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Less is More For Kitchen or Bath Hardware

By 02/18/2019February 26th, 201996 Comments

Sarah Richardson’s ‘off-the-grid’ home has recently been featured on the HGTV website. It’s so lovely to scroll through each image and not be inundated with ads coming at you from all sides during the viewing.

This post is for anyone who is working on a new build or renovation. If you installed a kitchen or bathroom recently, just skip this one because it’s kinda like undertones. Once you see it, you cannot un see the mistake you’ve just made. And unfortunately, there’s not much you can do once you’ve drilled holes into your cabinets.

I’ve mentioned this before here. However I was so fascinated to notice that she simply chose knobs for every single room in the house.

I’m not saying this is something EVERYONE should do. I specify both knobs and pulls in my kitchen and bath consultations (example below).  It’s simply another option that works well and certainly for the person who is overwhelmed at all the choices. Simple is always better if that’s you.

Ginger Jars | Kitchen Design | Black Hardware | White Shaker Cabinets | Kitchen Lighting | Decorating with Green

Interior Design by Maria Killam |  See this house here

First, check out the surface mount lighting. There is no recessed lighting in this kitchen as many designers view this type of light as ‘swiss cheese for the ceiling‘. I like that she chose white ones so they don’t stick out visually.

Now that there is such a good range of surface mount lighting available, I think we’ll be seeing this a lot more.

She used knobs for all doors and drawers. Not a pull in sight. I like it. These look like 2″, I would choose even smaller ones. But it depends on the look you’re going for, they do relate nicely to all the brass lighting in this kitchen.

If you look at kitchens that are not designed by professionals, you’ll notice that they are usually–without exception–full of standard 4″ pulls.

However, too many pulls can make a kitchen look pedestrian really fast. Sort of like ‘a big box store just installed my kitchen’.

Also, notice the combination of white, brass and chrome. The brass is repeated in the hardware and lighting and panels in the island and above the hood. The chrome or stainless faucet relates to the stainless hood fan.

If you repeat it once, it generally looks more intentional, although this rule can be broken.

However, if you are designing your kitchen without a designer, DO NOT try and break the rules. Rules are for the novice. Here’s the other person who can happily ignore this advice. Your friends ask you for advice because they like your style.

Related post: Rules are for Amateurs; Exceptions are for the Professional 

Choosing one knob is even easier than trying to measure and keep count of how many knobs vs. pulls you might need.

Here they are in glass. Again, I prefer a smaller profile (above).

Notice that when you basically install white fixed finishes, you can change up the colours, like these fun kelly green drapes (above).

Related post: The Best White Bathrooms

And the combined home office and laundry room has the same knobs. Here they are all brass. Love the turquoise cabinets. Colour is timeless after all.

Yesterday I visited the Christopher Kennedy Compound in Palm Springs (because it’s Modernism Week) and noticed these HUGE knobs in the master bathroom designed by Michael Berman:

However, do not try this at home. Unless Michael or some other talented designer happens to also be YOUR designer. This is a very custom look. You can’t just take huge knobs like this and slap them on ANY kitchen or bathroom.

Bottom line. If you are overwhelmed and need a simple choice? All knobs look less cluttered and busy then ALL pulls.

Over to you my lovelies! What do you think of the knobs vs. pulls idea?

If you’d like help choosing hardware for your kitchen or bath, I can help with our hard finish eDesign solution.

And, if you need help coordinating/choosing your kitchen or bathroom finishes and colours check out our Create a Classic Kitchen or Bath packages here.

Related posts:

When to Break the Rules Around Choosing White or Cream

4 Images that Break the Undertone Rules I Work so Hard to Teach

Rules for Choosing the Right Colour Quartz Countertop

471 pins


  • Beth Cote says:

    All knobs here! I have had an all knob kitchen and bath for 23 years. In that time, it was easy to change out the knobs for a fun basic “refresh” when I was bored and wanted something new. Didn’t have to worry about drilling new holes for hardware and the cost is pretty minimal. Another great benefit!

    • Yes, knobs are easy to replace by a homeowner. In my 15 years as a kitchen and bath designer, I’ve had people try to drill holes in their new cabinets themselves without a template, and it took an older couple 3 days to measure and drill the holes for 43 knobs. I thought their contractor was going to do it and was horrified that they didn’t have a template which would have made that a 3 hour job at the most.

      I think Sarah Richardson’s designs are beautiful and these photos are gorgeous, but a few observations here. In a larger kitchen like this, you need a larger scale knob, and I agree with her choices. However, in that instance underneath the bar area, I would have used something that was a hidden pull that attaches to the top of the cabinet that you wouldn’t bump your knees into them when sitting on the stools.

      In the laundry room, that sink in the corner, while it uses that dead coroner space, it is going to be very difficult to actually use that sink next to the desk. I have been able to use that dead corner space in similar situations differently, and I would have put the sink somewhere where it would be easier to access.

      The light fixtures in many cases are beautiful but will be showing all of my dark shadows under my eyes, making me feel old LOL.

      As an aside, I just finished three new build houses ifor a developer n Santa Barbara with kitchens, baths and laundry rooms, and in the baths and laundry rooms we used knobs everywhere. However in the kitchens, we use a combination of oversized knobs, pulls, and cup pulls because that’s what looked right in that large open space, just as it does in Sarah Richardson’s house. When I see all knobs, to me, that speaks more of a big box installation than the pulls that are necessary for older hands or people who like to cook. Knobs are much easier for a contractor to install without screwing up the cabinets.

