Why the Placement of Your Cabinetry Knobs and Pulls Matters

Even the smallest details can influence the overall design aesthetic of your space.

White Kitchen with Green Soapstone Counters
Photo: Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Taking on a kitchen or bath renovation is exciting, but it's also time-consuming and requires you to make a lot of decisions. Do you want open shelving or upper and lower cabinets? Do you prefer more drawers or cabinets? What style backsplash do you want? You get the idea. Even if you've found your exact dream kitchen on Pinterest and are basing all of your decisions on that photo, there will still be some unexpected details you haven't thought about.

One of the small details is cabinetry hardware. From shape and finish to size and style, there are countless things to consider. But once you've chosen the hardware you want to be installed, there's one more question coming: Where do you want your hardware to be placed?

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Your cabinet maker or designer may have a preference they recommend, but if you're the one making the call (or the one actually drilling the holes!), it's important to know your options. As with most things related to home design, where you choose to install your hardware should be a combination of form and function. Design-wise, the options fall into more traditional and more modern categories—though the placement of your hardware won't sway the room's overall appearance on its own.

Traditional Placement for Cabinet Hardware

For 5-piece cabinets (like a Shaker or any style that isn't one flat slab of wood), the traditional placement is to center the knob in the corner of the face frame, so that the knob is in the center of both the vertical and horizontal frame pieces.

High Gloss Green Kitchen Cabinets
Photo: Hector M. Sanchez

The same goes with pulls on cabinet doors: the bottom of the pull (on upper cabinets) and top of the pull (on lower cabinets) are centered on the corner. This placement is also the most practical, putting the handles as much within reach as possible.

Thuston Painted Floor White Kitchen Makeover
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Updated Placement for Cabinet Hardware

A more modern, current placement puts the knobs or pulls a little higher (on upper cabinets) or lower (on lower cabinets) so that the end of the knob or pull is flush with or slightly past the edge of the horizontal piece of the frame.

Gray Kitchen
Laurey W. Glenn

Another option is to center the knobs or pulls vertically, which is a popular choice for taller cabinets and pantries. Depending on the other design style of your cabinets and hardware, this can create a more classic, built-in cupboard look common in older homes. It should be noted though, that this placement can be the hardest to reach.

The Kitchen
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Drawer Hardware Placement

Most drawers only require one knob or pull. For extra-long drawers (over 2 feet) that will have heavy contents, it can be both visually pleasing and practical to have two knobs or pulls. If you do, the common rule of thumb for placement is to divide the drawer into thirds, and install the hardware in the left and right thirds.

Country Home Kitchen
A rustic farm table takes the place of a central island in the kitchen, giving the homeowner a spot for casual meals. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Drawer Hardware Height

As far as the height of your drawer hardware, the classic choice is to center them vertically. With multiple drawers stacked on top of each other, choosing this placement makes each knob a little lower and harder to reach. The alternative to centering your hardware is to place it on the upper frame piece (or, on a slab drawer, in the upper quarter of the drawer). This lacks the balanced symmetry some people desire in their home, but it does put the handles in the most convenient place for reaching.

Floor-To-Ceiling Storage
Open shelves for cookbooks and dishes are mixed with closed cabinets in this walk-in pantry. A wine fridge and countertops offer extra storage and prep space. Photo: Erica George Dines

In this kitchen, on the bottom, largest drawer, they deviated from the centered placement for the sake of convenience, proving that the rules can only take you so far, and your own preference should come before everything else.

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