Buyer’s Guide: A Brief Primer On Choosing The Right Door Hardware

I once heard an architect at a dinner party wax poetic about the merits—nay, importance—of using high-quality door hardware in a house. The handle or knob, she posited, is the handshake of the home and, thus, needs to be strong and confident rather than weak and insecure. Her message was clear: If you put some thought into your door hardware selections, people will notice. Question is, how do you select the right pieces?

Well, you first have to decide if you want a lever-or-knob style. The traditional knob is usually cheaper, easier to find, and a breeze to install if you’re the do-it-yourself type. Unfortunately, most knobs are boring and relatively unattractive. Your other option is the lever door handle, the type of hardware you see on office doors and in commercial spaces. The lever (which is also relatively easy install) offers more style options than a knob and you can operate it with an elbow, so it’s great for when your arms are full (or if you happen to be a germaphobe).

Do look for pieces constructed from high-quality metals such as stainless steel, bronze, or brass; and do look for products with ANSI  Grade 1 standards when specifying sets for exterior doors. Rated with standards developed by the American National Standards Institute, product grades can range from Grade 1 (the strongest) to Grade 3. You can cut costs by using less expensive products for private rooms such as baths and closets, but don’t skimp on the products for the exterior door. And don’t even think about choosing brass finishes—whether it’s brushed brass or bright brass or any combination of brass! (Brass is fine for the handle’s construction, but not the finish.

Here are some more product options, in different price ranges, that you may consider for your home.

Conventional knobs are usually quite boring, but there’s a difference between elegantly simple and uninspiring. The Schlage Orbit interior door knob features solid brass construction, an ANSI 2 Grade, and a satin chrome finish. Seven finishes are available. You’ll pay about $23.

Though we aren’t totally in love with this Ashfield lever from Kwikset, it’s great for those buyers who favor more traditional interior design. Part of the company’s Signature Series, the ANSI Grade 2 product is for use on interior doors that require locking functionality. It costs about $40.

Wildly different from what you’ll see at the local hardware store, this contemporary-style Unison INOX 213 Cabernet door lever is made from stainless steel and features a wood inset on the handle. It also comes with concealed fixings and spring assisted chassis for smooth operation. Available finishes include polished stainless steel and satin stainless steel. Expect to pay about $78.

Highly decorative hardware is not our bag, but we do make exceptions. The Rejuvenation Eastlake interior door knob, named for British architect Charles Locke Eastlake, is a design from the late 1800s and is still quite fresh. It’s 5½ inches long and  constructed of forged brass. Six finishes available. Buy it for $139.

Part of the Omnia Industries’s Traditions Collection, the 943PR door lever features solid brass interior mechanisms and a round rose that conceals screws for a clean look. It measures 4 7/8 inches long and comes in four finishes. It can be had for about $160.

For a touch of whimsy, try this Brighthandle lever from Emtek Products. The stainless steel piece has an acrylic handle that lights up when you engage the privacy function. Priced at around $315, it uses an AA battery and is available in two lever styles and three acrylic designs.

The Archetypes Collection of entry hardware from Baldwin Hardware is what you use when you have long green and a show-off crib. Features of this Chateau tubular handleset includes cast bronze construction and mortise locks, which is not like the typical product you have in your house so don’t expect to install this puppy yourself.  Shown here in a living pewter bronze finish, the product is made to order, which gives you an idea of how wildly expensive it is.


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