      Like Maria, I have seen terrible knob / pull choices in homes where the real estate agent may have said something like “change out those knobs and pulls the update the house before you sell it,” and they chose either the cheapest knobs which show that they look cheap, or they picked modern knobs that go with nothing in their house, or their husband picked them out without consideration to what else was happening, and it flat-out looks wrong. Again the easiest thing to change would be knobs only, and even just knobs can look wrong.

      • Lorri says:

        I went to Sara Richardson’s web site and she did address that laundry sink being in the corner. She said she’s been questioned about it a lot, but that all she does with it is soak stuff and it works for her. She wanted to maximize her counter space, and that’s why she put the sink in the corner.

        It wouldn’t work for me, but at least she thought long and hard about it. She said you always have to make compromises.

        • Glad to hear she addressed that. LOL, with my luck, that tablecloth with the wine stain I was soaking in the corner would get everything wet on the way from that corner to the washer. And then I’d get the papers on the desk wet, too! Construction is a series of compromises, because you never know what you’re going to get once the process starts. Always a surprise or two. Part of what keeps it interesting for me. Plus, I’ve had fantastic clients.

  • Kathi Steele says:

    I cook, a lot. And I have rather large hands. I prefer the handles with backplates to protect my cabinets. I look at that kitchen and impracticality is my first thought about those knobs!!! Sorry.
    Now that I have white cabinets I really appreciate the handles and backplates.
    I love that I can grab the handles and not worry about scratching the paint off the cabinets or damaging them in any way with my sometimes careless grab of the handle.
    I love that I don’t have to worry about “helpers” in the kitchen scratching the cabinets either.
    Are they larger than the knobs? Yes. Do you notice them more? I don’t think so.
    That is the beauty. You can decorate and choose whatever you would like. Either looks good.

  • Sharon says:

    Oh my goodness: Why SO condescending?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Ack, I did not mean to be and I’ve fixed it. . .I apologize to all those who were offended and thanks for calling me on it! I want to help not sound like a know-it-all designer. Maria

  • The knobs are lovely, but everything depends. For example, for aging customer with arthritis the single knob on the heavy drawer will translate to torture.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes, this (as many others have said) is definitely a good exception. But as I said in another comment, I have seen so many unfortunate installations of hardware, if someone is struggling, this is a good option to consider! Thanks for your comment, Maria

  • Laura says:

    Knobs look really pretty, but the one thing I don’t like is when you are trying to pull against the initial resistance of the soft close mechanism of a drawer. For that reason I like pulls on drawers, especially the tall, wide and heavy drawers everyone wants these days.

    • Lynne says:

      I agree. Pulls also more evenly distribute the stress on the screws when it’s a draw carrying a load (like my pots and pans drawers). Plus … I just prefer the look of pulls to knobs.

      • mrsben says:

        @Laura & Lynne: Agree that pulls on heavy working drawers (like pots ‘n pans) make sense to me plus the same rule can apply on pantry doors with built in shelves (stocked with miscellaneous). Also shall add, there is a reason why appliance doors (fridge/stove/dishwasher) don’t have knobs …. ☺. -Brenda-

  • Tanya says:

    I am bristling a bit at the statement that you shouldn’t break rules if you aren’t a designer. That’s a bit harsh, I am not a designer but I get it and know what I like…I have a good eye. I thought that part of reading these posts is to help us hone our tastes and develop our eye enough that we could manage to, say, mix a couple metals…doesn’t seem like a task that is too far over my head.

    • Lorri says:

      Tanya, I don’t think Maria means that you literally have to have a design degree. She means you have to have a really good eye. Maria doesn’t have a degree either, but has the really good eye. Actually, some of the most famous designers don’t have design degrees. It’s an art.

      I don’t have a design degree, but am confident enough in my eye for design that I know I could break the rules. You just have to know your abilities.

      • Lorri says:

        I just checked, and Sarah Richardson has a BA in Visual Arts, but NOT a design degree. She is self-taught and has said you should continually educate yourself in the history of art, architecture, design and furniture.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Tanya,
      Eeek, I’m sorry I did not mean to offend. Obviously if you have a good eye for these things, a designer is not required. However, if you had seen as many kitchens as I have with bad (pulls) handles, you’d understand why I’m trying to save the world from this. Thanks for your comment, I fixed my language in the post! Maria

      • Tanya says:

        Thanks, and I like the change…that’s me!

      • Tanya says:

        BTW, I notice from designer kitchens they don’t put knobs right in the corner of the cabinet but up a couple inches. Why is that? Based on our study of cabinets, my husband and I decided to do it that way on our new kitchen cabinets. I do like the look, especially on taller cabinets.

  • Love this article – so helpful! Maria, in a kitchen with wide heavy drawers – like 38″ wide – would you (in general) like to see 2 knobs for pulls, or a long bar? The long bar would be more practical in use, but also visually heavier.

    We’re finishing a kitchen renovation so your post is SO TIMELY!

