Antique kitchen cabinet hardware can add authenticity and style to your kitchen or it can become an obsession. How Do I Choose the Best Antique Kitchen Cabinets? True, there are collectors who will pay $195 for one rare cast bronze emblematic doorknob. They are probably members of the Antique Doorknob Collectors of America—a nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of ornamental hardware. But we’ll assume you want to renovate or redecorate your kitchen with a little more economy in mind, and talk about antique reproduction hardware.
The style of your cabinet, what it’s made out of, and the home décor look you are trying to achieve will have some influence on the type of hardware that looks best for your furniture. You want the hardware to act as jewelry to enhance the styling, and some choices just look more authentic or better than others. Decide what would complement your cabinets.
Functional Metals in Different Eras
Hardware metal can be steel, copper, brass, nickel, bronze or wrought iron. Certain metals were favored in different eras. For example, Colonial (circa 1800s) hardware had forged cast iron as a typical element. A blacksmith had to hand make each piece; they were hammered and then fired to give them a particular look. They may also have made a strap hinge, hammered nails or the thumb-latch. A trip to the local library for an architectural timeline will help you to see these artifacts and learn what to look for before you make a decision.
Antique cabinet hardware have some glorious names. While we may be familiar with what a hinge is, there are many good reasons to get a feel for the vernacular with the aid of an antique hardware glossary (see link below).
Kitchen Cabinet Hardware Finishes
Not only is hardware set apart by its metal composite, but the finish can make the same type of piece look very different. Finishes may be brushed, highly polished, vintage, pewter, sterling and more. And this, too, has a good deal to do with how you need to care for a piece. For example, brass tends to darken and needs to be polished. Brushed finishes hide fingerprints better than a polished metal—so upkeep should be one of your deciding factors then. Some finishes can also be varnished, an option.
Choosing the correct door lever, say a “Charleston Rosette door set with a lever handle” requires you to know if you have a right-handed door versus a left-handed one—a factor you do not need to consider when choosing a knob.
Carry a Book of Measurements
Measurements will also be a consideration because a backset, which is a latch mechanism for a kitchen door for instance, is commonly sized at 2 and 3/8-inches (it measures from the front of the door’s lock plate to the center of the hub—which the spindle fits through). But true antiques may not have the common size requirements of today. Also buy knobs and pulls with not only durability in mind but how usable they are too. If they are too small, they could be frustrating to use on a lower, hard-to-reach corner cabinet.
Kitchen Cabinet Hardware Tips
- True antiques may be difficult to find in sets; think about combining various pieces for a unique look.
- Consider using back plates to hide existing holes.
- Upgrade stock cabinetry by using better quality hardware.
- Hardware details have a huge overall effect that is sometimes overlooked for its possibilities.
- Frequent fairs, auctions and estate sales for great hardware buys.
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