Hardware With Pizzazz

Paint will transform shabby cabinets, but it won't do much for hardware that lost its charm about the time Hoover Dam was completed. Upgrading hardware is easy, and a tremendous range of styles is available. Where do you start in your thinking? Ron Fisher, a kitchen designer in North Haven, Connecticut, offers these tips:

• Don't set your budget too low. High-quality hardware is expensive but it will make a big difference in the overall look of the room.
• Replacing handles, which require two holes, isn't as easy as replacing knobs, which need a single hole, because hole spacing can vary a lot.
• Coordinating the finish of hardware with the sink faucet will help to unify a kitchen.
• Accent hardware, like a drawer pull in the shape of a chile pepper, can be funky, but use it sparingly. • Polished chrome and brushed nickel are gaining favor, and brass is on the way out.
• Drawers more than 27 in. wide need two knobs, not one, or a handle 8 to 9 in. wide.

Economical brass, iron and chrome hardware is available at hardware stores and home centers. Mail order is another option. Two of many mail-order companies selling top-quality hardware are Whitechapel (www.whitechapel-ltd.com) and Crown City Hardware (www.crowncityhardware.com). Both publish extensive catalogs. An even wider selection is available on the Web.

There also are companies specializing in the unusual and offbeat. For a Western flair, try Dimestore Cowboys. Or look at Amerock's selection of handles and knobs in the shape of knives, forks, spoons, carrots, red peppers and watermelon slices. Amerock hardware is available at some home centers, and by mail through Woodworker's Hardware ( www.wwhardware.com).

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