Should I Choose Pulls or Knobs?


Should you choose pulls or knobs for your cabinet hardware?

Searching for the right cabinet hardware is the same process regardless of whether it’s for a powder room vanity or an office built-in cabinet or an entire kitchen.  In the case of the kitchen, you need to pay closer attention to practicality and ease of use because food preparation and service involves frequent and repeated opening and closing of doors and drawers.

Doors and Drawers

The absolute number one frequently asked question at WalterWorks Hardware is, “Do I put knobs on doors and pulls on drawers?”  Some people do.  Others do the opposite; they put pulls on the doors and knobs on drawers.  Others prefer a consistent, put-together look and select one knob or pull to use throughout.  Often the conclusion comes from personal experience, whether it’s because of a kitchen you grew up with, or from someone else’s kitchen that you particularly admired.

Technically, knobs are fastened in the middle with one screw, while pulls are fastened with a screw at each end. Generally, you grasp a cabinet knob with thumb and forefinger, but for a pull you just hook a finger or two behind the open part.  So pulls are a little easier to use.  For cabinet doors and drawers, only a light fingertip touch is needed (whereas on a larger appliance such as a fridge or freezer you use a full-fisted grip).  Bin pulls are less practical than other open pulls because you have to reach under them to enter the opening of the pull.  Also too fiddly for the kitchen are bail pulls, because the handle swings freely from posts at each end: first you control the handle, and then you open the drawer.

Wide Drawers

People often ask how to deal with wide drawers.  On a drawer base two feet or more in width, there is a temptation to double up on the knob or small pull so that they form two columns on the drawer stack.  I think that’s pleasing to the eye, but it’s at the cost of convenience since you have to devote two hands to operate the drawers.  Another approach is to choose a pull that is offered in several lengths and to assign the appropriate length to suit the width of each drawer.  It’s usually not an exact science because the selection of lengths may not accord with the drawer sizes you have to cover.  One approach is to use small pulls everywhere except for the exceptionally wide drawer where you use a longer size.

If I’m choosing a pull size to suit a drawer width, I might recommend 1/3 of the drawer width, which leaves an equal open space on either side of the centered pull.  Or I might seek a length that reaches all the way across the drawer except for three inches at each side.  To get a really tailored look you need to define the lengths exactly by whatever rule and do it consistently throughout the kitchen.  Some make-to-order manufacturers can supply bar pulls or wire pulls in lengths that you specify.  That takes more time and costs more.


In recent years, built-in appliances have been offered with the door or drawer faces omitted in favor of (user-supplied) panels matching the kitchen cabinetry, so that the appliances can be integrated into the look of the kitchen.  For smaller appliances such as dishwashers and warming drawers, the opening force may be little enough to use a standard size cabinet pull.   That makes coordinating with your other cabinetry easier.

Opening refrigerators and freezers requires a significant amount of force to overcome the suction and air-tight seal used to maintain the inside temperature.  When you choose a refrigerator pull, make sure your hand is comfortable reaching all the way around the pull and there’s clearance behind the pull for your knuckles.  Refrigerator pulls are much larger and heavier than other cabinet handles and are priced dramatically higher.   The size difference can be so stark that the refrigerator pulls of the same manufacturer in the same design, style and finish don’t seem to match the conventional cabinet pull.

Back to the subject of this post, I have never known of anyone using knobs on integrated appliances (but if you want to, I would love the challenge).   They seem to be the exclusive domain of pulls, oversized or not.  So a big part of integrating your integrated appliances is recognizing how the appliance pull selection will relate to knobs and pulls elsewhere in the kitchen.

Should I Choose Pulls or Knobs?

Want more information on bathroom fixtures? Check out our weekly blogs or stop by our Annapolis showroom. From homeowners to trade professionals, WalterWorks Hardware has built a name for itself throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia including Annapolis, Columbia, Baltimore, and Easton. With a large showroom in Annapolis, Maryland, WalterWorks Hardware is always ready to help you or your clients find the perfect hardware for their home. WalterWorks Hardware offers a wide selection from the most respected manufacturers in the industry. For more information, please call 410-263-9711 or contact us to talk to a hardware expert at WalterWorks Hardware.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2016 at 9:20 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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