My Lufkin Scale

Today I’d like to write about my scale. What is a scale you ask?  A machinists scale is a ruler.  A very precise steel ruler, typically with increments down to the 64th place.  I picked up my scale at an open house for the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.  I don’t think Lufkin makes scales like mine anymore.  Why in the world would I write about a scale?  Because this Lufkin scale is a beautiful tool.  The marks are beautifully formed, the metal is thick, it doesn’t bend or twist.  Why does that matter?  Well, at some level, I guess, it doesn’t.  But this scale is a pleasure to hold, use, and touch.  The scale is so solid that it stands up on the long edge. I could get by with a wooden ruler poached from grade school-but why?  Why do that when I can use this beautifully formed too?  I grab it every chance I get.  I find myself sitting at my desk holding onto it for no reason at all.

Lufkin Scale

Now, you may be wondering, “what the heck does this have to do with hardware?  Everything.

The way an item feels to the touch is everything.  Whether your medium is tools, hardware, furniture, clothing, cars, and even computers.   If you are building cabinetry or furniture you know how long you spent getting the wood to the perfect finish.  You know how important the texture of the wood is.  Hardware is no different.  It has to feel good.  Horton Brasses makes hardware that feels good.  Our handles, pulls, and knobs feel good every time you open a drawer or door.  Our hardware, like this little Lufkin scale, exemplifies the details that make the difference.

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The five best hardware companies in North America

Who makes the best hardware available in the USA?  Good question-with the advent of the internet there seems to be an endless number of suppliers of hardware for furniture and kitchen cabinetry.  If you are doing a new kitchen-all you need is one.  One reliable supplier who delivers the style you want, when you want it.  But what if you are in the trade?  You build or design cabinetry and furniture for a living.  You need hardware on a regular basis without the drama.  Horton Brasses knows a thing or two about hardware.  You need a vendor who you can count on.  So without further ado, here is the list of the 5 best hardware makers operating in the America.

1.  Ball & Ball, Exton, PA  Our original competitor-an old American company making great traditional hardware.

2.  Lee Valley Tools & Hardware  Not neccesarily a name you think of when you think of hardware, but they both make and design a wide variety of hardware.  Great hardware at great prices.

3.  Merit Metals  Known by architects everywhere for superbly cast and machined hinges.

4.  P.E. Guerin, Inc  Making great hardware in New York City since 1857!

5.  S.A. Baxter, NY, NY  The ultimate in luxury architectural and cabinet hardware.

So there you have it, 5 incredible companies.

What color should my kitchen cabinet hardware be?

This is the single most asked question we get.  The short answer is that there is no right or wrong.  Get what you like.  Would you like to know more than that?  OK, here goes.

What color are your kitchen cabinets?  If your cabinetry is going to be white we would suggest either polished nickel or dark antique.  Chances are you know what polished nickel looks like, but what the heck is dark antique?  Dark antique is what most companies call oil rubbed bronze.  We don’t like the term oil rubbed bronze, because it is not bronze.  It is brass in a very dark finish.  Here are two lovely kitchens, in white, with examples of each finish:

traditional kitchen

remodeled and updated kitchen

Photo courtest Crown Point Cabinetry, Claremont, NH.

But what if your kitchen is something else?  Stained wood, blue, green, etc?  Well, the same answer applies.  Use the hardware finish that you like.  It’s your kitchen after all.  Antique brass and satin nickel are two popular options that will give you a warm look.  For something a little more rustic, you might try hand forged iron.  And of course, polished nickel and dark antique aren’t limited to white, you can use them on any type of cabinetry.  Here are some examples of wood cabinets some more unique colors.

kitchen featuring hand forged iron hardware

Photo courtesy Faneuil Kitchen Cabinet, Hingham, MA

victorian style kitchen

Photo courtesy Crown Point Cabinetry, Claremont, NH.

So there you have it.  Several different examples and ideas.  If in doubt, order samples, return what you don’t want.  One more thing, and I think this gets missed by a lot of people.  Hardware is the only part of your cabinetry that you touch on a regular basis.  The way your hardware feels to the touch is as important as the way it looks.  Please choose good raw materials and a company that does good finishing work.

