We're always in a hurry to get from one place to another, from one room to the next. We can easily overlook some of the most superbly crafted objects of a building. I'm talking about the knobs, levers, pulls, latches, locks, and door knockers, the architectural hardware that opens and closes the places of our life.
Architectural hardware are functional objects that we just can't do without—they open and close doors, windows, kitchen and bath cabinets, furniture drawers, and even announce when there's a guest at the door. But, if chosen with care, they can also act as jewelry adorning a home and bestow a place with a special distinctive sparkle.
Traditionally, hardware has been made of brass, iron, or wood. Most of them are created from brass, an alloy made of copper and zinc. Since brass is highly malleable, it can easily be cast into a mold, a feature perfect for making uniquely shaped objects such as knobs, levers, and pulls. Brass also has a muted golden color, similar to gold, making it a perfect substitute for the more expensive metal.
Architectural hardware can be designed to reflect a specific style. The Radcliff lock set below from the House of Antique Hardware is designed in the Gothic Revival style. The doorknob has a trefoil design—a three-lobed leaf—reminiscent of the window tracery of Gothic cathedrals. The lock plate displays the Gothic pointed arches as well as the trefoil pattern. It is cast in solid brass using the lost wax method.
House of Antique Hardware presents another period style, the Edwardian, from the turn of the end of the 19th century. Called the Windsor, this thumb-latch lock set shows off neoclassical motifs of scrolls, egg and dart molding, and fluted handles. The Windsor is also made from cast brass and comes in different finishes; this version is in a satin-nickel finish. The knob is made of lead crystal.
Another popular style that is still being used in today's interiors is the Art Deco style. Born in 1930s France, Art Deco spread to America and transformed to a parallel style known as Streamline. The Chrysler building in NYC is an example of the Art Deco style. SA Baxter created cabinet pulls for the Art Deco/Streamline period. The pull below left is designed with a "pillowed" look and made of polished nickel. The pull on the right shows the streamline look which has the long horizontal banding. The lock set and switch plate below is from the House of Antique Hardware Art Deco collection called Manhattan. The lock set is designed in a rosette motif found in many Art Deco patterns. The switchplate reflects the waterfall pattern, another Art Deco motif, showing a tiered effect.
For a more contemporary look, SA Baxter designed the hexagonal series, a multi-faceted hardware. This lever has a beautiful curved shape resembling a closed lily. On the right is another curvaceous lever, designed by Colin Gentle for SA Baxter. Its sinuous lines recall the famous bird sculpture by artist Constantin Brancusi.
While brass is still popular, many manufacturers now use unique materials to create today's modern hardware. Turnstyle Designs uses leather and combines it with nickel or chrome for a very elegant look. The Recess Leather collection uses hand-stitched bridle leather for their levers and pulls. Turnstyle also uses abalone shell as a very colorful addition to their line. For an industrial look, Turnstyle offers the groove twist pull and the rough cut handles—each offering textured surfaces from composite materials.
The J.G. Edelen company offers another type of material: glass-blown hardware. Before we only had a small range of colors limited to the different metal finishes. Now we have a color rainbow available that can be mixed together into endless combinations. Their Art Glass collection offers beautiful cranberry and black swirl glass pulls and knobs, perfect for customizing that cabinet or dresser drawer and also for matching the color scheme of a room. They also offer a more dramatic style—drop pull hardware—that combines artistic swirl patterns and gold foil as shown in the following amethyst pull and the cobalt blue pull. For further sophistication, J.G. Edelen's designer, Jay Edelen, created a filigree of metalwork over glass crystal, creating an elegant layered effect in their pull.
When designing your next interior, don't overlook applying new architectural hardware. If a total kitchen or bathroom renovation is beyond your budget, just replacing the cabinet and drawer pulls can provide a wonderful facelift to any room. If you have some tired-looking furniture, consider replacing the knobs and giving it new life. Instead of a new welcome mat for your front entrance, consider replacing the plain old brass lock with a work of art such as period hardware. Architectural hardware gives designers and homeowners added flexibility in redesigning their interiors.
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