Selecting New Hardware Finishes for Your Home

When updating a home, a great place to start is with hardware. Whether it be the front door hardware, kitchen and bath cabinet hardware or interior door hardware, upgrading to a new finish can give a home a just-built feel.

There are a lot of options in the marketplace, especially if you leave the box stores and head to your local decorative hardware store. One popular selection right now is oil-rubbed bronze. There are many tones of brown available, which allows a home owner to pick the perfect tone to coordinate with their countertop or door color. When selecting an oil-rubbed bronze finish, make sure to ask if it is a living finish or a lacquered finish.  A living finish is a result of an oil-rubbed bronze that is, as its name would indicate, rubbed with an oil versus coated with a lacquer.  This oil is rubbed off over time wherever the hardware is touched, allowing it to develop a pretty patina in those places. As the oil is rubbed off only on the touch points, it does give a living finish oil-rubbed bronze a less consistent patina.  Some bronze lovers find this uneven patina inviting.  Others would prefer the lacquered finish that keeps the bronze finish with any patina intact.  Both are beautiful – just a matter of preference.

Another popular choice is brushed nickel. A common question is whether brushed nickel and satin nickel are the same finish. Technically, brushed nickel shows some of the brush strokes in getting the softer finish. However, the two finishes can typically be intermingled without a noticeable difference. Stainless steel hardware is in the same silver family, but has the benefit of being highly resistant to corrosion which makes it a great choice for high moisture environments such as lake cottages.

There has been a lot of buzz in the home improvement community about brass coming back into favor.  New brass finishes that are being released are not the shiny gold of times past.  Instead, brass hardware seems to be headed in one of two directions.  One increasingly available option is unlacquered brass.  Like the unlacquered oil-rubbed bronze, unlacquered brass doesn’t have the shiny lacquered finish which was previously found on brass hardware.  That results in a more matte appearance that develops the beautiful dark patina you see on older hardware whose lacquer has naturally worn off over time.  Another new finish is a softer, matte gold finish that is often called champagne.  This provides home owners with a warmer finish alternative than the silver metal options, but is a great update to existing brass hardware. Home owners and designers are bringing more shine back into bathrooms and kitchens.  While chrome is still a popular choice, those looking for some shiny objects can also go with polished nickel.  Very similar to chrome, polished nickel has a slightly more warm finish than polished chrome.  It can work better with the warmer, brown-toned counters than polished chrome while still bringing a high shine.

Black hardware is also a nice option.  Black blends well with stainless steel appliances in cases where stainless steel isn’t visually appealing on an existing cabinet color.  Black looks beautiful on grainy woods, such as oak and hickory, and also is striking on lighter colored finishes. Europe has seen an increase in the use of black hardware in recent years.

When in doubt, bring samples of existing wood and other finishes in the home along and local decorative hardware stores can provide ideas for updates. Hardware is considered the “jewelry” of the home and can provide the perfect finishing touches and feel to a room.


  • Tomas Killington / April 26, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    My wife and I have recently moved into an older home. She wants to beautify the interior of the home with some updates, including new hardware. I didn’t realize black door handle designs can blend well with stainless steel and grainy woods. I’ll be sure my wife if aware of this information.

  • Builders' Hardware / July 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    I’m glad you found our article helpful. Good luck with your updates!