    • Jean says:

      Ellen–I lived with wide heavy drawers like you’re describing for 20 years with two knobs on each and my new build will definitely have long bars. With two knobs you really need to use both hands to open a wide drawer, if it’s full of heavy stuff like dishes or pots and pans, or it twists just a bit and over time that is hard on the drawer mechanism. And sometimes you just can’t quite get it open using just one. But I did make sure that the handles don’t have the slight extensions on each end that can catch on clothes. That happened to me in my daughter’s kitchen.

    • Deborah says:

      Recently moved from a house with super-wide kitchen drawers, and here is the main thing I noticed: you need two hands to open a drawer like this (if it has two handles or pulls or knobs, one positioned at each end). Here is what cooks know: when cooking, you rarely have two hands free.

  • Betsy Mueller says:

    Here’s a practical reason to avoid ‘knobs only’:

    While I love the look of knobs only, which I already have in my 40 year old kitchen, I will be changing the top drawers to pulls as soon as we renovate. The simple reason is that the knobs get caught in our clothing, especially pockets, because of the height of the knobs. Too many times I have been yanked back to the drawer because I’ve been caught by the knob!

  • Nichole says:

    When I had my cabinets painted white, I chose not to have them fill in the holes which were all for 4” pulls. I did do 2 different pulls in the same finish to make it look more custom. I never thought I would like an entire kitchen in knobs. But of course, Sarah’s looks lovely. I don’t have any regrets on mine. The contractor turned out to be ??. So I doubt he would have done a good job drilling new holes.

  • Sara Walters says:

    Very wide or deep drawers need pulls for best operation. You could use two knobs, but I don’t like that look. Too many polka dots!

  • Barb says:

    Excellent attention to detail that provokes thought. Is there any rule of thumb that suggests when a pull is better for a kitchen drawer? Is there a formula for matching the size of the drawer to the size of the drawer? I can understand using knobs only in a bathroom since the drawers seem to be be more narrow than in a kitchen. Some kitchen drawers are 26″-36″. Would a 6″ pull work on the larger drawers? I can’t see using a knob on a wide drawer. If you go with 2 knobs on a wide kitchen drawer, then it takes 2 hands to open in a busy kitchen. I’d love to hear more discussion/ideas on this topic!

  • Christine says:

    I love the custom look of a combination of both knobs and pulls (of various sizes). I find all 4″ pulls looks like big box store and all knobs reminds me of the 1″ round brass knobs that were so popular in the 80’s kitchens. I see the appeal of simple knobs throughout but I’m a combo girl myself 😉

  • Lorri says:

    Sara’s house looks great, but I have to admit I prefer pulls. I think they are more “handicap accessible” also.

    Honestly, I’ve never thought that pulls make a kitchen look like a big box store just installed the kitchen. One of the rare times I disagree, Maria! 😉

    • Lorri says:

      I should clarify that I am taking care of someone who had a stroke, and their right hand was affected. We have knobs in our kitchen and they are managing, but it’s more difficult for them.

  • Anne Furey says:

    You are right! Once you see it, you can’t “un-see” it! I look at all knobs in the kitchen examples and see… polka dots! I tend to love a combination of knobs and pulls (or cup handles) in a large kitchen, but am fine with just knobs in a smaller bath or laundry room. Like Kathi Steele, I love a handle (and a knob) with a back plate…but you have to have a nice budget! What I have a difficult time with in this post, however, is some of the lighting. The white surface mounts in the first kitchen look like telescopes to me. I would much prefer the recessed lighting in this case, and in general…just not an overabundance of recessed lighting that can create that Swiss cheese look 🙂 Also, in the double sink bath…that pendant lighting is sure to create harsh shadows. And the single sconce over the vanity is not going to help that much. When you have the space, as in this case, sconces on either side of the mirror give the most flattering lighting, which I totally depend on in the morning to start my day right! Just some thoughts. I do love Sarah Richardson’s work in general though!

    • Lorri says:

      Though I LOVE Sarah Richards, and she did a great job with her house, I thought the same thing about the bathroom lighting. Overhead lighting creates harsh shadows on a face, while two sconces create even flattering lighting on the face.

    • Heather says:

      My first thought on the lighting was that the shades would get filthy and need to be wiped regularly therefore needing to bring in a big ladder. I will stick to my flush mounted LEDs of which I have one on the centre of my kitchen which is plenty of light

  • Kay says:

    I like pulls on heavy drawers for the practical reasons others have mentioned and knobs on any uppers—in the kitchen, that is: knobs on much smaller, lighter bathroom drawers work fine. I also chose pulls for the tall pantry cabinets that flank my refrigerator—they too are heavy to pull open. There is a knob on the trash pullout because my kitchen designer suggested it would be more practical than a pull when fingers are dirty—open with your hand between two fingers, and the messiness doesn’t transfer. I thank her internally all the time for that tip.

    The rooms you posted are beautiful. When we remodeled our main bathroom in 2005 I wanted a marble floor but read warnings about how slippery they were. At that time I remember seeing big tiles, not the smaller and basket weave tiles used today, which I imagine are much less slippery. I ended up using ceramic hex tiles on the floor and small square tiles in the shower, on the counter, and for borders. I still love our bathroom, but I do admire those marble floors! If I were doing it over, it would be marble and white subway tiles, but what I have is a thousand times better and more timeless than most bathrooms, except for the high-end ones.

