A few months ago, we completed our kitchen remodel. It was a big deal, involving moving supporting walls and two full months of starvation. About a week into the tear out, I discovered I was pregnant with my third child. Our busy life was about to get busier.
Functionality was my inspiration when making my choices for the remodel. While I definitely wanted the space to look great, I wanted to make sure I could maintain that achieved level of beauty as effortlessly as possible. Maybe I knew deep down inside that we would one day end up with another baby. Or maybe I knew that whether or not more kids were in my future, life these days is never simple. So many commitments, so many unexpected things popping up—who has time for high maintanence surfaces, nooks and crannies that need scrubbing with a toothbrush or anything “delicate”?
In my new kitchen, I chose hardware that requires absolutely no maintainence other than a quick wipe down on an as needed basis with a ph neutral cleaner. That’s right. Dish soap. I have knobs and pulls from Horton Brasses in satin nickel, polished nickel and dark antique finishes, as well as some crystal and milk glass knobs from around the web. I do absolutely nothing to them other than sponge off crud and gunk as it happens. And they look great. We lived for two years with the antique brass finish on our hardware in a kitchen we remodeled in our old house. Again, nothing but warm soapy water as needed and the knobs and pulls looked fabulous.
If I had my kitchen to do over again, there are a few things I would do differently based on all the knowledge gained from my remodel experience. One thing is I would definitely add some more polished nickel to the space. I am an active reader of The Garden Web Kitchen Forum, a great resource for all things kitchen remodel, but at the time of my decision making, had a difficult time sorting through all the pro’s and con’s of polished nickel. Now, after living with some and after having more time to research it, I see that polished nickel is also an easy finish to live with, especially when it is lacquered, as most are.
So now that I am a total walking encyclopedia (very small volume, admittedly) of how to handle those hardware finishes, let me share that info with you, via this blog post.
What’s Lacquer Got To Do With It?
First of all, when it comes to brass and nickel, you are going to want to know whether or not the piece is lacquered. This is important for two reasons. 1) If you are after a high shine (polished nickel or bright polished brass) the lacquered finish will keep that shine for you without any effort. 2) If your hardware is lacquered, you definitely want to keep it far, far away from any polishes. Polish will take the lacquer right off. To achieve and maintain that shine in the future will require your elbow grease. Here’s the scoop on Horton Brasses finishes. All custom work is unlacquered. I had some larger bin pulls custom finished by the Horton Brasses shop to match the other hardware I bought from them. The stuff looks great and I love how it is aging. A warm patina is developing on the pulls where my fingers touch them. Ahhhh. Even though it is not lacquered, I have no intention of ever polishing it. And it should not be polished really. It’s antiqued! Again, if the ‘p’ word (patina) is not for you, then get the lacquered finish. Aside from the custom stuff, the Horton Brasses line of nickel (polished and satin) is lacquered, which means you never have to polish it! Just wipe it with a soft rag and warm soapy water. Easy.
Bright or polished brass will need to be polished in order to keep it looking super shiny. To do this, it is best to remove the hardware from the cabinetry before applying polish to avoid damaging the wood finish. If you prefer the look of unfinished brass or want to apply your own finish, then the semi-bright finish is for you. This is a rough look, so no need to polish. The semi-bright is unlacquered and will give you instant patina and may be an acquired taste. For those looking for a brass finish that shuns polish, the light and dark antique look is for you. Again, warm soapy water. The dark antique kitchen hardware line from Horton Brasses can be purchased lacquered if you fear the patina I so love.
Other Tips For Maintaining Kitchen Hardware
Basically, the only hardware that needs actual care is polished brass. Everything else is a total no brainer. But one of the magical things about polished brass is that, even if neglected for ages, it revives beautifully with a little tlc. For day to day care of your polished brass, a little rubbing alcohol on a sponge will go a long way. To revive tarnished brass, you will have to polish. For very detailed instructions on how to polish your brass, visit this link. As you will see, don’t overdo it! Too much polish will leave your brass prone to smudges and fingerprints. Additionally, a good way to extend the effect of polishing is to coat your brass hardware thinly with oil. Many commercial polishes contain oil, acting as a barrier between the metal and the air. Whatever finish you choose for your cabinetry, there is a beautiful look waiting for you that requires minimal time and commitment for upkeep. And now that the style pendulum is swinging back to polished brass (yes, everything ’80’s/’90’s is new again!), both traditionalists and trendsetters will know just what is involved with keeping that classically current look.