When it comes to interior design, few trends are as time-tested as dark cabinets. The bold, inviting, rich color schemes elevate any kitchen, bathroom or workspace into an elegant eye-catcher, while their shades and accompanying accents imbue warmth, depth and lasting character. They work across different room sizes and can incorporate a range of aesthetic elements — with none more important than hardware.
Details make or break a space. And while deciding the best hardware for you or a client’s dark cabinets is an exciting process, it’s one that involves balance and nuance. From pairing colors to individual handle designs to accenting details and sheen finishes, every decision builds to make your project vision come alive. Luckily, we’ve got an in-depth guide on how to match hardware with dark cabinets to make that process a little simpler.
Hardware for Dark Cabinets
If cabinets are the canvas, then hardware are the brushstrokes that make the design leap from the page. They’re more than simple adornments. Every hardware piece you select provides an individual stamp on the surface of your cabinets. They’re the shapes, textures and personalized details making it all sing. Yet the sheer volume and variety of hardware can cause some major headaches — even to the most seasoned craftsmen, designers and DIYers among us.
When choosing hardware for dark cabinets, ensure the following pieces are not only accounted for but cohesively planned out. Mixing and matching hardware types is as much about creativity and novelty as it is taste. The following are hardware staples for any dark cabinet:
- Handles: Cabinet handles are ideal for a full-hand grip and smooth pull to open doors and drawers. Today, their builds, styles and embellishments range more than any other cabinet accessory, giving you the ultimate creative freedom. Handles for dark cabinets work especially well to give the eye a visual break from the bold, dominating color scheme. Plus, handles can be installed horizontally or vertically, short or long, to add further flair to a design.
- Knobs: Knobs for dark cabinets provide a delicate, artisanal touch to doors and small drawers. Consider knob shape, depth and opacity when making your selection, as well as base and bold types. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box, using new or different shapes and materials. For example, stone knobs work great as a bright, fresh accents against dark cabinets.
- Pulls: Oversized pulls on large drawers, cupboards, bins and panels can be fun focal point to your cabinet designs. Their width allows for them to have extra embellishments or ornamental details. Pulls work as eye-catching finishings on otherwise ordinary kitchen or laundry appliances as well, ready to liven up rooms we often don’t.
- Hinges: Hinges may seem more function than form, but that doesn’t mean they should be neglected. The same attention that goes into each of your handles or pulls should go into hinges, ensuring they don’t become a messy afterthought. Depending on your cabinet types, you may opt for classic wrap-around hinges, semi-concealed, surface mounts or a number of other hinge types. Their colors and finishes are essential to keep cabinet hardware cohesive and true to your vision.
Cabinet Hardware Materials
There are numerous materials used to craft beautiful, high-quality cabinet hardware. Yet the distinct spatial, lighting, colors and shadows produced by dark cabinets means those materials must complement the room’s overall appearance. We recommend the following hardware to do so.
- Stainless steel: Few materials reign supreme in terms of longevity and look as stainless steel. Named for its anti-corrosive properties, stainless steel is classified as a “green” material and is appealing because it can be melted down and recycled. It’s a staple material in the modern and contemporary styles, as well as in areas with high humidity.
- Zinc: Zinc is a common material for tailored hardware and craftsman pieces. It is a soft, malleable metal that lends itself to custom knobs and handle shapes across design tastes. However, like its cousin aluminum, zinc is a relatively inexpensive material. Depending on the quality of the base material and the finishing, this can show over time.
- Brass: The natural sheen and earthly tones make brass another popular hardware material. Brass’ ability to take dozens of treatments and finishes makes it particularly attractive for hardware, as well as an almost unbeatable durability. Brass also is antimicrobial. Simply wipe it with a wet cloth to clean: no harsh chemicals required.
- Marble: Marble brings character and color to any hardware product. Its striations mean a one-of-a-kind, decorative and expensive-looking base to pulls, knobs and even hinges. These readily accent many dark cabinets.
- Pewter: A mix of tin, copper and other trace elements, pewter adds a rustic touch to hardware. Pewter hardware can shine bright all on its own, lightening and glossing a room, or serve as small matte details bolstering the look of dark cabinets. It all depends on its finish, which pewter can take in many forms.
