How to choose kitchen cabinet handles - 7 things to consider when choosing the best handles

Struggling to pick your kitchen cabinet handles? Experts share their secrets to getting it right

Black kitchen cabinets with gold handles
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Whether you're remodelling your kitchen entirely or looking for kitchen cabinet ideas to refresh the existing space, your hardware choice can bring your vision to life and tie the whole overall look and feel together. But how to choose kitchen cabinet handles isn't the simplest task.

'The catches and handles, although the last thing to put on, are just as important as everything else, if not more so. They can lift a simple cupboard and give an air of quality to the whole room, make sure they are really well designed and really well made,' says Helen Parker, Creative Director of deVOL Kitchens

How to choose kitchen cabinet handles

Kitchen cabinet handles are one of the first things you’ll notice in your kitchen, and as well as being decorative, the right choice can also make your experience in the kitchen more comfortable and smooth. We’ve asked the experts, and put together a guide on how to choose kitchen cabinet handles, to help you consider the following things before choosing the all-important finishing touches!

1. Complementing your kitchen style

Dark kitchen cabinets with gold handles and beige walls

(Image credit: Future PLC / Fiona Walker-Arnott)

Whether your kitchen features shaker kitchen ideas or is ultra-contemporary, your choice of handles should complement the overall style. There are no strict guidelines when it comes to kitchen hardware but it is worth considering that there are certain shapes, styles and finishes that lend themselves better to traditional or modern kitchen ideas

Typically, in a traditional kitchen, aged metals and shapely handles tend to work best. Antique handles can add character and individuality to a traditional kitchen, and allow you to make a real feature of them whilst remaining sympathetic to the overall design. 

With a more modern kitchen design, the choices are limitless from sleek uniform handles with clean lines to bold statement handles that become a key design feature. 

2. Determine if you want a knobs or pulls

Much like positioning, choosing whether to select a knob or a pull is entirely up to the individual. We would encourage anyone who’s unsure to mix and match and see what feels best.

Navy blue kitchen cabinets

(Image credit: Future PLC)

For larger heavier doors, pulls are likely to be a better choice. This will allow your whole hand to grab instead of only your fingertips.  For cabinets, it is generally considered that knobs work better as they require less effort to open.

'Determining whether to use knobs or pulls/bars all comes down to the type of door you'll be using it on. Knobs are best for overhead and hinged cupboard doors that aren't too heavy or large, whereas pulls and bars are better suited for integrated appliance doors, extra long drawers or heavier, soft-close doors,' says Kate Worthington, founder of Swarf Hardware

Stylistically, both knobs and pulls have a variety of options that would suit any style of kitchen. Cup handles look great when paired with shaker-style cupboards and you can find all manner of interesting shaped knobs and pulls for a modern kitchen design. 

3. Figure out what shape

Navy kitchen cabinets

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

When choosing your kitchen handles, looking at the kitchen space as a whole may help you with your decision. Take note of the style of your cabinets, the edges of your worktop ideas and any other hardware, fixtures and fittings.

If you have predominantly curved details, such as arched taps and round lampshades, choosing cup handles would keep consistency. Similarly, if you have angular kitchen lighting ideas and harder edges, consider choosing handles that mimic these lines. Slim rectangular pulls and square knobs would really enhance a kitchen with angular features worked in the design. 

4. Choose the colour and finish

One of the most impactful and personal decisions you will make when choosing your kitchen cabinet handles, is the colour and finish.

Think about whether you want your kitchen door handles to blend in with the overall kitchen colour scheme, or if you would like to make a bold statement with contrasting colours. Linking the colour and finish to other elements of the kitchen design, such as lighting and kitchen tile ideas, is a great way of keeping fluidity in the space.

Pink kitchen cupboards with gold handles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Hardware is an excellent way to add a bit of colour and flair to a plain kitchen as handles can be swapped so easily. A bold, contrasting knob or handle works wonders to lift white or grey units. For a more harmonious scheme, pick up on shades already in the space,' says Kate Worthington, founder of Swarf Hardware

When opting for metallics, make sure you settle on high-quality materials such as solid brass or stainless steel. These are durable and long-lasting, which is essential in a high-touch point space. If you have decided on a traditional style kitchen, high-quality metals will also age beautifully over time.

