Where to Place Hardware on Cabinets


Often, it is the smallest of details that can have a tremendous impact on the overall aesthetic and functionality of your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room. And so, a cabinet and drawer hardware can have such impact.

Aside from paint, a cabinet and drawer hardware is one of the cost-effective ways to make a great impact on the look of your space. As long as you use the right hardware, it can complement other elements of your space, accentuating its colors, lines, and textures.

The placement and positioning of the hardware on cabinets and drawers are crucial to their aesthetic effect and, most importantly, functionality. You want your cabinets to look professionally done, and again most importantly, you want to use them.

Installing cabinet and drawer hardware can be intimidating – if you install it improperly, it can make the whole room look off, aside from wasting your time, effort, and money. All of a sudden, everything looks cluttered and disorganized, and the last thing you want to do is ending up spending a lot more to correct these errors. To avoid this, you may want to read this guide and get a lot of helpful tips here, which will help you to become confident in installing cabinet hardware in a precise and near-professional manner.

While the positioning and placement of the hardware do affect the funcionality of the space, it is otherwise a matter of personal preference. There are different types of arrangements in cabinet hardware, so find out which placement and style are the right ones for you.

Which do you prefer: knobs or pulls?

 First things first — before getting to the installation part, you will have to decide which type of cabinet hardware you will want to use – knobs, pulls, or both? The purpose of proper cabinet placement is to enhance the look of your space and to make it functional – something that you will be able and want to use. Because what good is a fancy-looking knob when it’s installed in the wrong way? You may find it difficult to open or close the door.

The fundamental functions of knobs and pulls are the same – to facilitate opening and closing cabinet and drawer doors. However, each also brings a unique style to a room. Which type or style of knob or pull you want depends on what specific type of style you want to bring to your space.

A knob is the most common and basic handle. Knobs are usually round or circular, but there are also other knobs which have angular or even unusual shapes. They are typically supported by a single screw.

hardware cabinnet

A pull is a bar that is broad enough for the multiple fingers to hold it.  There are many types of pulls that can match a traditional or contemporary look of a space.

While many kitchens and bathrooms use only knobs or pulls, others use both knobs and pulls, adding flexibility and aesthetic interest to the space. This kind of hardware placement is best applied for transitional and semi-modern spaces. For example, if you have a kitchen which has a mix of both traditional and modern – not too vintage-looking nor not too sleek – you can use pulls and knobs interchangeably.

Types of cabinet doors

Types of cabinet doors

Installing the wrong type or design of hardware will result in a terrible design mismatch if you don’t know what type of cabinets your room has. So, it also helps to know about the different cabinet door designs.

Traditional-style cabinet door – traditional-style cabinet doors typically have a raised panel design, outlined by carved stiles and rails. The center panels can be purely angular in shape or have a combination of angular and soft or arched appearance. You can use either knobs or pulls on this type of cabinet door.

Transitional-style cabinet door – cabinet doors that aren’t too traditional, yet not too modern, fall into the transitional category. You can use either all knobs or all pulls. A combination of both can also be used, as long as they are installed properly and tastefully. There are three types of transitional cabinet door styles:

  • Recessed – a door which features a depressed or sunken central panel
  • Shaker – a door that typically features a recessed central panel with rail frames. Shaker cabinets are a popular trend in design nowadays because of their classic and versatile look. They are suitable in both traditional and contemporary (but not too modern) homes.
  • Mullion – a door which features glass panes as panels.

Modern – a cabinet door which uses a flat slab of wood, or any other solid material. While modern cabinet doors seem to put more emphasis on functionality and efficiency over style, their minimalist appearance makes them look clean, chic, and sleek. Plus, the aesthetic is very European. They feature limited (or even zero) detail and a straightforward layout. Modern cabinets typically have pull handles to keep up with the overall linear and “flowing” design aesthetic of a modern room.

Installing knobs 

Installing knobs

If you know what type of door your cabinets have, it will be easier for you to choose the type of hardware you’re going to install on them. 

For instance – if you are going for a traditional, transitional, semi-modern or contemporary look, you may want to use knobs for the cabinet doors. 

Of course, since this is your room, you will want to allow your personal preference to play a significant factor in the placement of hardware. But in case you do not know where to start, look at where your cabinets are built, or how tall they are. They can make a useful guide for you in the proper positioning of knobs:  

  • Wall cabinets or cabinets placed above the counter space – you can install knobs two to three inches from the lower corner of the door panel.
  • Base cabinets or cabinets placed under the counter space – you can install knobs two to three inches from the upper corner of the door panel.
  • Tall cabinets – you can install knobs, on the center and vertically, on the door panels (instead of at the lower corners). Very important: make sure you are tall enough to reach those knobs!

Installing pulls

Installing pulls

The same rules apply in installing pulls, as do the rules in installing knobs. Pulls are ideal for both traditional and modern cabinets. The only difference is selecting the right styles and designs of pulls for them.

Pulls will look best when they are installed directly in the corner of doors. When installing pulls, keep in mind that the ideal positioning should be within the one- to four-inch range from the top or bottom edge of the drawer, although it still depends on your personal preference.

Both professional and DIY-ers install pulls on cabinets usually in the vertical position, while they install pulls on drawers in the horizontal position. The reasons are both practical and aesthetic – positioning pulls in this way makes it much easier for the drawers to open and close.

Installing pulls on drawers based on width:

  • For smaller drawers (24 inches wide and less), it’s recommended that you should install pulls in both directions. Again, they should be installed in the horizontal position.
  • For wider drawers (greater than 24 inches wide), it’s recommended that you should double up on pulls. You may consider installing a bigger and longer pull that covers much of the drawer front’s surface area. It allows for quicker installation since you only have to put one big pull, instead of two smaller pulls.

You can also install pulls on the topmost part of the drawer panel, where the drawer rail starts. This method of installation is especially good for base drawers (drawers under the counter space).

Installing pulls on drawers based on height:

  • While the size of drawer fronts vary, the ideal position to install pulls is the center of the drawer front. This method works for many drawer front size ranges.
  • For drawer fronts measuring 12 inches tall and above, the ideal position to install pulls is the topmost of the drawer front. This makes the drawer easier to open.

Extra tip on installing pulls on drawers:

Usually, one pull is enough for each drawer, since pulls are usually sturdy. But some drawers are big or heavy because it’s either they are incorporated with stone or metal parts, or they are filled with cast-iron pots and pans. For this reason, you have to consider installing two pulls per drawer.

For the first-time installers…

Installing knobs and drawers can be a laborious process. If you are going to do this job for the first time, keep in mind that this job requires a lot of thought, attention and maybe some research. Rushing the project is one of the things that first-timers do, which is one of the costliest mistakes they have ever made.

So, never do that – instead, take your time before you begin work. Remember, you will probably spend a lot of time and thousands of dollars on hardware placement. You do not want all your time, efforts and money go to waste because you were rushing the work.

Function and style are equally important when it comes to hardware placement. However, a lot of people prioritize style over function. They choose fancy-looking handles that are not otherwise compatible with the make and design of the cabinet or drawer. As a result, the handles end up looking odd, changing the way the door has to be opened.

The quality of tools is also crucial to the outcome of the project. Many first-time installers choose to cut corners by using cheap or outdated tools, thinking that it will save them money. However, using incorrect tools will take them all day in the kitchen, if not two days.

What if these inexpensive tools do not work the way they are supposed to work? You’ll end up buying another cheap tool, or opt for high-quality equipment – but that entails unnecessary extra expense. Plus, these delays slow down the project. Always remember that working with high-grade tools will significantly speed up the project. Not only will you save time, but you will also save money in the process.