- Ceramic: Evoking Victorian and art-deco styles, ceramic cabinet hardware can be clean and crisp to ornate, with detailed patterns and shapes. This material evokes the idea of the ultimate artisanal handles.
- Acrylic: Acrylic hardware is a practical and versatile material suitable for most hardware. With many clean, modern applications, acrylic is a tactful choice amidst bolder elements of a kitchen or bathroom.
- Crystal/Glass: Crystal or glass hardware offer you luxe-looking cabinet knobs or pulls. They sparkle from across the room and come in a range of custom shapes, sizes and base finishes while fortified for strength and durability.
- Stone: For a rainbow (literally) of pairings and cabinet accents, stones can transform into hardware knobs to feature vibrant colors and unique shapes.
Dark Cabinet Basics
Your dark cabinets set the tone by which to design the rest of the room. They’re the first thing guests take in when walking into a room, be it your kitchen, bathroom or living room, and create the backbone of a space while also serving as a visual frame.
If you’re still picking out the perfect cabinet canvas, or working to update cabinets already in your space, chances are you’re working with several types of base materials:
- Wood: By far the most popular cabinet base, wood captures the sophistication and refinement we picture when considering dark cabinets. You get unique textures and patterns from each wood type, and can choose between solid wood boards or veneers. Consider staining oak, walnut, and pine to reach your ideal dark shade, or opt for naturally dark woods like mahogany.
- Plywood: Plywood has the look of solid wood but enhanced strength and damage resistance. This is due to its composition of stacked, manufactured sheets rotated at each layer for better design and weight distribution. It’s ideal for this durability and is less susceptible to scratches or cracks. Often, it’ll have a veneer similar to the wood surfaces listed above.
- Fiberboard: Made from engineered wood fibers, fiberboard is a third common alternative to pure wood or plywood cabinets. While wood-based materials are subject to scratches, chips and other surface damage — think unavoidable wear from heat, water and humidity — fiberboard’s mixed composition makes it stronger, denser and sturdier. Consider dark particle board, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or hardboard painted and stained to your selected shade.
- Metal: Dark aluminum and stainless steel lends a sleek, industrial look to cabinets. It has a wholly contemporary feel with plenty of paint and finishing options to make a truly modern statement. Consider brushed stainless or chrome finishes in dark paint colors.
There’s never been more choices when it comes to cabinet materials. Picking the right one for your project or client, or realizing what materials you already have in your space and how to best fit them into a dark look and new hardware, involves a number of choices. Durability, cost and desired stain effect in the finished look all factor in to your decision.
Knowing the base materials you’re working with, you can move on to the next important design element for your dark cabinets: colors and hues.
To get those desired dark woods, here are some stain colors to consider:
- Chocolate Browns: Achieve that a rich, chocolatey-smooth hue with stains that add depth and dimension you could want for your dark cabinet. Chocolate browns have notes of burgundy and subtle grain lines. They pair particularly well with silver, stainless steel, white or black hardware accents.
- Dark Grays: Stains like this come in numerous choices depending on the brand. Look for stain names with words like “weathered,” “earthy” or “ash” in them, as well as those with undertones of gray, beige and even mauve. These are subtle yet dark enough to go well with numerous hardware accents and treatments. It’s one of the most dynamic and diverse wood stains on the market, as well as one that makes a real statement.
- Umber/Chestnut Browns: When stained to match these shades, cabinets will maintain their natural, classic brown boards but with emphasized grain palettes. Strains and colors should resemble simple, nutty browns like pecan and chestnut, and pair well with gold and antique finishes to warm up their surfaces.
- Mahogany: Deep scarlet and violet hues are some of the most inviting on the market. Their distinct reddish-purple stains liven a room in colorful accent tones. Actual woods like the aptly named mahogany naturally carry this color without a stain, but depending on the board age and quality, mahogany’s red hues may fade over time. Mahogany staining pairs best with the simplicity of silver, black or gold accents.
