Making even minor renovations and changes to your kitchen can induce indecision and anxiety. A kitchen is such a valuable space in a home, one that you want to look picture perfect. Which is why I’ve spent so much time agonizing through the years over this question: Should I use knobs or pulls on kitchen cabinets?

Anyone else have the same question? Hello, is this thing on? Hopefully, I’m not alone.

The good news is: I’ve done this enough that I’ve developed a reliable approach. Here are some ideas and key considerations as you seek to answer the question: Should I use knobs of pulls on kitchen cabinets?


Make Knobs and Pulls a Priority

I’ve heard it said that cabinet hardware is like a kitchen’s jewelry. To me, that’s a perfect explanation, and it leads to me to say this: knobs and pulls cannot be afterthoughts!

You’re going to encounter tons of options and choices. Don’t just settle for anything. Think of your decision like you would think of choosing jewelry for a special occasion. You wouldn’t just slap on anything, right?


The Benefits of Kitchen Knobs

In general, knobs have a more antique look and feel to them. They are easy to change in and out as styles change and as your personal preference shifts. Sizing isn’t an issue, because installation of knobs requires only a single screw — and installation is simple, too.

The price of both knobs and pulls can change dramatically depending on where you’re shopping and the style you ultimately choose. But, in general, knobs are a little less expensive.

One challenge with knobs is cleaning. They can be a little more difficult to clean because they are usually embellished or textured in some way. Also, if you have big, powerful cabinets, knobs can be overwhelmed and look out of place and insignificant.


The Benefits of Kitchen Pulls

Much like knobs, pulls come in no shortage of options. You’ll find a wide range of different styles, including cup pulls, bar pulls, ring pulls, arch pulls, birdcage pulls, etc. What I like most about pulls is that they create nice lines in your kitchen, which I consider a positive on the aesthetics front.

While pulls are still easy to install, they are more difficult to install than knobs. They require more than one screw, which means they can go out of alignment over time. And, also, they are more difficult to swap out. That is, once you’ve drilled your cabinet holes, you’re mostly stuck with pulls that fit that same length. This is particularly difficult if you have abnormally sized pulls from the start.

Most pulls are 3 to 4 inches in length, though, so you should have plenty of options if you have one of these standard sizes. Just as knobs can be overpowered by large cabinets, so too can tiny pulls. Make sure your pulls are proportional to the cabinets and drawers on which they are installed.


Mock Things Up Before You Decide

Here’s a trick: Use blue painters tape (or a similar adhesive) to help you make your decision. Once you have an idea of what you want to go with, use the tape to mock up what the knobs and/or pulls will look like when installed.

For example, if you plan to use knobs on upper cabinets, peel small squares of tape and place in the exact spot where the knobs would go. If you’re going to use 3-inch pulls on the lower drawers, do the same thing — pull 3 inches of tape and place in the exact spot where the pulls would go.

If you do this throughout the kitchen, you should be able to step back and get a visual idea of what you’re knobs and/or pulls will look like after installation. You might be surprised at how this mockup influences your decision.


Consider a Blended Approach: Knobs AND Pulls

There are truly no rules when it comes to kitchen knobs and pulls. With that in mind, consider using both.

I would recommend using knobs on upper cabinetry. Knobs have a nasty habit of tearing pockets, ripping headphone jacks out of phones and grabbing any type of strap you might have on you. When you place them higher up, they can’t get into any trouble.

Consider using pulls on your lower drawers. They won’t catch on anything, and drawers can require a tad more effort to open, which makes it nice to have pulls. Cup pulls can minimize distraction, but be careful about using cup pull on lower drawers — you’ll have to stoop more to open them.

And, finally, here’s what I like best about knobs on top and pulls on bottom: the balance. In design, you want wider elements on bottom and narrower elements on top. If they are reversed, the wider element on top will look like it’s teetering and about to fall over.

If you place pulls on bottom and knobs on top, you have a nice and intuitive balance that nods to gravity and puts visitors subconsciously at ease.


After You Choose, What’s Next?

Once you make your decision, you get to make an even more difficult choice: your hardware finish. I would write about that, but it’s another post for another time.

But I’ll leave you with this: Remember that kitchen design trends are constantly changing. What’s fashionable today may not be fashionable tomorrow. Embrace the volatility of kitchen style, and make the best possible decision for your kitchen as it stands right now.

Do you have a preference in the knobs vs. pulls debate? Let us know in the comments section, or send us a message through our contact page.