing the metal with a fine bristle brush. It is then softened with a non-woven abrasive pad to leave a dull, matte sheen on the metal.
For a high mirror shine, kitchen cabinet handle manufacturers polish metals like brass, chrome and nickel to create dazzling products.
If you are designing a diner-style kitchen, then the gleaming sparkle of polished chrome might work well in your space, and handles with a polished finish can also add to an industrial look.
Beware of sticky fingers though – polished finishes are known to expose fingerprints all too readily!
Metals can be sand-blasted or powder-coated to create a matte finish, which replaces the glossy sheen on the surface of the material with a uniform, smooth appearance and clean product texture.
Chrome and nickel, which are particularly bright when untreated, are popular materials for kitchen cabinet handles in a matte finish, offering a smooth silver appearance that works well in modern and retro kitchen designs.
Other things to consider when choosing your kitchen handles
Once you've chosen the type of kitchen cabinet door handles you wish to bring into your kitchen, as well as the material and finish that will work best with your design, there are a few other considerations to take into account.
Giving some careful thought to the placement and colour of your cabinet handles, as well as the material and finish of the cabinets themselves, will ensure you end up with a consistent, coherent look and feel throughout your kitchen.
Deciding where to place handles on kitchen cabinets is not as straightforward as it might sound. As well as achieving the optimal look, it is important to consider the way in which you use your kitchen, how you tend to reach for different things, and the paths you take as you move around the room.
If you have opted for rounded knob handles, then you will need to consider whether they will look best and function well when placed in the centre of your cabinet doors or in a corner. With bar handles, there is an additional decision to be made as you need to choose whether to place them vertically or horizontally.
To make the best possible decision regarding your kitchen cabinet door handle positioning, install your cabinetry first and then apply the handles, if possible. This way, you can test out all the various opening paths of cabinets and drawers, and find out which positions will provide comfortable leverage within easy reach.
This also gives you chance to make sure the handles do not collide with each other during the opening and closing process.
When thinking about the colour of your kitchen cabinet handles, it can be useful to look at other accent colours around your kitchen. For example, what colour are your kitchen appliances? Do you intend to hang any pictures on the wall in your kitchen? These elements could influence your choice of handle colour.
Brass, rose gold and copper cabinet handles all provide a warming burst of colour in a monochrome kitchen and you can typically find appliances in these colours to match.
If your kitchen already has plenty of colour on the walls and cabinets, you might prefer to keep your handle colours subtle by opting for matte black or brushed stainless steel.
Wood has the advantage of being one of the easiest materials to paint, so if you feel like you may want to update your kitchen design without having to replace your cabinet handles then wood might be a good option for you.
Your kitchen cabinet door handles need to match or complement the colour of the cabinets themselves, so if you are choosing coloured rather than monochrome handles be sure to check how they will look against your cabinets.
Materials such as copper, which is close to orange in appearance, look good against blue or green cabinetry, while warm metallic shades of brass can work well with soft colours like faded pink and matte grey.
And it does not come down to colour alone; the material and finish of your cabinet handles should match the doors to which they are attached.
Our fitted kitchen buying guide is here to help you stay consistent in your use of glossy or shiny surfaces, or to inform the way in which you incorporate more subtle finishes.
Where to buy kitchen cabinet handles
You can buy kitchen handles online or visit various stores where you can get up close with a range of products. You can check out the Wren Kitchens range over at our handles page.
Our in-depth product knowledge comes from our vast experience of carrying out kitchen installations, and if you would like Wren to install a kitchen at your home you can use our website to book an appointment at your most convenient showroom where we can help you plan your ideal kitchen.