  • Rhonda says:

    A timely post, because I am there right now! New laundry room and bathroom cabinets ready to be installed (white, btw). I was just perusing the internet for knobs/pulls. I had actually decided to keep my previous porcelain pulls in both rooms, but this morning I thought I might add some antique brass bin pulls to the drawers in the laundry room (Victorian house). NowI have to think about it a bit longer!!

  • Penny says:

    I agree with the comments about knobs not working well on large drawerrs. Also, many people with arthritis in their fingers need pulls. It is way too difficult (and painful) to wrap fingers around knobs. Ageing in place is something to consider if building or renovating. I also think all these knobs can look like a sea of eyeballs. . .

    And not sure about the light fixtures here in the kitchen replacing can lights. Doesn’t it seem to actually be a busier, more distracting look even though they are white like the ceiling?

  • Joanna says:

    I prefer a mixture of the two. I have been seeing a lot of very wide pulls and agree they stand out too much. But too many knobs is a busy look. I don’t think there is a right or wrong approach. It is personal preference, in most cases. A dark knob or pull is going to stand out more against your white or light cabinets than chrome. Take a moment and think of the overall look. That knob/pull you love might not be the best fit for your kitchen/bath.

  • Linda says:

    Wow-who knew knobs vs pulls so controversial! I’m more likely to be Pro pull, but regardless I enjoy the pics and captions!

    • Maria Killam says:

      OMG I want to run under the bed and hide, haha. I did NOT mean to offend, I obviously missed a bunch of disclaimers that would cover EVERYONE. I’m on YOUR SIDE PEOPLE. I write this blog because I want to HELP, not for anyone to feel bad. Thanks for your comment Linda! Maria

  • Molly Phillips says:

    I just finished a major home gut renovation and was brave enough to click on this post. 🙂 I see mostly polka dots with knobs and usually prefer pulls, although I recognize it will be harder to match the holes if I ever change them. Still, I almost all pulls, even on the upper cabinets in my kitchen. The number one reason is that the doors don’t all open in a “matching” way, so the pulls are centered in the middle of the cabinet to look uniform. If I had knobs where the correct opening would be, it would look uneven and drive me crazy.

    I’m also not a designer but mixed aged brass with nickel in my daughter’s bathroom. It’s my most favorite design in the house! I’m so glad I took that risk, even after the electrician called me to skeptically confirm the brass sconces were going in there with the nickel faucet. 🙂

  • Claire s. says:

    Hey, I’m on trend with maria! I have all knobs from my house remodel 20 years ago. I think I did it because I have gotten my fingers pinched in pulls before. I’m very happy with the look.

  • Sharen says:

    This is a good one Maria! I replaced all the hardware in my small 2 bedroom condo when I renovated. Chrome in bathrooms and kitchen, brass everywhere else. I had to laugh because I can’t tell you how many times I recounted doors and drawers. I do like the simpleness and ease of knobs and used the same ones everywhere except in the kitchen. In my kitchen I did research on your blog and decided knobs up top (clothing seems to get caught on knobs down below) and pulls and drawer bin pulls on the bottom. I think it gives a more designer look. I really enjoyed all the comments.

  • Beth Wilson says:

    I love the small knobs. When brass went out of style several years ago, I bought new black knobs but saved my old ones. Now that brass is very “in” again, I’m putting the brass back on for a change. I love the white kitchen and baths! I also have a white kitchen and so can very easily add a few seasonal colors and objects and change the look back and forth. I just went from red and pink valentine accessories to St. Patrick’s Day green accessories. It keeps it fun.

  • Keira says:

    My pet peeve is cabinets with *no* knobs or pulls (and no push-unlock hardware). What are developers, contractors, landlords thinking??! Ruins the finish. Clueless, cheap, lazy. I installed knobs and pulls in my rental kitchen myself.

  • Mary Anne says:

    I am going to chime in!! I have PULLS on my drawers-long and short! I do cook and bake , so I like being able to just use a pinky finger to open a drawer if I need something. I have an all white kitchen , subway backsplash , and marble counters. I liked the PULLS (knobs are on the cabinet doors) because to me they evoked the look I was going for…a timeless butler’s pantry!! Have that too!!
    PS. As someone else said, my clothes don’t catch on a knobbed drawer!

  • Loribeth says:

    Sarah Richardson is one of my favorite designers. She’s known for doing specific things like all knobs for a specific reason. I, however, love my antique glass pulls. I took them off my cabinets at my old house and replace them with different ones so I could install them in my new house. No matter where I live, those handles are going with me! lol

  • Barbara says:

    I definitely like knobs best and used knobs when I did my white kitchen in 1986 and my cream bathroom in 2002. Othe kitchens and baths I inherited……it is much harder to clean around pulls and some are difficult to use. I wanted to change all of the brand new, expensive pulls in my home, which was brand new and speciality built, but the cost!

  • June says:

    Hello…..Just replaced my all-knob kitchen. You all might SHUDDER as I have a mix of THREE styles: Most cabinets have square knobs (placed on the diagonal), but on three cabinets the pull is a fork on one side and a spoon on the other. Cup pulls on all drawers. My white kitchen is kinda small, but I’m enjoying the look.

    Saved money on the HINGES. Got new ones in same style from same manufacturer, but the holes didn’t line up. Bummer!! Rather than drill new holes, used Rust-o-leum spray paint in satin chrome.