- Plums: Plum and purple-toned stains can produce berry-russet browns to near-black boards. Staining wood types plum will draw the eyes straight to your cabinets, particularly with woods that have sharp vertical grain lines, like zebrawood. When used on cabinetry, plums enliven and set a distinct ambience for a room. Plums play well with silver, chrome and aluminum hardware, as well as crystal or glass for a flashier pop.
- Cinnamons/Oranges: Dark, orange-tinted stains pack an almost exotic punch to a space. They’ve seen a rise in popularity as a unique alternative to achieving the same kind of warm hues as mahogany, and work particularly well on boards with wide, swirling grain patterns. Dark hardware with matte or satin finishes complement dark orange and cinnamon stains.
- Ebony: The dense, charcoal-colored stains aim to mirror the rare wood where it gets its name. Ebony stains will give your boards a fine-lined and an ultra-modern look. Their black results provide the perfect canvas for nearly any colored hardware accent, including flashy bright notes and accents across the color wheel. Ebony wood itself runs on the rare, expensive side, so achieving these singular dark tones is easier through staining or painting.
For metal cabinet materials, stainless and aluminum material can transform into darker colors through glossy or matte paint in shades of black, charcoals, gray and deep navy blues.
With the right layout and nod toward complementary details, the industrial stainless steel look doesn’t need to fall flat. Use plenty of polished, sleekly finished hardware to take this look to the next level, or pops of bright colors to break apart the monochromatic metals. Aluminum, like stainless steel, will fit a modern aesthetic but with an added cost-effective twist.
Pairing the Right Hardware With the Right Dark Cabinets
After all your hard design work and research, it’s time to select what hardware works best with your dark cabinets.
It’s no easy task! Tying together the lighting, undertones, dimensions and feel from the materials above can seem daunting against the bold, dominating backdrop of dark cabinets, regardless of their build. However, there is a secret.
Aim to complement your selected cabinets in two ways: through hardware color and finish.
The Best Hardware Colors for Dark Cabinets
Hardware color is largely determined by its base material. However, design lives and breathes to embrace the new. Finding the ideal hardware color for your dark cabinet means mixing and matching high- and low-light tones, with the following palettes coming out on top.
1. Hardware Color: Silver
Pair with: Everything
The sleekness and simplicity of silver, chrome and stainless steel makes silver the safest match for any dark cabinet. It brightens up even the darkest black or charcoal hues, pleasantly contrasts with rich chocolate woods, and won’t clash against tricky warm tones like mahogany.
What’s more, the popularity of silver-colored hardware makes it easy to find in all shapes and sizes — from trendy horizontal tubular pull bars to vintage bar pulls.
2. Hardware Color: Matte Grays
Pair with: Dark-stained beech, ebonies, stainless steel
Matte gray hardware takes in-demand metallic hues like iron and pewter but lends it a trendy facelift. Their matte treatments are unimposing and sleek, as fitting in an industrial kitchen as it is on a mid-century bar trim. They pair especially well with ashy, earthy woods that might be hard to otherwise match, or matted metals and stainless-steel appliances for a contemporary, unfussy feel.
3. Hardware Color: Brown
Pair with: Solid dark oaks, dark-stained maples, deep chocolate or coffee stains
Shades of bronze, copper, brown marbling and even solid-wood hardware are great choices to complement similarly hued oaks and maple woods with coffee-colored notes. Rather than washing them out, act as seamless extensions for a fully realized, inviting look. Because oak and maple woods are some of the most common dark cabinet materials, you may be most familiar and comfortable with these styles. Use the vast range of tans, browns and creams to surprise and delight.
4. Hardware Color: Black
Pair with: Black painted metal, purples and plums, rosewoods, dark-stained hemlock, deep red or orange stains
Black hardware offers a sophisticated match for the distinct, purple hues of rosewood and zebrawood. Likewise, black pops against hemlock, a wood that when stained can often have a rustic, log-cabin charm. Black hardware has the added bonus of hiding oil and dirt better than other colors, especially with a matte black finish.
5. Hardware Color: Brass/Gold
Pair with: Teak, cinnamons and dark orange stains, ebonies
Teak’s striations carry a warm, natural texture. Likewise, the sheen and embellishment of golden hardware works wonders to boost the unique graining of this wood and others.