Video Blog

Come join us for Horton Brasses second video blog post.  In this video we are going to take you into our tool room and show you the original tooling we use to make our reproduction furniture hardware.

Discreet Luxuries

Do an online image search for “luxury kitchen” and you’ll see that there is an even bigger design decision homeowners have to make when choosing a refrigerator. It is not Sub-Zero or Liebherr but rather whether or not to hide the biggest kitchen appliance behind a custom panel matching the cabinetry.

Pictured is a recent application of the Bakes Appliance Pull (BB-1) in action.  This traditional kitchen outfitted in white cabinetry flawlessly integrates a twin refrigerator and freezer set into the overall kitchen design. Just imagine how such large pieces of kitchen appliances would change the feel of the space if the exterior finishes were not wood cabinetry but stainless steel. By using the Bakes Appliance Pulls, the kitchen design disguises industrial sized appliances with furniture-like panels. Thus, maintaining a warm, homey aesthetic that would otherwise be undermined by professional grade refrigeration.

Different factors will contribute to the decision making process.

Are coordinating panels in the budget?

Whether you are planning a $1,000 remodel or a $100,000 remodel, everyone is working with a budget. That means certain things on the wish list may go unrealized. While refrigerator door panels used to be associated with custom cabinetry, more middle grade cabinet lines are offering this option. Still, this finish choice for your refrigerator is an added cost; the finished cost will increase once you add matching appliance handles.

What is your design aesthetic?

Matching appliance panels contribute heavily to the clean, integrated look modern design enthusiasts seek. Kitchens with old–fashioned aspirations benefit from the look of custom panels, disguising appliances that would detract from a period look. Traditional kitchens also reap style rewards when appliances are hidden behind cabinetry, blending the kitchen seamlessly into the now ubiquitous open floor plan.

Are there appliance handles that match your cabinet hardware?

Most people choose to hide the refrigerator behind matching panels to create a serene, suited look. Don’t undermine this by neglecting to match your appliance pulls to your cabinet hardware. When beginning the cabinet hardware selection, save time by seeking out hardware lines that have knobs, pulls, and appliance hardware.

This past year, Horton Brasses increased appliance pull offerings and now includes 5 different appliance pulls that coordinate with the other kitchen hardware. Whether you are interested in seductively clean curving lines for a modern kitchen, historically accurate Macintosh pulls for an Arts & Crafts restoration, insanely elegant handles for that classically bespoke British affect, or really want to make a statement in your kitchen with hefty bin pulls or barn-like iron grips, Horton’s got it.

What did you do in your kitchen? Did you put that big fridge on display or did you integrate it into the look of your cabinetry? Was appliance pull selection a factor for you when choosing your kitchen cabinetry hardware?

9 Cabinet Hardware Pieces To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

What would Thanksgiving be if it weren’t for Plymouth Rock, football, and the Macy’s Parade? Probably just a bunch of overfed relatives and corduroy skirts that do nothing for your figure. Oh, and editorial lists reminding you what you have to be thankful for this year.

Hey, just because I blog for a reproduction cabinet hardware company doesn’t mean I can’t get in on the “to be thankful for…” editorial fun. In fact, I’ve come up with a list of almost 10 pieces of Horton Brasses cabinet hardware that will inspire you to pause and be grateful for all that Horton Brasses has added to your Thanksgiving celebration.

1) The Beehive Knob

You will be happy you kept a few extra on hand for family gatherings such as this. The grooved surface provides and improved grip over traditional smooth knobs. Is your 12 year old nephew looking to show off his juggling skills? Forget the tennis balls he brought with him. Now’s the time to recognize his impending manhood and allow him to use the heavy artillery. Just be sure to push the glass coffee table out of the room.

Need to prove your entertaining chops to your mother-in-law, Ms. Wanna-Be Martha Stewart herself? Screw The Beehive Knob onto the end of an unsharpened pencil (I recommend using a #2) and impress everyone with your craftiness. You’ve just fashioned a honey dipper. Can you say “upcycled?”

2) Polished Nickel Latches

Remember when you were a teenager and your aunt would hold an entire conversation with you with spinach stuck in her teeth and you were horrified that she had spinach stuck in her teeth because how could she not know she had spinach stuck in her teeth? Or maybe it wasn’t spinach. Maybe it was a big glob of lipstick on her tooth. I still don’t understand that one. But seriously, as I near forty, I have become the aunt with spinach stuck in her teeth.  Like, all the time. Even when I haven’t eaten spinach!