  • Michele says:

    I’m sorry to say that I agree with some of the other comments here; I feel that the tone of this post is fairly condescending. ‘Don’t read this post if you just redid your bathroom/kitchen and you are not a pro or a very talented amateur, because then you will see all your mistakes’??? Well, we just build a house with a large kitchen and 2,5 bathrooms – I am not a pro, have not studied undertones, and in spite of that it turned out very nice, thank you very much!

    The most irritating aspect, however, is the assumption that there are RULES. And woo thee if you do not follow them!!
    For me, the only rule is that the house should be as the person living there wants it to be. Do you want to follow the trends? Fine. Use a designer? Fine. Not use a designer? Also fine! Do whatever you want? Yes please, it’s YOUR house.

    Also, for me a house should not only be aesthetically pleasing. It also – or even first and foremost – has to be financially viable, durable, energy-efficient, practical, easy to clean/maintain, and so on.
    I understand that all those aspects are not within the scope of these blogposts. But it’s sad to read so many statements presented as ‘rules’ which in reality are personal preferences.

    In our kitchen we do not have any knobs on the lower cabinets. Only pulls (from the biggest box company of them all). And woe, all the pulls on the ‘work side’ of the kitchen are extra long! This means that they are easy to open, even for people with lessened hand function.
    And even better – I can hang towels wherever I want when I am cooking or doing dishes. (Isn’t it remarkable that none of these fancy kitchens ever features a teatowel hanging around…?)

    As for the drawers: even those got pulls. Not knobs.
    A long drawer with two pulls is a pain in the backside. It means that you always have to use two hands to open the drawer.
    We have two knobs on the drawers in our bathrooms. However, there I put a cute little pull in the middle. Much easier to open with one hand, and you don’t pull the drawers in a crooked way which diminishes their life span.
    It’s probably clear by now that, for me, form follows function. And not the other way around.

    The pictures with this blog look nice enough at first glance. Very contemporary and very ‘designed’. But look a bit closer and some of the rooms depicted seem to be suffering from a dose of TECS (The Emperors’ Clothes Syndrome).
    All the double taps in the bathrooms… I remember them from my youth, with the water always being too cold or too warm. Even if they look ‘cute’ or ‘classical’, I prefer a mixer tap any day. And in the kitchen it has to be one that I can operate with my elbow, so I don’t have to scrub two taps every time I have washed something nasty off my hands.

    The bathroom in the third picture – how are you supposed to put your makeup on, with that lighting?! The little vanity part is useless, since you do not have a mirror there, but a towel rail instead… so you can drip water all over the vanity when you want to dry your hands?? Don’t designers wash their hands?

    A combined home office and laundry room?! I spent too much time in our laundry room already, I don’t want my office there! Not to mention the noise and all my paperwork curling in the moisture… The vent under my feet would drive me crazy. And what’s with the golden tap in the corner?? How are you supposed to fill a bucket there, or rinse some spots out, while standing with your upper body totally bent sideways to get to the sink?? Ergonomics, anybody?

    I love the look of the old pine desk, repurposed with the marble top. Very cute, although I would never choose it myself because it’s such a pain to keep these vessel sinks clean. And the tap sticking out over it would probably poke my eye out, or at least give me a shiner every month or so.

    Oh well, I don’t think I can call myself a designer anytime soon :)! Hahaha!!

    • June says:

      Michele, I had a good chuckle reading your post. It so very well punctuates the fact that design is very personal. You sound confident in your choices and they turned out well. I’m JEALOUS!!!! I struggle with my choices and can’t even get white right!!!! Arrrrgh!!!! For that reason, I appreciate Maria’s input and expertise. I suppose to some, she might sound “bossy,” but I’m sure you’d agree that she’s earned it. After all, she taught us what “bossy” means, and she does her best to rescue us from bad results.

    • Kay says:

      I noticed the downturned lights over the bathroom sinks and thought the same thing. Recently we replaced the vanity sconces in our bathroom, which could turn either up or down. I tried them down and it looked awful— weird shadows everywhere. Facing up, the light is nicely distributed.

  • Jane says:

    Just an ordinary homeowner. I prefer knobs but I don’t object strongly to horizontal pulls on drawers in a large kitchen. In my mind, pulls must always go in only one direction, not both horizontal and vertical in the same space. And horizontal pulls on cabinets look ridiculous and seemingly wouldnt function well.

  • Stacy says:

    I have had both, and for my upcoming bathroom remodel, I chose pulls. So much easier to grab with one finger if you have something on your hands. By choosing a standard size installed in the center, you can switch them out for a different style if you’d like to. I’ve done the glass knobs in a bathroom before, which looked adorable, but I’m going for pulls this time! I do not like the really long, modern looking pulls, but I don’t like flat front cabinets either that suit that style of pull. My current kitchen is all knobs on drawers and cabinets, and I do not like it. The one thing I would not do again, in hindsight a mistake on a previous house, was the farmhouse pulls. Those were actually harder to grab and because of how you install them, you can’t replace them with a different look.