6. Hardware Color: White
Pair with: Dark-stained walnut, maple and cedar, ebonies
White is the ultimate complementary color. From bin pulls to custom-designed, embellished ceramic knobs, it’s a clean and sharp color that lightens a room of dark-stained walnut, maple or cedars cabinets.
7. Hardware Color: Clear
Pairs with: Everything
From crystal glass knobs to handlebar strips containing clear details, translucent knobs have made a comeback. They blend the graceful, vintage style popular in the early 20th century with modern base and bolt detailing. Dark wood cabinets of all types are made to look brighter and freshened with well-placed crystal or glass hardware.
The Best Hardware Finishes for Dark Cabinets
As a crowning touch, hardware finishes help execute the last touches of your overall design. Bright hardware can curb any heavy or dark vibes and act as a highlight to any accenting pieces you’ve selected. Once you’ve selected your hardware finish, you’re in the design final stretch.
What’s more, the final hardware product you pick will have a sufficient outer lacquer to stand wear and tear.
1. Silver Satin
Satin or brushed finishes are matted lacquer coatings that provide a simple yet elegant touch to hardware. It lifts the mood of a room, providing a versatile near-matte look that works across room types. Silver satin is also a reliable and durable coating type, great for things like kitchen or bathroom cabinet handles used on the daily.
Why it works with dark cabinets: Satin finishes are not too bright yet not too dull — an ideal “Goldilocks” medium to break up rows of heavy, dark cabinets. Because of this simplicity, it allows for design flairs and flexibility in the room that other finishes might make too busy.
Polished finishes come in a few key varieties, with polished brass remaining a top choice among individual consumers and retailers alike. It’s a classically seen hardware finish on knobs and hinges, bringing antique character to modern spaces or a dash of color to more monochromatic rooms.
Other polished variations include polished nickel and polished chrome. These each receive a classic lacquer coat to protect from rust and tarnish, yet carry their own special features. Polished chrome, for example, has unparalleled durability, while polished nickel’s unique glow hints at undertones of gold or amber.
Why it works with dark cabinets: Polished finishes work in nearly any room, across any design or style. It matches the ease and sophistication of dark wood cabinets, but also offers much-needed hue variation and shine against the heavy woods.
3. Oil-Rubbed Bronze
Oil-rubbed finishes are staples on bronze hardware. Designed to expedite the aged appearance of the metal, oil rubbing produces a range of deep-colored finishes. They balance the trendy fusion of retro with modern aesthetics and pair well in wood-heavy rooms, paying tribute to its ancient origins of hand-finished polished metals.
Why it works with dark cabinets: Oil-rubbed bronze can create a range of coloration on hardware. From sepia browns to monochromatic grays, the shades and undertones are rich and interesting complements to dark cabinets.
Antique or distressed finishes can be done on nearly any metal surface. Materials that take the treatment particularly well include silver, brass and bronze, though it’s not uncommon to see pewter and copper antique finishes done to great effect. The highest-quality antique finishes have one-of-a-kind tarnishing, rust marks and even water spots designed exclusively for them. It’s the perfect touch for farmhouse chic or log cabin styles.
Why it works with dark cabinets: The detail work behind an antique finish not only matches but enhances the grain patterns of many rich, dark staining. Because of their fingerprint-unique finishes, there is a story behind every antique hardware product — a story that uncannily pairs with the stateliness of solid wood cabinets.
The shiny, ultra-polished sheen of a chrome treatment is one we all know well. It’s endured the test of time to be a resounding finishing favorite, one that’s cost effective and evergreen across design styles. Chrome finishes are appealing for their sheen and light reflection. However, they easily show oils and surface residue such as those left behind from fingerprints. For this reason, chrome may require frequent, diligent cleanings and at-home polishing more so than other finishes.
Why it works with dark cabinets: Chrome’s shiny surfacing and mass versatility have made it a go-to for dark cabinets, which need other textures and light refractions to relieve its appearance. Plus, chrome plays well in spaces that include other finishing types — perfect for the eclectic designer or do-it-yourselfer.
Ready to re-imagine what hardware for dark cabinets can do for a room in your home? For details on products, colors and finishes, shop our hardware online today to spark your imagination.