And let me tell you, my husband is no helper. Either he doesn’t notice the spinach stuck in my teeth or he thinks it’s supposed to be there because he doesn’t say anything to me.

Thankfully, you don’t need a husband because you have the polished nickel cabinet latch. This latch will tell you if you have spinach stuck in your teeth so shiny you can use it as a mirror. Do so. In between dinner and dessert, before you serve the coffee and laugh gratuitously at your Uncle Donny’s jokes.

3) Queslett Appliance Pull

Isn’t Thanksgiving great because you get to get dressed in all sorts of autumny clothes. Cable knit sweaters and corduroy skirts and textured tights and turtleneck cashmere. Oh no! You wore all that together? And your sister just bought a new DSLR and thinks she is going to photograph every family moment of coziness? Does this outfit make my butt look big?

Yes, it does. But fear not. The Queslett appliance pull does quite the opposite. It’s hefty brawn is the appliance handle equivalent of dating a line backer. Stand next to it in the family photo and look miniature by comparison.

4) The Bakes Pull

Tired of all the meaningless small talk at Thanksgiving? Want to stir up some meaty political debate at the holiday table but having trouble diverting the discussion from Demi and Ashton’s divorce?

The Bakes Pull allows you to easily segue into a relevant political debate without interrupting the flow of conversation traffic. Just put on your best British accent and say, “Excuse me Goody Amber, but have you noticed this kitchen hardware from Goodman Bakes?” At this point Amber, being only 11 and thus having never read The Crucible, will be rendered speechless by your affect and the adults can then regain control of the dinner conversation.

5) Crescent Pull

No calories, unlike those crescent rolls that went straight to your hips (see #3).

6) Antique Brass Pulls

Is that patina on that bin pull or did your daughter-in-law just all together give up cleaning? This intentionally aged looking hardware finish will send your mother-in-law into a housecleaning tizzy. Enjoy a hard drink while she coyly tries to snoop through your cabinets for the brass polish.

7) Ring Pulls

Who formally entertains these days? Hardly anyone, thus the disappearance of the formal dining room. But you’ve worked so hard on the Thanksgiving meal. Do it full justice and honor your guests with cloth napkins. Pull it together last minute with this cabinet hardware that will do double duty as napkin rings.

8) Forged Iron Knobs

Vegetarians coming to dinner and don’t know what to feed them? Me neither! Fortify their meal with iron and avoid the pasty pallor of malnourished pilgrims at your table.

9) Extra Hardware

Did you order two or three extra knobs and pulls when you did your remodel? Yeah, so did I. What a waste of money since this stuff is solid brass and won’t break. Re-purpose those leftover pieces by creating a centerpiece even Wanna-Be Martha Stewart (see #1) wouldn’t think of.

Fill hurricane glass with the leftover hardware and set it in groupings of three on your dining table. Basically, anything shoved into hurricane glass and grouped in threes equals “décor.”

Going Modern With Macintosh

Okay.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

The Macintosh style pulls from Horton Brasses are one of my favorites.

Sure. Charles Rennie Macintosh was a turn of the century architect who died in 1928 at the too-young age of 60, but the organic, minimalist lines of his designs beckoned an era of modernist design.

Which is why I think these pulls (also available in coordinating appliance handles) go so well with the MCM design aesthetic.

But don’t just take my word for it. This morning, while doing my daily rounds on the internet, I spotted this photo from Clayhaus Ceramics, a super cool independently operated handmade tile studio out of Portland.

Now, this is not Horton Brasses’ pull pictured here, but obviously, the styling is similar. Not sure if those are bamboo cabinets or some type of veneer but the slab doors, Macintosh style hardware, and muted retro colors definitely build a look.  All of the lines are clean. There is nothing extraneous. Yet the details—vessel sink, wall mounted faucets, multi-colored offset tile, exotic looking cabinet wood, and gently curved cabinet hardware—all add layers of richness.