  • Emilie says:

    I actually kinda hate the all knob look, always have. Reminds me of those 80s kitchens with the white cabinets, dark green countertops, and brass knobs everywhere. I guess I am destined for a “big box kitchen” with all my pulls! ?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I hate the ALL PULL look more which is why I wrote this post, haha. I didn’t realize hardware was such thing! Maria

  • Deni says:

    We recently installed a new custom kitchen but thought I’d read your post anyway against your warning because I want to learn what mistakes I just made. In our first new build back in 1993, I chose a classic white kitchen with all knobs not unlike Sarah’s. It drove me crazy after a while because I saw a bunch of polka dots. Never did all knobs again in the future. Now I have all 8” satin brass pulls in my white kitchen, and because I have LOTS of drawers, they are so practical. You would definitely not approve but that’s okay because it’s my kitchen. That being said my new kitchen with pulls is far from “pedestrian”. They are so functional yet pretty as well, especially with the rest of the brass elements as the kitchen was done as part of an extensive renovation. As far as knobs, people are commenting on how impractical all knobs in a kitchen are for a variety of reasons which I agree with. I find blanket statements like “all knobs only”, “small knobs only”, “no pulls”, “no recessed lights”, are a real disservice because it comes across as 1 size fits all, with minimal attention on the functionality and specific needs. For my kitchen it would have been a huge mistake had I installed all knobs, and hugely impractical, not to mention a reminder of the polka dot effect from my 1993 white kitchen. So, ultimately I’m happy to say by reading your post, it confirmed that I didn’t make any mistakes!

    • Lisa says:

      I discovered Maria’s blog a couple months before finishing a custom build…. when the paint went up on the walls and I hated it ?

  • I really enjoyed this post, Maria. I have a lot of clients where we will do pulls on drawers and knobs on cabinet doors (to mix things up). I follow the 1/3 rule when specifying the pulls. As we all know with brands, it doesn’t always work out to be exactly 1/3, but it’s what I start with. With that, it’s so important to be organized when the cabinet installer is there to place the hardware on. And you are right – one mistake and it’s a mistake for the entire space (or you get the mistake fixed).

    I’m actually liking the knob look (except for those massive ones). A little less visually cluttered, with a touch of sophistication.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Janis says:

    Hi Maria! I’ve been a silent fan a long time (and hope to be a future student one day). Here’s my input on the knobs: I used knobs in a home once…kitchen and bath…and the proximity of those and MY pockets were a match made in HELL! So many pockets and belt loops got caught on them and were ripped as I swiftly moved along my counters to cook or serve. After that experience, I’ve never preferred knobs BELOW the counter (though I love the look). Perhaps I should slow down, but I bet there are a couple of other speedy-beans out there like me who may do the same. Thought I would share (warn). Giant Hugs!

    • Cami says:

      Yes! Agree 100% and was going to “say” the same thing. My sister too – she just remodeled and did all pulls for that very reason.

  • Fiona says:

    I agree with the pull-preferers. I dislike knobs for so many of the reasons already said – they catch on clothes, you need to use two hand on wide drawers where just one will do with a pull, functionally I think you need to use more force with a knob than a pull and I also really dislike the polka dot look. They can be pretty, but they remind me of a house from the 60s – they were only used then because they didn’t have the better option of pulls yet.

  • Diane says:

    I prefer some pulls on the heavier drawers. I think a combo just looks so much more interesting.

    • Maria Killam says:

      What I missed saying in this post is that I always specify a combination. However I was just pointed out another option. And it’s something to consider for the person who is overwhelmed with all the choices. Thanks for your comment. Maria

  • Ann J Chapdelaine says:

    I have porcelain knobs in my kitchen , two different colors with painted designs; glass knobs in my bath to compliment the 1912 glass door knobs;brass knobs in the guest bath to compliment the antique brass Gas light sconces that I had wired for electricity. In my office I have a turn of the century birds eye maple chest of graduated drawers. The drawers have white porcelain pulls!
    A single hole to make may be easy but do not do it yourself or think that a non-professional knows where to drill that hole for the knobs. A tall guy might drill it higher up on a top kitchen cabinet so be careful. Go to a high end kitchen showroom and measure the knob placement if you need to do it yourself.

    Knobs are easy to grab between fingers if you are cooking in the kitchen and have sticky finger tips or flour on your fingers.
    And the best part , they are usually less pricey than pulls . If you have large hands or fingers, you may want bigger knobs or prefer pulls.

  • Carrie TCE Dallas ‘18 says:

    Knobs for cabinets —pulls for drawers. In our kitchen it’s a pretty balanced mix which keeps it interesting.

  • Ann J Chapdelaine says:

    If knobs look like polka dots, the color of the knobs is wrong! Contrasting colors, such as white knobs on dark cabinets visually advance and will look polka dotty. Choose a color knob that blends into the cabinet better or recedes , if you prefer knobs and don’t want the polka dotty look. Didn’t we learn all about context in Maria’s classes?

  • Rp says:

    Well the designer who said no recessed lights in bathroom put a table lamp on the bathroom vanity so….

    But yes I think all pulls can look very busy. Knobs are beautiful but can look like creepy eyes. It’s all in how one sees things! Love your blog!

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Hi Maria,
    You’re right. If you have to select something for all of your cabinets & drawers in your new home, a simple knob would be such a simple decision to make. Especially when so MANY decisions have to be made that you’re exhausted. And you just don’t care anymore.
    At least that’s how I felt when my home was built.
    In my current laundry room reno, I picked out pink knobs. They repeat the ceiling color.

