04 February 2008

Hardware musings

As I sit and write this tonight, there is a small box in the back seat of my car. That small box has a thousand dollars worth of cabinet knobs and pulls in it. There are 44 individual pieces in the box and that averages out to around 22 dollars per piece. $22 for a cabinet knob doesn't strike me as exorbidant, but then again, I do this for a living and I'm used to seeing prices like that. Add it all up though, and a thousand dollars speaks to me very loudly. That's a lot of money. But good hardware isn't cheap and cheap hardware isn't good.
There was a time in my life when I thought buying three dollar handles at Home Depot was all I needed to know about cabinet handles. I thought that the two-for-one packages of Stanley door knobs was all anyone needed. I had a vague idea that there were more expensive options out there, but they struck me as overkill.

If you are someone who still thinks that way and wants to continue doing so, stop reading now.
The terminally perky show hosts on HGTV call things like hardware "house jewelry," an expression I loathe. Loathe it though I do, it's pretty accurate. There is something about good hardware that broadcasts to the world that you thought about the details in your home. Thinking through the small stuff is what sets apart great homes. When I hear that stupid expression, my mind turns to the stuff at the left by Schaub & Company (http://www.schaubandcompany.com/) and I get over my bad reaction to that term and end up embracing it. That hardware over there is made with real black pearls and Swarovski crystals. It runs counter to they types of things I'm drawn to, but I cannot help but admire the craftsmanship. To see it in person is another thing completely. That "Branch Collection" as they call it, is transcendant. Schaub goes on to showcase some really glorious turns on the very idea of a cabinet knob. In the world of cast brass hardware, these guys rule the roost. In the image to the right is their take on sea creatures. That octopus is beautifully cast, perfectly patina-d and still has a sense of whimsy without descending into cute. This designer thanks them for the cuteness avoidance, even if no one else does.
What makes great hardware great and what separates it from the masses out there is a multi-faceted thing and it's difficult to describe very clearly. Price doesn't always guide you to quality, but quality will almost always be expensive. The hardware in the collection below shows a collection that you will have no difficulty finding knock offs of in a Home Center. Other than faint resemblances, the similarities stop there. The hardware from Schaub will cost more and I can almost guarantee that. But it will also weigh more, feel better in your hand, have a finish that will last for a lifetime and will be better designed. When you buy a less-expensive option, it is imitating things like the Charlevoix collection from Schaub and Company. If you're OK with a knock off, then go buy a knock off, but study the expensive thing they're knocking off so that you can buy a better knock off. However, be warned that the knock offs only immitate the good stuff that sells well. If you're looking for something truly distictive like the Black Pearl series I showed above, you are out of luck, they won't do it. Ditto the prismatic chrome series to the left here. This hardware really does look like jewelry and it is buffed to such a shine that the many facets on the surface of the hardware capture and reflect back whatever colors are in front of them. The first time I saw the hardware to the right I was wearing a light blue shirt. When I stood in front of the knob in question, it appeared to have light blue enamel all over the surface, then I moved and could see the taupe walls of the showroom reflecting back and it appeared to be enameled in taupe. What a great effect, and not something you're likely to find a Home Depot.

And it's late. I haven't covered half of what I wanted to write about. So tomorrow it's going to have to be more hardware musings. Tune in tomorrow and I'll go over some quick guidelines on where to put what and why doorknobs are important in the scheme of things. Trust me, they are.

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