When considering a modern design in your kitchen or bath, don’t feel that your only option is the European bar pull. Yes, it is tried and true. But other, less obvious, designs also work. The hardware used in the above picture stopped me in my web crawling tracks.

What, in this bathroom, grabs your attention?

Readying Your Home For A Buyer’s Market

What’s the real cost of selling a home? Sure, you are familiar with real estate agent commissions and staging fees, but do you really need to upgrade your kitchen when that 15 year old range has served your family’s needs just fine? Do you think the new owner will want to choose their own finishes and decorating touches? That’s how I, as a buyer, thought. However, a lot of people just don’t have the time to deal with a renovation and chaos after going through a move.

The New York Times just ran an interesting piece by C.J. Hughes highlighting an obstacle that I am all too familiar with. Psst, Seller: Your Stove Is Showing Its Age chronicles the tribulations of New York City sellers trying to unload their homes on a disappointing real estate market. What’s the secret to sellers’ success? According to Michael Garr of the CORE Group NYC, it’s renovating to sell.

Refinishing wood flooring, ripping out closets to make a designated eating nook, fixing shaky stairs—it’s all been done in an effort to move a property.  And in case you are wondering, the cost of the renovations (some teetering at the $100,000 mark) is not recovered in the sale price. Simply, selling a property is incentive enough.

Which made me think—yeah, maybe you only plan to be in this property for 10 years, but that’s no reason to put off a remodel since when you do list it, people expect nice and new. Might as well get some enjoyment out of it yourself!

So what can you do to ready your house for a buyer’s market?

Even though you probably won’t recoup the costs, the best place to unload your shekels is still in the kitchen and bath. Updates to these rooms give the biggest impact when showing a home. Here are 8 tips to get your kitchen and bath ready for its close-up!

1)   Change out the appliances. Yes, there is a lot of buzz in the design world whether or not stainless steel appliances have overstayed their 15 minutes of fame and date a kitchen as totally 90’s. However, that’s a rather niche conversation. For the majority of people shopping a house, stainless steel appliances are considered de rigueur. So much so, stainless steel ranges are available as low as in the $400’s to sky’s the limit pricing for big gun pro-styles like Blue Star or Viking. Choose accordingly depending on what is appropriate for your real estate market.

2)   Install new countertops. Both bathrooms and kitchens will benefit from this upgrade. Again, like stainless steel, the design world is experiencing granite fatigue. Who cares. You are not designing a space for the pages of Architectural Digest. You want to sell and people like shiny things. Granite is an easy, universal countertop choice and you can get as expensive or as budget as you like with it. Other solid surface ideas gaining popularity and prestige include quartz and concrete.

3)   Pay attention to tile. At the very least, give your grout a good scrubbing. There are professional services for hire that will save you some elbow grease. Depending on the condition of your grout, you may want to have the backsplash or shower surround regrouted. Another option is to have the tile reglazed. This will save you a lot of mess and instantly beautify your kitchen or bath. The most expensive option is to tear out the old and put up the new. Because tile is available in a vast array of materials, sizes, colors, and designs, this option can really let you make an eye catching statement and set your property apart from the others.

4)   Clean those cabinets. And paint them. Or just replace them altogether! Cabinets are usually the most expensive part of the kitchen. Again, depending on your market, it may be worth it to go the route of custom cabinetry. However, many homebuyers will be happy with well-scrubbed cabinetry in good condition. If your cabinets are old and stinky, consider replacing them with a line that will compliment the style of your home. And remember, a fresh coat of white paint can take transform dated 1990’s honey glazed maple cabinets into 2010’s on trend look.

5)   Update hardware. Maybe your cabinets are looking good after a nice scrub down with a vinegar and water solution. You saved money by saving your old cabinets but now is the time to bring it with style by splurging on new knobs and pulls. Nothing will grab a buyer’s attention like chunky polished nickel cabinet hardware.

6)   Look down. Is your flooring gross? Whether your wood is scratched, your linoleum is lackluster, or your tile is grimy, invest money in your flooring and add to a feeling of cleanliness in your kitchen and bath. Wood? Consider a new sanding. Tile?  Work on that grout. Vinyl? Tear it out!

7)   Let there be light. A well-lit kitchen or bath will definitely highlight all the good you’ve done! Show off the updated space by adding new fixtures and under cabinet lighting.

