Door hardware might not seem all that important in a complex enterprise such as a house, but when specified correctly, it can make a huge difference and contribute to the overall design.
Of course, many categories can make a valid claim about their importance in curb appeal and their impact on a house’s design--whether it’s roofing, siding, or window. But door hardware is something that homeowners interact with and use on a daily basis, so it’s claim is equally rational.
The entry door, in particular, is a case in point. The front door, says Bob Borson, FAIA, an associate principal and senior project designer at BOKA Powell, is important. “Besides being the gateway to your home, it helps provide the first exclamation mark of the entry procession,” Borson writes on his blog, Life of an Architect.
For an unexpected twist, the Barrel-Stitch line of contemporary levers and knobs features hand-stitched vegetable tanned leather. The grip comes in five colors, while the body is available in seven finishes.
Architects have a thing for anything in a house that homeowners touch frequently or daily, such as faucets, cabinet pulls, and, naturally, door hardware. In their view, homeowners should put their money in these areas and select high-quality pieces that may cost a bit more. But the question remains: what should builders and designers look for in door hardware? And what is a reasonable price to pay?
“Your door hardware says a lot about the style and aesthetic you're trying to achieve,” Door Locks Direct says on its website. “When selected carefully, doorknobs and handles can be the jewel that every room needs. No door is complete without the suitable door hardware. The choice you make when buying the right door hardware for your home will be a subtle yet essential detail.”
When it comes to the style of the hardware you choose, one thing designers must consider is continuity throughout the home. Do you want all the doors to match to maintain consistency or do you want to get creative and specify different knobs in different spaces?
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The brand’s Estate collection is a top-of-the-line portfolio that comes in seemingly infinite possibilities, including levers, knobs, finishes, and custom styles. It offers 19 finishes in all.
“When you enter any home, you will notice that every room is different,” says The Door Boutique & Hardware. “They each have their own color scheme and style. That said, you usually find a common thread throughout the house. In other words, you are not likely to find one room with a Victorian theme and another with a countryside theme. The whole home usually has the same main theme with some personal touches to ensure that each room is different. Now, when it comes to matching all of the doorknobs in your home, this is often thought of as a bit extreme.”
The Door Boutique says matching hardware throughout the house is old news, especially if the home has more than one level. “For example, your doorknobs upstairs need not be the same as those downstairs,” the hardware supplier says. “You could also opt for a particular type of handle for your bedrooms and something different for bathrooms. This way, there is still an element of consistency.”
An architect is (highly) unlikely to specify different hardware in different spaces as a design statement, but a pro who is facing budget constraints may elect to choose lesser quality pieces for the private areas of a home as a strategic move. (They do it all the time with doors. Faced with a tight budget, the private spaces may get the solid core doors for improved sound transmission, while the closets and other areas may get more affordable products.) But even if a design pro is trying to save a buck, the lesser quality hardware will maintain the same design aesthetic of the others.
The Metropolitan is a made-to-order product that can be customized by design, configuration, finish, and size. Options include escutcheon plates, multipoint locks, and other accessory hardware.
Another consideration designers have to make is whether to choose a tubular or a mortise lockset. Tubular locksets are more traditional and much easier to install, while mortise locks are more common on the higher end of the market.
“Mortise locksets are much more secure than tubular locks, but they require more in the way of installation,” says Meridian Homes in Bethesda, Md. “Mortise locksets typically feature a thicker deadbolt, emergency egress functionality and the requirement that the lockset actually be recessed, or mortised, into one hole in the door. Both tubular and mortise locksets typically require installation by an experienced carpenter or locksmith to ensure proper function and pleasing aesthetics.”
Whether you choose mortise or tubular locks, you will have to decide what metal to choose. Brass is commonplace on most middle-of-the-road hardware. It’s relatively durable against the weather and handles the wear and tear that the typical house will see. “Bronze entry sets are significantly more durable and will patina over time, but the heft and presentation also means higher costs to purchase,” Meridian Homes says on its website. “Other options include stainless steel and wrought iron.” If quality is what you’re after, stay clear of zinc. “Lesser quality sets typically made of zinc that are purchased at big box stores aren’t as durable when withstanding the elements over time,” Meridian Homes writes.
Urban Suite is a line of architectural hardware offering minimalist design and bronze construction that modernists will love. Using art-grade bronze, artisans sand cast the metal into each distinctive one-of-a-kind piece in the collection, the company says. The collection includes interior handlesets, entry handlesets, cabinet pull handles, cabinet knobs, door and appliance pulls, outlet covers, bath hardware, and more.
Two more important things to think about when choosing door handles are accessibility and safety. Consider choosing products that adhere to universal design principles, so they are easy for users of various abilities to open. One option, the lever, is ADA compliant, allowing children or even someone with arms full of groceries or laundry to open the door easily. Traditional door door knobs are not generally ADA compliant.
Also, remember to consider the American National Standards Institute standards when specifying entry door systems. The grading system ranges from 1 (the highest grade) to 3 (the lowest grade).
The market for door hardware is wide and deep. And that’s not even including all the smart, WiFi products on the market. Interior handles run the gamut from glass knobs and leather levers to units with light to let people know that the bathroom is occupied (really, look it up here). Front door entry sets are no different. The sheer variety of products is staggering, allowing design pros to achieve almost any look they desire.
Part of the brand’s Signature Series, the Halifax lever with round is designed for interior doors requiring no locking functionality, such as hallway or closet doors. Three interchangeable faceplates are available as well as five finishes.
Harkening to the gilded age, the Classico 53059 is an exterior ornate mortise entrance made from solid brass. It measures 13⅞ inches.
Timeless is a comprehensive hardware collection that can be traced back to the 1815-1950 period and the models are each named after the year after which they are fashioned. The manufacturer says authenticity defines the entire series which took into consideration original designs with flat rosettes and shields, fastenings with screws, and materials such as brass.
Designed for multi-point lock, this trim system measures 11 inches long and 1½ inches wide. The setup is shown with the Athena lever, but 28 other levers are available. It also comes in seven finishes.
The 1077 is one of more 50 lever designs the company offers. Available in four different base metals and 17 standard finishes, the levers, as well as all complementary trim, can be used with a wide selection of American locking systems.
The Avila lever with Addison trim is an entry system unlocks from the inside when the lever is rotated, allowing homeowners to leave quickly and re-enter easily.
Catering to the architectural market, the brand offers a wide variety of door hardware including levers that come in a myriad of shapes to cover the complete range of design requirements and applications such as entry or over-sized doors and small closet doors. Finishes include Rose Gold and Antique Silver, and wood species such as walnut, bloodwood, and African padauk.