Cabinet Hardware Placement: A Complete Guide

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This simple cabinet hardware placement guide has everything you need to know about how the style, color, and scale of your hardware affect the design of any space. Whether replacing existing hardware or starting from scratch, this guide will help you choose and install the perfect combination to show off your impeccable style. Find my kitchen sources at the end of this post!

classic white kitchen with marble countertops, white subway tile, perfectly placed unlacquered brass hardware

The Importance of Cabinet Hardware

A well-designed kitchen is full of thoughtful details regarding design and functionality. Cabinet knobs and handles may be a small part, but they are the jewelry of a kitchen! Careful consideration must be taken when choosing the following:

  • Style – keep the style of your hardware consistent with the look and feel of your home. The goal is for it to accentuate your kitchen, not stick out like a sore thumb.
  • Materials – knobs and handles come in so many different materials these days. I prefer to stick with traditional metals, but you can get them in other natural materials like glass, stone, or wood.
  • Scale – this is all about balance. Consider the size of your cabinets and drawers, and the amount of hardware you will need to help you decide on specifics. If you have a lot of cabinetry, using large-scale hardware may end up overwhelming the design rather than completing it.
stacked cabinets with round knobs and door latches, pulls on drawers
light bulb graphic

Note: No matter where you install it, your cabinet hardware should be easy to access and located where it feels natural to use.

Traditional Knob Placement

The classic combination of hardware is to install knobs on doors and handles or pulls on drawers. This is my preferred cabinet hardware placement as I live in a traditional-style home.

closeup up of white inset cabinets with unlacquered brass hardware, round ball knobs on the cabinet door and pulls on the drawers

Old-fashioned cabinet knob placement is in the corner of the door – centered on both the bottom rail and the stile opposite the hinges. Currently, you’re more likely to find the knobs placed a little higher on the stile – 2 1/2″-3″ from the bottom of the door.

cabinet knob placement diagram

diagram of traditional cabinet knob and handle placement

Modern Knob Placement

Interior designers have moved toward a higher placement for knobs. They are still centered on the stile but are installed parallel to or above the top edge of the bottom rail.

Modern hardware is intended to have a contemporary look. For a truly modern style, designers will sometimes use pulls only or knobs only in their designs.

Another modern look is to use knobs on wall cabinets and pulls on the lower cabinets and drawers. This creates a different type of consistency, but I will always be drawn to the traditional combination of knobs and pulls.

Drawer Hardware Options

As you can see in the graphics above, using the same hardware on both doors and drawers gives your kitchen a sleek and modern look.

white cabinet drawers with unlacquered brass bin pulls

The general rule of thumb for using knobs on drawers is that you can use a single knob on a drawer that is 24″ or below. Anything wider requires the use of two knobs or a longer pull instead.

My bathroom vanity is an example of that. You can see in the image below that I have a single knob on the smaller drawers but then used two on the wider drawer.

bathroom with aged brass hardware, small drawers with a single knob and larger drawer with double knobs

In the case of two knobs or pulls, the proper placement requires some additional measuring. Divide the drawer width into thirds, then center the hardware in the outer two sections.

diagram of kitchen drawers with double knob placement
diagram of kitchen drawers with double pull placement

Again, this is all about personal preference and the look you are going for. In this situation, I prefer one larger pull centered on the drawer. If you are constantly pulling on one side of the drawer all the time, this may lead to alignment issues down the road.

classic white kitchen with stacked inset cabinets, brass cabinet hardware, marble countertops, white subway tile, microwave drawer

Tips for Picking the Right Cabinet Hardware

There are endless options when it comes to hardware. Cabinet hardware placement is important, but the style and material you choose are equally as impactful. I mentioned above that it comes in all sorts of materials, but for the kitchen, metal hardware is best.

If you read my post about Updating My 90s Home, then you know I am no fan of brushed nickel. It’s very low maintenance, but the association with boring builder-grade fixtures is enough for me to skip it and go with polished nickel instead. I eventually switched it all out for unlacquered brass and couldn’t be happier!

close up of kitchen drawers that have a dingle brass handle

One of the suggestions I always give when it comes to choosing design elements is to consider the overall style of your home. I’m all about mixing textures and materials, but hardware is a good place to keep it consistent.

Mixing metals in a kitchen is a beautiful way to make it more visually interesting. Use the same metal for all your hardware but bring in other metal colors with light fixtures.

Tools Needed to Install Cabinet Hardware

This is a DIY project that requires just a few tools. Here are the things I have on hand for when I’m contemplating cabinet hardware placement.

  • Tape measure – measure and measure again to prevent any installation mishaps.
  • Drill – you’ll use this to make the holes for the hardware screws. It’s usually pretty standard, but check the size of the screw so you can pick the right drill bit.
  • Cabinet hardware template – these are inexpensive devices you can use to help you install your hardware. It comes with multiple pre-measured holes making it useful for several different sizes of knobs and pulls.
  • Jig tool – this may be necessary if you have cabinet pulls longer than 6″ or if you need to find the center of deep drawers. Templates are limited but are perfect for simple knob placement.
close up of white cabinet doors with modern cabinet knob placement

No cabinet template or jig tool? No problem! I recently found myself ready to install hardware without either of these things and it worked out just fine. All you have to do is find cardboard that you can cut to size. Next, line up the hardware and make holes in the cardboard where the screw holes will be. This leaves you with a template to use along with a level and tape measure to make the holes in the right spot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use different cabinet hardware finishes in my kitchen?

This is tricky to pull off. Unless you have a large kitchen with mixed cabinets, I’d steer clear of trying to mix hardware finishes. If you want to mix things up, keep the hardware consistent and add light fixtures with a complementary tone.

What if I install cabinet door handles and then change my mind?

If you are uncertain about what to do, start with knobs. They require a single hole and if you decide later to add a handle, you just have to add a second hole. The only time you might be able to go the other way is if you plan on painting your cabinets. This requires using wood filler and lots of sanding.

How do I update my kitchen with hardware?

This is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to breathe new life into your kitchen. If a remodel isn’t currently in your budget, swap out your hardware for a new and updated finish and style!

My Kitchen Sources:

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