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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

Handles, knobs and things that squeak

It’s January, and the New Year is filled with promise. Magazines are busy making our resolutions. Telling us how we can do better in 2010; shed those extra pounds, declutter our home, find love and have biceps like Michele (all within 28 days or less).

As I thought about what to write, I wondered what I would want to read about so early in the month; post Christmas, in the cold New Jersey Winter, with a pimple on my chin from eating too many chocolate truffles. Handles, knobs and hardware was what I decided on, for no reason other than it being a random thought in my head. I think they deserve their 15 minutes just like everybody else, so here goes. To me, they really are the accessories in a home, when replaced they should always be given more than a passing thought. Unfortunately they have become more of a designer item over the last few years, and some options have become more expensive than they should be. However, with a bit of time and planning you can change the look of a door or cupboard (cabinet) quite easily for a small amount of money.

When changing old hardware, stainless steel (or brushed nickel) in a sleek, modern design is often the first choice. But, be careful, sometimes our quest for something new becomes more important than finding something that coordinates with our current home. I love these sleek handles as much as anyone, but take some time to see what is really available before making your final purchase. It will look silly if it doesn’t match, never mind the money you will have spent. Especially when it comes to kitchen cabinets, at several dollars each the cost can be more than you anticipated.

Another thing to remember is the distance between the screws when measuring for new handles. They can vary from 2 – 3 inches, or more, and unless you are prepared to drill new holes or patch old ones, it is easier to find ones that line up with what you already have. If you are not sure, unscrew an old handle and take it with you to the store. Luckily, most new items are returnable so you can buy a few and try them before committing to your decision. A few years ago I changed all the handles and door pulls in my kitchen. I didn’t like the shape or the feel of the old ones (they were brass, made to look a bit like bamboo and are a common design in a lot of older kitchens). I also wanted my kitchen to look less like a store bought “kit,” and more like a room that had evolved over time. I didn’t like the cabinets, but that’s another, more expensive problem (see the Kitchen Envy blog for the full story).

After painting the upper oak cabinets with a creamy enamal, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to put glass knobs on them. Because I was replacing the door handles with a knob, I did have to fill the leftover screw holes with wood putty and sand them down before painting. It was a small amount of prep that was made easier because of the paint (a wood stain would never have completely blended with the putty. Isn’t putty a funny word?). The bottom cabinets, however, really annoyed me, so my plan was to make them cleverly disappear into their ever-present, universe of oak.

Once I had the ideas in my head, I began to look. What I found was that a lot of knobs are not exactly what they say they are. Glass is often acrylic, wood is sometimes a soft composit and metal can often be a less expensive version treated to look like the real thing. Fortunately, you can usually tell by the feel and weight of them. But if you like it, buy it (fake or not)! I ended up buying a “lot” of glass knobs on ebay for about $2. each, a local Home store wanted $4. each for new, acrylic versions of the same thing. If you do buy them on ebay, or from a second hand shop, make sure they come with the screw attachments. If they don’t, it can be a real pain to find ones that match exactly.

I then purchased unfinished, plain, wooden handles for the bottom cabinets which I stained to match the cabinets themselves. My theory was that by having the handles match the cabinets they would be less noticeable. I just bought the smallest pot of stain, in an oak color, and dabbed it onto the handles. The handles cost a dollar each and the stain about $4.

The largest investment in hardware should be your time. When choosing it yourself, it really is something that you need to see, in your home, to decide whether or not it is right. Sometimes what looks lovely in a shop can look a little insane when you put it in your kitchen and multiply it by 16…..

For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to:

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