We get it, vintage hardware is hard to get right. Seemingly an eleventh-hour decision, but also capable of making (or breaking) a project, vintage hardware can perplex even the most audacious of DIY-ers. It’s not all bin pulls and drop handles, either. Vintage hardware is a vast category that includes everything from mail slots to door knockers to towel bars. Factor authentic vintage hardware versus antique hardware reproductions into the mix, and it’s clear why most DIY-ers consider hardware shopping a less than hospitable endeavor. At the same time, once you know the vintage hardware options, the possibilities for adding character to your home and furniture are endless. Which is why we’ve crafted our vintage hardware starter guide. Discover the difference between replacement vintage door hardware like a push plate and a keyhole cover, plus, heed the transformative powers of a door knocker, a doorstop, and more!
Vintage Door Hardware
Oft overlooked, but capable of making a striking statement, push plates are rectangular-shaped, metal panels used to protect high-touch areas of a door’s surface. These unique pieces of antique door hardware are typically found in commercial settings, such as restaurants. However, when used in a home they can lend unrivaled charm. Use them on swinging doors located between two rooms, such as pantry doors or closet doors. You can also use them on pocket doors or barn doors to assist with the act of sliding. If you do use on pocket or barn doors, consider a push plate with incised metalwork to add grip.
In the age of not just doorbells, but techy gadgets like Ring videos, a door knocker is of course obsolete. But that doesn’t mean one isn’t worth incorporating for its architectural intrigue and its ability to conjure up a more gracious era. The door knocker originated in 16th century Greece and gradually became commonplace for English common folk. Soon, door knockers evolved to become more than just functional, but rather, talismans indicative of a family’s occupation or philosophies. For instance, in the Georgian period, a shapely knocker came to be known as a “Doctor’s door knocker.” Similarly, fish or maritime door knockers are believed to have originated in Scotland and were used to anoint the homes of shipping merchants.
Door Handles & Knobs
If you’ve ever poured over door handles then you know it’s finicky business. Different locations call for different types of door handles, including keyed entry drawer knobs (for exterior-facing doors), passage doorknobs (“dummy” door knobs for closet doors), and privacy doorknobs (one-way lock doors for bedrooms or baths). That said, throw heed to the wind when shopping for vintage doorknobs. Sync one up with a separate lock if you need it, and let your heart lead the way. Vintage doorknobs can be sourced in a wide array of materials, ranging from glass to wood to Lucite to brass. Of particular interest to many designers are Victorian doors knobs, which are particularly revered for their intricate metalwork. Art Deco and crystal door knobs are also popular.
Escutcheons, or keyhole covers, as they’re more modestly known, are perfect for adding a finishing flourish to a door. Escutcheons were dreamed up to act as a barrier to a whole host of maladies including peeping neighbors, draughts, dust or insect particles, as well as lock damage caused by repeated key insertion. From a more aesthetic viewpoint, keyhole covers lend doors a neat, polished appearance—not to mention, undeniable milieu. Look for escutcheons featuring classic motifs like lions, dragons, and wreaths as well as more modernist, architectural ones rendered of combos like brass and semi-precious stone.
Looking to pull out all the stops? Don’t forget to factor in a vintage doorstop. Doorstops come in many forms, including knock-down doorstops, baseboard and spring stops, magnetic doorstops, and more. Most designers, however, will guide you toward free-standing figural doorstops. Since figural doorstops come in no shortage of motifs, take care to choose a doorstop that channels your passions. Dogs, livestock, florals, and nautical motifs are all common. If you’re looking for a place to start, seek out designs by Hubley. Hubley was a 20th-century American manufacturer who produced a wide range of cast-iron toys, doorstops, and bookends. Oftentimes, Hubley produced door knockers and doorsteps in sets, which is why you’ll often run across twinning designs.
Pragmatic and polished, bar drawer handles consist of a bar that attaches to furniture at the two end points. These bars can be straight or curved to provide a variety of styling options. Generally, these utilitarian pulls are preferred for kitchen cabinets over furniture pieces, as they lack the decorative appeal of some alternative antique hardware options. When choosing bar handles, consider factors such as the ease of wrapping your hand around the pull. Also, keep an eye out for pulls with bars that extend beyond their attachment points. Extending bars are prime for catching dangling items like headphone cords or jewelry.
A design co-opted from pharmacy bins, the bin pull lends a dash of farmhouse fervor to any room. Like bar pulls, bin pulls are favored for kitchen cabinets. (The one exception may be furniture like apothecary cabinets.) They’re most effective when partnered with sliding drawers, so you’ll often see them co-mingling with knob drawer pulls. For this reason, it can be wise to shop bin pulls that are part of larger hardware suites. (Doing so will allow you to procure an exact match.) Some question the comfort of needing to rotate your hand inward and upwards every time you access bin pulls, but most find the motion imperceptible from the movements required to access bar pulls.
Drop Pull Handle
A hallmark of campaign chests, drop pull handles are composed of a pull that lays flush with a cabinet or furniture piece. Many, but not all drop pulls are mounted to a backplate. These backplates can be minimalist and square or very ornate, such as the oval fluted backplates you’ll find many antique Federal style dressers equipped with. Drop pulls are particularly popular because of the clean look they can lend to a piece. As mentioned, perhaps most famously, campaign chests utilize drop pulls. As campaign chests were designed to be mobile, the flush pulls made it easy for them to abut other trunks and chests. Today, drop pulls are most in-demand in brass finishes, which are used to contrast dark woods and paint colors.
Cabinet Knob Pull
Drawer knobs are often overshadowed by showier bar pulls and drop handles, but for any project with a surplus of drawers, knobs can procure understated perfection. With a draw similar to diamonds, vintage glass knobs are befitting for any project where you desire a hint of glamour. Round brass knobs, either plain or incised with decorative patterns, are also a stand-by that possess endless mutability. While vintage knobs can be applied to any cabinet, you’ll often see designers reserving them for bathroom vanities. Kitchen drawers are often fairly large with weighty contents, and bar or bin pulls can feel more in scale with their size.
Lead design by Spencer & Wedekind