If you think that the choice of door handles in your kitchen is a small decision to be made at the end of the kitchen design process, or an item that’s at the bottom of your list of kitchen requirements, think again. As we might add a pair of earrings as the final touch for an outfit, handles on kitchen cabinetry are like the final flourish, a form of “kitchen jewellery” if you will. Handles are not only a finishing touch, but an essential functional element for both cupboards and drawers.

Getting a handle on style

Choosing the right handle plays a big role in your kitchen’s overall style. Handles should complement the other elements that you have already chosen for your kitchen, for example, countertops and lighting. They also need to complement the kitchen’s overall look – for example, a traditional handle will never look right in a Mid-Century Modern home design. The shape of your cabinetry will also determine the style of handle that you choose.

A period-style kitchen will benefit from decorative handles or cup handles, for a traditional feel that complements period-style elements such as ornate mouldings and corbelling.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, a contemporary kitchen that exudes a sleek aesthetic will really look the part with a simple, streamlined handle on minimalist cabinet and drawer fronts. Slim rectangular handles are perfect here, as are handles with flush ends.

If you can’t commit to a completely period-style or contemporary look in your kitchen, combining contemporary cabinetry with traditional-look handles encapsulates the transitional theme.

Tip: Choose a complementary colour for handles, to avoid a colour clash with cabinetry. Alternatively, use a bold-coloured handle for striking contrast in an all-white kitchen.

Common types of cabinetry handles

Cup handles: The rounded, decorative appearance suits period-style or traditional kitchens.

Flush handles: These are a bold, geometric shape designed to sit flush with cabinet door fronts and offer a sleek, clutter-free look. It’s also a hygienic choice as dirt and grime can’t get stuck around the edges.

Cabinet knobs: Simple, round and understated, these reduce visual clutter in smaller kitchens.

Traditional steel or nickel pulls or knobs: A simple style that will work in practically any kitchen.

Ceramic or glass knobs: Vintage-style glass or ceramic knobs have a simple, round style and are available in a multitude of colours and finishes for a unique look.

Tubular bar pull: These go perfectly with a Shaker-style kitchen design and create a modern feel. Choose between short or long options.

Bar handles: These fit horizontally along the top of a cupboard door, for an unobtrusive look, and are especially suited to minimalist decor.

Wire pulls with accents: Rustic pewter wire pulls are superb in a traditional-style space.

Pulls with exposed screws: Bronze or brass pulls with exposed screws on the sides deliver an industrial vibe.

D-shape handles: A horizontal length curves down at both ends, are fitted to the front of a cabinet door, and have a timeless look that will stand the test of time as trends come and go. It’s an ergonomic choice and easy to grip.

T-bar handles: A horizontal bar with two visible fixings positioned at right angles along the length. Easy to use and a popular addition in many kitchens.

Tip: Pulls are more comfortable against your hands, and more practical for large drawers that store pots and pans, and also for pantry doors. After all, your kitchen is a high-use space, and you not only want your space to look amazing, but for those using the kitchen to be comfortable, too. The rule of function over form rings true here.

Selecting the finish

After locking in the style of handle, another decision is the finish. Traditional handles offer an array of finishes including copper, chrome, pewter, brass, bronze, iron, aluminium, black matte, nickel, brushed steel and stainless steel.

Accentuate your contemporary kitchen with polished chrome handles, to complement polished chrome tapware at the sink. Brushed stainless-steel handles are the perfect match for a modern kitchen, and likewise, go hand in hand with stainless-steel tapware. An antique finish, meanwhile, looks the part in a traditional kitchen.

Tip: For consistency, ensure that all handles throughout your kitchen are the same length. Of course, your professional kitchen designer will be more than happy to suggest the right handle to complement your cabinetry. They will also provide advice about the positioning of handles – the rule is that handles are placed horizontally on pull-out drawers and vertically on doors.

No handles? No problem

Here’s an idea – opt for no handles, to really create a modern and streamlined look. For those who are space challenged in their kitchen, handle-less options meet limited space requirements. If there are small children in the household, handles can be a safety hazard, and clothing can also catch on handles. So for these reasons, handle-less options may be the way to go.

Doors and drawers can be opened with just a single push, and push-to-open mechanisms are a simple way to open cabinet doors and drawers without the use of handles. By pushing on the door, it pops open 30mm to 50mm, allowing the user to grab the front and effortlessly open it up, and closes by doing the opposite. Push-to-open mechanisms allow for a minimalist design with no handles or visible opening.

Another option is touch-catch drawers and cabinets. It’s important to consider the placement of the mechanisms, so that they don’t pop open too easily when you’re preparing meals.

Invisible handles or integrated handles along the cabinetry profile are another appealing option for a minimalist-style kitchen.

Soft-close doors and drawers have a smooth closing action that prevents them from being slammed shut. Self-closing means that the hinge or drawer has built-in design elements that pulls the drawer or door shut, sometimes with a bang, and ensures that doors and drawers don’t stay ajar.

Lift-up systems for overhead cabinets make access a lot easier, especially in tight spaces.

Hidden pull handles are a simple and cost-effective way to achieve a clean look, with the hidden pulls fixed to the top edge of each door or drawer panel so that just a small portion juts out. Some styles are more invisible, while others, known as edge pulls, are very minimalist, however, easy to grasp with fingertips.

In classic finger rails, lines or channels are created by each rail, and will require regular cleaning.

Tip: Handle-less kitchens cost up more than a kitchen with conventional handles due to the additional labour in the manufacturing process of the handle-less cabinetry, so discuss these additional costs with your kitchen designer.

Looking to pick the perfect handles as part of your kitchen renovation or new build? Speak to the professional kitchen design experts at Art of Kitchens.