GOOD ARCHITECTS AND BUILDERS use a trade secret that is so simple you could hardly classify it as a secret: They put money into products that home buyers touch every day and go thrifty on items that they don't (such as crown moldings). This tack applies to such items as faucets and countertops, but it also includes cabinet pulls.
Cabinet hardware is one product category that is easy to overlook. After all, it's not very obvious. Home buyers don't cut on it or turn it on, and they certainly don't walk on it. People touch it every day, however, and the right pull can enhance the overall appearance of kitchen or bath cabinetry.
“Good cabinet hardware makes a statement of quality,” says Ilene Sokoloff of San Francisco–based Sóko, a company that manufactures sculptural decorative hardware and accessories. How that product feels in the homeowner's hand is important, she says. “Our products have no hollow parts and no rough edges,” Sokoloff explains, so they feel comfortable. Sóko's products are hand cast in bronze or stainless steel, so they also feel substantial, she notes.
Cabinet hardware comes in many forms—handcrafted, whimsical, or sleek and modern—to suit any personal taste. One manufacturer that offers a wide range of architectural and contemporary cabinet pulls is Valli & Valli, an Italian company with U.S. headquarters in New York. Known for commissioning architects to design its products, Valli offers a variety of sizes, finishes, and materials, including stainless steel and zinc.
For home buyers wishing to express their creative side, Southampton, Pa.–based MNG Designer Hardware specializes in handmade products in animal themes or Art Deco styles. More than 300 lines are available in up to 11 finishes.
Still, Sóko's Manhandles is perhaps the most talked-about line of cabinet hardware of the past five years. Depicting figures in various states of animation and repose, the pieces can be used on cabinets and doors. Sokoloff says some buyers even use them on appliances or throughout the house as a style statement. At almost $200 a pop, they certainly say something.
MOD BEHAVIOR: Featuring a contemporary design, the A2024 handle makes a style statement in a sleek kitchen. Its smooth design and flat shape make it adaptable to any bathroom or kitchen environment, the company says. Crafted from a zinc alloy, it measures almost 10 inches and comes in satin nickel and chrome. Valli & Valli. 877-326-2565. www.vallivalli-us.com.
REIN MAN: Manhandles are the ultimate in whimsical cabinet hardware. Measuring about 7 ½ inches from head to toe, the pieces are handmade from cast bronze or stainless steel and come in various styles. The company says overall height will vary based on position and due to the inexact nature of the production process. They are available in 11 finishes. Sóko. 888-828-7656. www.sokostudio.com.
HIP SQUARES: The truly hip are squares, the manufacturer believes. Citing recent consumer appetite for Mini Coopers and prefab homes, the company has unveiled a line of modern, square-cornered pulls. It offers nine designs in matte black, brushed nickel, polished chrome, and matte chrome finishes. Each piece measures from 4 ½ to 9 inches. Atlas Homewares. 818-240-3500. www.atlashomewares.com.
WILD LIFE: Animal-themed cabinet pulls are not for everyone, but some people are drawn to them. Starting from hand-drawn designs, the manufacturer carves the molds by hand so each piece features true-to-life details, the company says. Available in a wide selection of wild or farm animals, the pieces come in brass, silver antique, brass antique, and copper antique. MNG Designer Hardware. 877-598-8889. www.mnghardware.com.