  • Robin says:

    I actually love pulls. Especially ladder pulls. I have an “all knob” kitchen and couldn’t wait to switch it up in our new sunroom. It is very important to me to be able to open the drawers and/or doors with comfort and ease. So if I choose knobs they must have the right feel and clearance. Same with pulls. We all love something different. And honestly things tend to grow on you slowly. At first you’re like “Nah, I could neverrr have that in my house.” And then as time goes by…bam–you’re smitten lol. Again, to each is own.

  • Fran W. says:

    Great post! I much prefer all knobs over all pulls, and have used all knobs in three bathrooms, my laundry room and on a large custom entertainment center in the den. In the kitchen, though, I like to mix knobs and pulls.

  • Christina says:

    63 comments and counting about kitchen hardware and I can’t believe that no one has commented about how you can’t ‘unsee’ silly smiley faces when people have a mix of drawer sizes and install a variety of hardware.
    ie: When someone has 2 smaller drawers on top with cups for their hardware of choice, then they’ll install a long bar below that for a longer drawer. Google it! It looks like they’ve got 2 eyes and a long mouth for a smiley face and it just looks odd.

    I am almost finished with our kitchen renovation and I went with stain brass bar pulls on all of my drawers (various sizes according to each drawer length) and T-bars on all of the upper cabinets. I had custom cabinets made with the deep, long drawers on 90% of my base cabinets and being an avid cook, I didn’t want to be yanking on a knob on one side of the heavy drawers with my pots and pans, not to mention that I prefer the look of pretty bars on drawers anyway.

    I had listened to the 1/3 design rule for the bar pulls on my drawers and I regret it. I wished that I had listened to my gut and went with drawers that were a little longer. I went with SW Snowbound on my Shaker cabinets and love the way the satin brass looks on my cabinets but wish my pulls made a bit more of a statement by being a bit longer than 1/3 of the length. It was suggested that I use the typical knobs on the cabinet doors and pulls on the bottom but I hated the look. I’ve never been a fan of knobs unless they were really cute, interesting or unique. I do love this designer’s home above but I too, think that too many knobs end up looking like a wall of polka dots and aren’t practical for homes with longer drawers.

  • Ellen says:

    By pulls do you mean the old fashioned cupped pulls or the run of the mill pulls.

  • Becky says:

    Hmmm… so, I’m thinking… If recessed lighting makes for Swiss cheese ceilings, doesn’t NON recessed lighting make for warty ceilings? I cook 3 times a day, and I do not want to even imagine how often I would have to clean non recessed lights! ?
    I can see the reduced room for error with an all-knobs kitchen and definitely appreciate that. My own kitchen has mostly pulls, but a previous owner added cabinets on another wall (I’d love to know the story behind that!), and put knobs on those. We have snagged SO MANY pockets on those drawers. The slides have been repaired/replaced so many times! I hadn’t really thought about that until this post, but I’d have to say I’d probably choose pulls for under-counter applications now. I do feel like I’d make better choices though, armed with your advice, so thank you!

    • Diane M says:

      I thought there were too many dangling bits from the ceiling too. I didn’t even stop to think about cleaning. I read somewhere that too many pendants and chandeliers don’t look right together.

      As for knobs and pulls I came to this article for clarifications read the comments and I’m more confused than before. However, many valid points are being made for pulls on the bottom cabinets and drawers.

  • Joanne says:

    I hesitated to hit the “read more” button because I have just finished renovating my entire house so I appreciated the warning about possibly having renovator’s remorse. Deciding between pulls and knobs had been a point of debate between me and my kitchen person. Since I was redoing an entire house and I liked the footprint of the kitchen, I went with refacing the cabinets. The designer was really pushing for all pulls, and although I liked them, I was concerned with whether my husband’s hands would fit comfortably, with cleaning under the pulls, etc. But she and I disagreed. I went with a combination of knobs on doors and pulls on drawers and I am very happy with my decision. I do like the pulls on my big drawers! My only concern is that in my former kitchen, I was able to easily change the knobs when I got bored or they looked a little tired. I think over a 20 year span, I swapped them out three times.

    I was sort of surprised that knobs vs pulls generated such firmly held positions – I thought it was funny that my kitchen designer and I spent so much time discussing, but now I see it is a “thing.”

    One last thought – as I approached my renovation I decided I wanted to be pleased with everything I did – something might not be perfect, but I wanted to be pleased. As I look around my home, I am happy. To be sure, there are things I wish I would have done differently, or that I could have afforded to do differently, but I AM pleased and truly that’s a great feeling.

  • martha schaub says:

    I have a small master bathroom and used all oval shaped pulls.
    In my kitchen, I used square pulls. It is a small compact kitchen.

  • Debbie says:

    I love those surface mounted lights in Sarah Richardson’s kitchen! Cant thank you enough for bringing this to your blog. I too love that they are white. Do you have any links or recommendations of companies who might carry a similar product?

  • Tammy Bourke says:

    It’s all based on the look you’re after, physical limitations (think arthritis etc.) and budget. Having knobs across the board seems builder to me because it’s easier. If you’re going to do knobs everywhere, at least do what Sarah did and pick a different one per room. Nothing frustrates me more than having a client want the same cabinet finish and handle in every room!