8)   Shower luxury on the bathroom. High-end showerheads that deliver a spa experience at home are an excellent selling point, catering to people looking to make their home a haven. Details like this distinguish a property.

Yup, it’s as easy as 1-2-8.

This Old House Ranks Horton Brasses Pulls Amongst Best New Home Products of 2011

You know the year is coming to an end when editors start rolling out their “Best of 2011” lists. Here at Horton Brasses, we have a few of our own favorite products, including the Bakes, Queslett, and Crescent Pulls—all newly added to the catalog in 2011. But don’t just take our well informed, albeit biased, opinion. Editors at This Old House Magazine chose Horton Brasses’ hardware amongst the Top 100 Best New Home Products of 2011.

Behold the Queslett Pull, #94 on the TOH list:

Talk about smooth operators—these boxy, sand-cast-brass bin pulls raise the game for cabinet hardware by marrying a pleasing heft with a liquid-metal look. We see them in a crisp white kitchen, where the three sizes can shine on various pieces, from spice drawers to dishwashers.

The Queslett Pulls are personal favorites of both Orion and mine. To actually touch one is to love it. We are talking brawn and beauty here. The tactile pleasure of the Queslett is difficult to capture in a flat image, but the exclusive honor of being the only cabinet hardware on a list of 100 fabulous products bears testimony to it’s uniquely detailed quality. Amongst an abundance of bin pulls, the Queslett stands distinctly alone.

Borrowing the name from the Queslett region of Birmingham, the design of these bin pulls is the result of collaboration with the finest English cabinetmakers. Inspired by a tradition of classic bespoke kitchens, the Queslett integrates advances in craftsmanship with the continuity of timeless style. Unlike other large sized bin pulls, the Queslett is machine screw mounted. With hidden screws, nothing detracts from the extraordinary finish of the pull—the crown jewel of your cabinets.

Horton Brasses is thrilled to receive such an honor from one of the industry’s top authorities on old house restoration. Much thanks to the editors of This Old House Magazine.

Do you have a favorite new product from Horton Brasses? Tell us which knobs and pulls caught your attention in 2011.

Object Impermanence

Did you see the October 3rd issue of The New Yorker? It includes an essay by Laura Collins on the undrar (wonder) of Ikea. House Perfect—Is the IKEA ethos comfy or creepy? is a balanced, conflicted look at the home furnishing mega-box that has revolutionized the flat packed design of how we live.

IKEA leads with a minimalist-universalist brand of style that translates across cultures, is broken down into 4 sub-sets by affordability, and almost always requires an allen wrench. The stores are mapped out in an exacting science, the designs are whittled down to include as little air as possible in the flat-boxed packaging, and there is no guarantee that your purchase will last. Strike that. It is guaranteed not to last. In fact, that is all a part of IKEA’s branding.

So when people ask if there really is a difference between this IKEA knob or pull and this cabinet hardware—at double the price—the answer is a resolute yes. The majority of cabinet hardware sold by IKEA is aluminum or zinc plated. These are soft metals. Horton Brasses casts its hardware from ultra-durable brass. Because it is made to last. Because you are not buying a throw away item. You are making an investment in something that will probably outlast your mortgage payments.

I understand that IKEA is a great choice if you move a lot or want to keep reinventing yourself. IKEA understands that too. And the IKEA designers have a lot of ingenious ideas that are totally on trend—even if transcending trend is IKEA’s goal.  Peek inside the well-designed homes of the rich in magazines like Architectural Digest or House Beautiful and surely you will spot an IKEA kitchen, IKEA bookshelves, or some other storage solutions.

Collins writes that “choosing a piece of furniture was once a serious decision, because of the expectation that it was permanent. IKEA has made interiors ephemeral.”

Without much thought, this statement evokes a strong reaction in me. The environmental issues that arise with throw-away furniture, the lowered expectation of quality that we acculturate ourselves into, and furthering the distance between the finished product and the maker of that product.

What about you? Anyone read the full article? IKEA is a serious business and cultural force worldwide. How do you feel about the ease and affordability of big business vs. the craftsmanship and craftsmanship of manufacturers like Horton Brasses and the bevy of fine woodworkers that the Horton Brasses name is associated with?