'You can achieve a softer look by choosing products which have a ‘living finish’. This means that the finish has been designed to change and patina with use. This adds to their overall character and blends more naturally with any antiques you may have in the space,' says Alex Bilton, Product Lead at Rowen & Wren

Black, chrome and brightly coloured metals work wonderfully in fresh modern spaces, bringing a contemporary design edge to your kitchen space. Brass handles are fantastic for instantly bringing warmth and a premium feel to your kitchen. Pricing does vary amongst finishes, so we advise to explore home decor discount codes so you can avoid having to settle on something that isn't quite right.

5. Functionality

When you consider how often you will be touching your kitchen handles in a day, you’ll want to make sure that accessibility and comfort are at the forefront of your decision. Does the handle fit your hand and feel good? Does it feel sharp or have any ridges that are uncomfortable when opening and closing? 

pink kitchen with marble tops

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Think about how you'll be using the cupboard or drawer and how you'll be moving around the space to determine the best positioning for your handles. Is a vertical or horizontal mounting easier to grab for certain doors? What's a comfortable height for your hand to reach? They needn't all be orientated the same way,' says Kate Worthington, founder of Swarf Hardware.

If you are opting for handles over knobs, you should be able to fit four fingers comfortably around the handles, and grip easily. Consider sharp edges on cabinet handles, especially if you have young children and bear in mind members of your family who may have specific physical requirements or struggle gripping small objects. 

'Pulls can be a bit easier to grab onto, making them a great option for people with weak or arthritic hands. Your hands also have less contact with your cabinets, which helps to keep your surfaces clean – especially if lighter in colour or made of a material more likely to stain,' says Tom Revill, Co-Founder at Plank Hardware

6. Position

kitchen with cashmere cupboards and cabinets with ceramic vases and pots

(Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

There is an unwritten rule that handles are placed vertically on doors and horizontally on pull-out drawers. When assessing the positioning of the handles in your kitchen, hold your handles against the drawers and cabinets, and play with different heights and positions for each of them.

'Ergonomics is important in the kitchen space. Where possible, hardware should be positioned where it can be grasped naturally and with ease. And uniformity again is essential to making a space with finesse,' says Madie Dorodny, Global PR Manager at  Buster & Punch 

Of course, there are no rules to positioning but if you are looking to achieve a more contemporary look in your kitchen, you can try out positioning the handles horizontally on your doors. Irregular and unusual placement can further make your handles a unique design feature in your kitchen. 

7. Size

If you want to achieve a neat, minimal feel in your kitchen, but would prefer to not go down the handleless route, opt for small, discreet knobs or slimline handles. 

Black kitchen cabinets with gold handles

(Image credit: Future PLC / Fiona Walker-Arnott)

If you love to make a statement, the size of your handle is a place you can really bring some personality to the space. Large, oversized handles will give an instant wow factor to a kitchen design. If you are opting for big statement handles, look to replicate this through the kitchen units to allow for continuity in the space. 

If you're still unsure which sizes would work best in your kitchen, Tom Revil has a handy tip. 'If you’re second-guessing your hardware choices, a useful tip is to cut lengths of masking tape to the full length of the cabinet pulls you’re interested in,' he says. 

'Then, place the pieces of tape in position on your kitchen cabinets. This will help you gauge how the given size and proportions of the hardware will look on your cabinetry.'

What type of handle is best for kitchen cabinets?

It really comes down to a matter of preference but knobs work wonderfully on a standard size kitchen cabinet as they require less effort to open.  

What handles look best with shaker units?

Cup handles are extremely popular with Shaker style units. A very comfortable, classic shape that comes in a variety of finishes and shades. Aged metals on Shaker units really bring out a sophisticated vintage feel. 

What are the most popular kitchen cabinet handles?

A simple circular round knob and T-Bar handles are still the overwhelming favourites for kitchens due to their versatility and ability to blend in with almost every single kitchen design. Both designs are simplistic and unfussy and are stocked by many suppliers in a huge array of colours and finishes.