Cabinet handles: Our guide to finding your match

The most successful schemes feature handles that complement the chosen furniture style, sit nicely in terms of proportion and scale, and, above all, feel good in your hands. Read on for our step-by-step guide to achieving handle selection success.

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Cabinet handles: Our guide to finding your match
Whether you’re planning a whole new kitchen or just updating a treasured dresser, the perfect handles have the power to bring everything together beautifully. Good quality handles and pulls will also protect your cabinetry from oily fingerprints and ensure easy, comfortable access to everything inside.
The pressure to get it right can feel overwhelming, especially in a kitchen where you could be investing in 25 handles or more. The most successful schemes feature handles that complement the chosen furniture style, sit nicely in terms of proportion and scale, and, above all, feel good in your hands. Read on for our step-by-step guide to achieving handle selection success.

1. Find your style
Establishing your overall style preference is an excellent starting point. Handles tend to be categorised as classic or contemporary, with the former being a lot, or sometimes just a little, more decorative than the latter. Finding your favourite style is often a process of elimination and can be narrowed down by flicking through magazines or Pinterest.  

The style of your cabinetry will obviously be a big factor but there’s no need to feel obliged to use classic handles on classical furniture designs or vice versa. At Corston, we work hard to create handle collections that look great, wherever they’re used. The contrast of a sleek, modern knob on old antique drawers can be really striking.

Do note that minimalist, streamlined designs will be easier to keep clean than those with lots of ridges and details. Some people decide more decorative handles are worth a little extra effort, while others have zero tolerance on cleaning!
2. Knobs vs Pulls
Once you’ve settled on a particular handle style, it’s time to work out whether you want knobs or pulls. Good quality collections offer a variety of options in multiple sizes, including cup handles and T-bar knobs, all with a shared aesthetic that makes it easy to mix and match.

There are no set rules for choosing between knobs and pulls, and often a combination of both can look more natural (and prove more practical) than going for one shape throughout. A popular technique is to use all knobs on cupboard doors measuring up to 60cm-wide, and all pulls on drawers and any cupboards wider than 60cm, as well as those concealing appliances, which need a solid grip to open.

Using a different, third, handle shape on one piece or section of furniture, for example cup handles on a sideboard or island unit, is a great way to create a more relaxed, freestanding feel. 

Knobs tend to be fairly similar size-wise and are scaled to sit nicely in your hand and neatly on a cupboard door. If you have bigger hands, aim for a slightly bigger diameter of knob.

Pull handles come in various sizes – ours range from 128mm-384mm – and the reason for this extended choice is to accommodate different furniture sizes. For example, a tall larder unit will suit a much longer pull handle; whereas a shorter option could look a bit lost in the space. Extra wide pan drawers are also perfect candidates for a long pull handle, allowing access wherever you’re standing. 
4. Think about finishes
Handles are often considered the final ‘finishing touch’ when designing a kitchen but choosing them should never be a last minute decision. This is particularly true when it comes to the choice of finish, which is not a decision that should be made in isolation. Not every single metal finish in the room needs to match perfectly but choosing a handle finish that works in harmony with other metal finishes nearby will result in a more cohesive, considered design. Light fittings, switches, sockets and even taps can all be used to inspire your choice of handle finish.

If you are starting from scratch, it helps to think in terms of warmth. Do you prefer the cool, crispness of a ‘cold’ metal like Polished Nickel, or the cosy, richness of ‘warm’ metals like brass? Also think about how much impact you want the handles to have on your cabinetry. A dark finish, like our deep Bronze, on light doors will stand out, while a finish that matches closely in colour, like our Polished Nickel or grey painted cabinets, will blend in.

Finally, consider the performance of each finish. Metal plated handles (such as nickel plated or PVD finishes) will not alter or change, whereas unlacquered ‘living finishes’ will patina naturally and continue to age alongside your home. 

5. Plot positions
Before you buy, you’ll need to plan the position of each handle to calculate how many you need. Try to think about scale and proportion when positioning. For example, wide doors and drawers will suit wider handles, or perhaps two equally spaced knobs. The handle shouldn’t be dwarfed by the size of door, but nor should it overpower. At Corston, all our cabinet handles are carefully proportioned to suit kitchen cabinets and other household furniture.

If possible, order samples and hold them against your units or just a sample door, to see what looks best, and where, before placing a full order, or any holes are drilled. Alternatively, if you have a scaled plan of your cabinetry, and a scale ruler, you could also draw the handles in to get an idea of the best position.
6. Make it functional
Pull and cup handles are considered easier to grip than knobs as you can get more fingers under them. We always recommend choosing pull handles on heavier doors, like those on integrated dishwashers and fridges, as well as wide pan drawers that will be fully-loaded.

If grip is an issue but you prefer the look of a knob, check out our T-bar design, which provides better purchase compared to a smoothly rounded knob.

Finally, if you’re worried about fingerprints and scratches on your cabinet doors, go for handles with built-in solid brass backplates that offer a layer of protection between fingernails and your beloved cabinetry.

For further support and advice, our expert team are always happy to help. You can email us on or call (+44) 01249 549332

Photography credits:
Image four (Green cabinetry and bronze sycamore handle): @revillojoinery