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How to Choose Metal Types for Cabinet Hardware

How to Choose Metal Types for Cabinet Hardware

Cabinet hardware like knobs and pulls are available in countless styles. They’re also each available in multiple metals.

That matrix of options—style, metal and finish—explains why one cabinet knob can cost $1 and another can cost $30 or more!

The real question is which do you choose?

Is the right choice based on your appliances?

Your cabinet colors?

Your budget?

From inexpensive cabinet hardware made from zinc to more expensive pulls and knobs made of copper and brass, choosing the metal type for your cabinet hardware is a decision you never thought would take so much out of you…

…The implications to your kitchen or bathroom design, however, are big. Your cabinet hardware is the “eye candy” of your cabinets (and, therefore, your space). It can completely transform a room.

Knowing your cabinet hardware means knowing your metals and finishes. Let’s look at some favorites to compare, then talk about the design implications of each.


full kitchen remodel by signature home services showing cabinets custom designed with natural woodCabinet Hardware by Metal Type

Most of us first see the color of cabinet hardware before we guess what metal it is. And when it comes to color, some of us have some pre-established ideas of what can go with what when matching cabinet hardware to your cabinets and appliances.

For example, anyone who goes with darker cabinets (in wood or finish) might think to go for a lighter metal type for the hardware. That way, it really “pops.”

What metal could that mean, though? Let’s look, material by material…

Polished Brass

Polished brass has a shiny, golden look to it. It’s sealed with a lacquer coating so it won’t age or tarnish. That lacquer will dull over time, though.

Unlacquered Brass

Brass cabinet hardware can come unlacquered, too! This means that the brass will naturally change in color as it ages and oxidates. The natural, raw brass originally comes with a warm and rosy color. You can always polish it back to its original shine, too…though that does mean it needs more maintenance than other selections.

Antique Brass

Want a patina without the maintenance?! Select antique brass for your cabinet hardware. This brass comes chemically aged so it can be sealed for you. The most popular seals carry a low luster, too, bringing the antique look that will never need polishing.


Ah, bronze cabinet hardware…you’ll have AMPLE choices of finishes here, so the look of bronze can vary more than you realize. Bronze itself is also corrosion resistant, meaning humidity will never tarnish it. Bronze is more porous than brass, however, and can develop tiny shrinkage cavities over many years.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is what many homeowners think they need if their appliances are also stainless steel, however mixing and matching is WELL within your design options!

More on that later…

That said, stainless steel is still a popular cabinet hardware metal type. It’s especially good for outdoor kitchens since it’s corrosion resistant. The unfinished material can easily be polished, too, or even sanded to remove scratches. It is, however, more expensive than many other cabinet hardware options.


Nickel looks especially modern with a brushed finish, though it also comes in polished finishes. Its color is something like sterling but it’s still warmer than chrome. Any nickel hardware that’s not lacquer-sealed will require maintenance to avoid tarnish.

Matte Black Cabinet Hardware

I really MUST make a special mention for matte black hardware! This is a relatively new and contemporary option that instantly took on a classic look. Usually, black hardware is made by powder coating another type of metal.

Read more about trends in black and white in interior design


Mixing Materials

As I mentioned before, mixing metals (with the cabinet hardware being one type, and your appliances another) is absolutely something you can do!

Gone are the days of having to match EVERYTHING…that goes for colors, too.

Designer Note: Smaller kitchens generally have to be more cohesive in matching selections, but if you have a larger space, give yourself the luxury of picking exactly what you want.

For example, imagine you want your cabinet door pulls to be different than your cabinet knobs. You can do that!

Why would you, you ask?

Think about the upper cabinets versus the lower ones…most people don’t see the lower cabinet hardware, especially from over the island or from the other room.


So…the cabinet hardware tucked down below counter level can be the most practical style and metal selection. The cabinet hardware on the upper cabinets, on the other hand, can be your eye candy and chance to add some bling.

Imagine another kitchen where you have dark cabinets. Instead of matt black cabinet hardware, maybe you choose a polished nickel, but a two-tone selection with black leather…

You can do that, too!

The trick is to coordinate it all, but mixing CAN be done. This is what can turn a kitchen or bathroom remodel into an instant “wow” space if you choose right.

Contemporary Pull

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The beauty of stainless steel appliances…

Most kitchens today will have stainless steel appliances. They’re popular for a reason—stainless steel is corrosion-proof, easy to polish to look as good as new, and offers a neutral addition to design.

If your instinct is to choose stainless steel cabinet hardware to “go” with your stainless steel appliances, it certainly won’t look bad. Stainless steel on dark cabinets, in particular, can really pop.

If you do decide you want to make a statement with your cabinet hardware, however, this is your opportunity to complement your appliances (since they offer such a neutral backdrop).

Remember: Your cabinet hardware is your easiest way to add some bling to a space. It’s one of those details that INSTANTLY dresses up a room, but in a way that onlookers don’t even realize…they just “feel” what you were going for.

It’s been said that “good design leaves a lasting visual impression. Exceptional design leaves a feeling that no impression could summarize, and no single detail can explain.”

Keep reading up on how to clean stainless steel, too.


Make a statement!

Personally, I like making a statement with cabinet hardware.

For example, if you’re doing a shaker door or flat-panel door for your cabinets, find the swankiest cabinet hardware you can.

Yes, the price differences are a factor, but if you consider your cabinet hardware the “eye candy” of your space, you can treat yourself a little more willingly.

I mean…if you got dressed up for an event…the hair, the outfit, the makeup…would you feel ready without putting on your jewelry, too?! What’s the point in dressing your kitchen up just to call it “done” before having fun with that final step?…

Read more about how to select your cabinet hardware, or get in touch for your own personal interior design consultation today!

Or download our most recent quarterly magazine for some instant inspiration

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