  • I love a combination of knobs and pulls. However, I decide room by room. I don’t have a boilerplate look.
    I, however, cannot understand why big name designers get away with doing something ugly and having it called “unique”. In my book, ugly is ugly — no matter how famous you are.

  • Tip says:

    Knobs are so much easier to install but I was just wondering – what about for a built-in fridge and dishwasher? Any experience with that? I have to admit I’ve never tried and have therefore always chosen pulls for everything as I don’t like to combine knobs and pulls but I do love the look of all knobs! 🙂

    • Tip says:

      Wait a minute, I just looked at he pictures again and lo a behold – PULLS on the fridge. Of course there are. This is fine for a large kitchen like hers but mine is tiny and only pulls on the fridge with knobs everywhere else would look odd I think!

      • Tip says:

        PS I’m willing to bet that the dishwasher also has a pull handle but it’s hiding on the island side that we can’t see, facing the range cooker!

  • LMC says:

    Wow, I’m surprised to learn that your “less is more” post engendered so much backlash! I read it (albeit quickly) and did not have that reaction. In fact, I thought it was an interesting point of view, one that I had not considered. It made me stop and survey my surroundings, after which I decided there isn’t anything I would change. However, I will definitely keep it in mind when helping my daughter with her bath reno. In my opinion, the biggest challenge when choosing knobs and pulls is getting the scale right for the size of the drawer or door of the cabinet. I love your blog and have read it faithfully for years. It always makes me stop and think.

  • Tam says:

    Great post Maria, interesting and informative as always! We built our home three years ago and had pulls put on the drawers, with knobs on the cabinets and it’s been perfect for us. Although I like the sleek, modern style of our pulls, I dislike the super trendy look of dozens of long handles on every possible door and drawer. The knobs are less obvious and give the cabinets a simple, clean look, balancing the visual weight and busy-ness of the pulls.

  • Claire Seng-Niemoeller says:

    The original builder’s interior designer put in all knobs in our naturally stained maple kitchen. They were Roman bronze (dark) in color. It did look a little polka dotted. However, there are 50 cabinets and drawers in our kitchen, including on both sides of an island. Anything else than the 1.25” knobs would look like way too much hardware. I ended up swapping out the dark knobs with brushed nickel ones that stand out less against the maple and echo the stainless appliances. Nobody so far has talked about quantity of pulls/knobs needed playing into a decision. That makes a difference too.

  • Susie says:

    The Emtek knobs and pulls were the only advice I actually used from your new build package a couple of years ago. I’m glad I do have pulls on the drawers, for the pure function they provide. They are ergonomically better for me. And definitely not pedestrian. I also think that it looks better than just having knobs. As much as I love Sarah Richardson’s designs, I don’t love this look.

  • Maria
    Thank you for the very interesting blog on knobs and pulls. Reading your blog gives food for thought and this one is no different. All knobs design can be personal, practical or financial. I hope each of your readers take what they can from your posts and blogs to learn what they prefer for themselves. For me, my tastes and design preferences change as I age.

  • Vicki Hodgman says:

    I just visited my daughters family for a week and they have knobs on everything. The garbage drawer/cupboard knob is a bit difficult to open because it is so large and heavy. I think there are always going to be place for pulls that just make more sense. All the new drawers and cupboards that have “soft close” are going to be too difficult to open unless you have a pull.

  • Cindy says:

    Who makes the dining chairs in the Less is More article?

  • Barbara says:

    I’m not a fan of a large kitchen done with knobs only. I usually do a mix of knobs on the uppers and pulls on the lowers. However I’ve done quite a few kitchens more recently using all pulls. I think the look of a longer pull on tall 42” uppers is more elegant and goes well with a transitional style. And the longer pulls are practical on drawers and base cabinetry. But, as has been mentioned, pulls are generally more expensive. I do not think they look like “big box” style as there are so many chic choices available now. I also like recessed lighting as ambient kitchen lighting. The idea that it looks like Swiss cheese is ridiculous, unless the ceiling is painted something other than white or cream. Then yes, it can look a bit busy. I like the lighting trim to be as close to the ceiling color as possible. Then you can give the room more character with beautiful pendants, sconces, and task lighting.

  • Michelle T. says:

    I agree with everything Maria says. Whatever controversy this blog post caused had blown over before I got a chance to read it. FWIW, this kitchen will probably have everyone in agreement…the pulls are just too darn long…

    In fact, everything over here is kinda weird. I went there looking for advice on staining cabinets but oh, heck no….

    I’m so grateful to have found Maria within the past year. She always brings me back to balance and good sense. I spend a fair amount of time looking at design everywhere I go. She really is the calm in the center of the storm because she’s honest and she knows her stuff!

  • Elizabeth says:

    LOVE your blog! Your advice is timeless, pure class, and reliable! Thank you for sharing your gift with the world!

    We recently painted several rooms a very pale green-greige (SW Pearly White). Can you advise which hardware tones would look best with this paint color? I am still needing to select cabinet hardware and light fixtures. Thank you so much for your advice!

  • Karen Hanretty says:

    I absolutely love the semi-sheer fabric on the window over the bathtub. Any chance someone knows who makes it or where to find it?

  • Cindi says:

    I personally think knobs are ugly (like itty bitty dots) and not as functional as pulls. I like modern style, so the flat ones at the top are nice, but not as functional as a pull either.

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