Learning the Hard Ware

Operation Heart of the Home. 

Mission:  To affordably alter our kitchen to make it more our style and increase the functionality while still fitting our lifestyle. 

Timeline:  Late 2012 and early 2013 during several phases so we don’t lose the ability to actually use our kitchen. 

Budget: under $3000 – preferably closer to $2000

Current Condition:  We are slightly above ground zero with this mission.  We already added a new fridge, and dishwasher, and revamped a kitchen table & chairs, painted a light fixture, renovated the desk area and hung new island lights.  The overall condition of the kitchen can easily be described as dirty and flawed.  When we bought the house, the backsplash and countertops were covered with some sort of sticky residue…I was able to clean most of it off the imperfect granite but the tiles have clung to it like stink on a diaper.  The stovetop and oven-microwave combo were the only appliances left in the kitchen…the oven and microwave function wonderfully.  The stovetop however is chipped and has a downdraft ventilation system that doesn’t work.  Plus a burner is broken.  The two sinks are fully functional – but the faucets leak at the seal with the countertop.  This normally would cause a problem but we noticed that if we only use the faucets to half flow, the amount of leakage is minimal and drains right back into the sink.  Full blast while wearing white shorts is not a good idea.  The cabinets get a B+.  They are properly installed and hold everything we need but besides being knobless for the last 18 months, the doors are marked up and gashed.  The floor does blend into the cabinets – and like every Bachelorette knows…too much wood in a room is not always a good thing.  There are minimal details in this space including a more traditional rope style crown molding piece on top of the cabinets (not my choice but I think we can make it work) and a very plain and simple island with very traditional corbels.     

So that’s where we are at in our heart of the home.  We don’t hate the kitchen – but it definitely would suit us more with a few simple changes.

One of the easiest changes would be hardware. 

Some folks asked us if we removed all the knobs when we moved in to baby-proof the kitchen for Will.  I reply…um…okay sure.  But the answer is no.  We never had any.  It would have definitely been interesting to see what the previous owners had :)  They did however leave the holes for us.  So kind :)

Excuse the mess…I can never seem to keep a countertop free from clutter.

The funny thing about going a year and a half without knobs is that you end up learning exactly how to grab the corners of each drawer or door to open it quickly.  And when people came over they struggled with getting their own fork or glass because they couldn’t open the cabinet…and I was all judgey in my brain…like dude, you gotta learn how to open a cabinet if you wanna survive Armegeddon or zombies one day.  Searching for canned goods kept Will Smith alive ya know?! 

Anyhoo…my goal was to find simple and dark hardware that matched the new island light fixtures.   The cabinets will probably be painted in the near future (I’m crossing my fingers for the next two weeks!) so the dark hardware would be just the thing to make them pop. 

***For all you PLEASE-DONT-PAINT-YOUR-CABINETS-PEEPS out there….I had wood hued cabinets in my last house…I’m ready for change…and let’s face it – I look better with white in the background vs. orangey wood…and it’s all about making me look good.

I found the Brainerd brand cup pulls from Lowes a while back and we fell in love.  HARD.  Like Paula-Deen-with-her-first-stick-of-butter hard.  We loved the simple style…the fact that it was larger than other cup pulls available in stock for Jeremy’s beefy hands…and hidden screws.  Plus, we feel like cup pulls are like a hey-what’s-up kinda nod to country kitchens (not that we are going all-out-country but we do live way out there so it fits).   The other thing we loved about it is the fact that it has a silvery undertone.  Oil-rubbed bronze hardware all has a gold undertone but we are mixing and matching finishes in this kitchen (stainless fridge, dishwasher, nickel future faucets – black countertops, black accents on stove, dark gray island lights with silvery lining)…so gold is kinda out for us and silvery is kinda in…hence our bff called cast iron…or soft iron…or wrought iron :)    

But low and behold, Lowes doesn’t sell a knob that matches the iron cup pull.  (???)  So after scouring the internet for matching knobs I decided that it was worth checking Home Depot’s Martha’s line…they had soft iron knobs that looked simple enough and I was desparate to find ones that didn’t cost $8 each.  Thankfully good ole Martha pulled through for me (punny!).  She had a bowl knob that matched perfectly and were pretty cheap at $2 a piece.

Now to tackle installing the cup pulls on drawers that already had a hole. 

I used a piece of cardstock to create a template.  First by marking where the hole is and making sure the top of the card lined up with the top of the drawer.  Then I placed my cup pull over the card – making sure the hole was covered and the knob was centered.

I double checked the measurements on both sides to make sure it was centered. 

Once I was positive that my tracing was centered and level, I could mark the holes for drilling by punching the tip of the pencil through the template card.

It’s confusing but our cup pulls had two sets of holes you could screw into.  I did them both because they would be all covered anyway and this was Jer (who was weilding the drill) could decide which set to use.

Then I just took a pen and marked each drawer for predrilling for the pulls…

As you can see – the inside marks are the ones we eventually used.  That’s because our drawer fronts are a little deep and the inside screw holes were better suited for longer screws.

Speaking of screws….we had to do some tweaking to ours. 

In the package came a set of short screws and a set of long ones.  The long ones were of the break-away variety.  Sortof like tear away basketball pants but totally different :)  The threads of the screws are segregated into different sections…so you can break away part of the screw to make it the length you need. 

This was our first experience with break away screws.   (Here’s a picture if you need a visual)  These are great for making the screws the perfect length…these are not so great because dude, you are trying to break metal.  And last time I checked, metal is kinda hard.

We found that you have to hold one screw with pliers or a grip with the direction of the threads right where you want to break it and then hold the end that you want to break off with another set perpendicular to the other grip.  Then with your giant rippling forearm muscles (is it a coincidence that Jeremy was wearing a Popeye shirt?  I think not.)  you have to rock the end back and forth till it breaks. 

Once we had all our metal-wrestling (and workout for the day!) done, we simply screwed these bad boys in.

I love love love the finish and the simplicity. 

And the existing holes are completely covered so we didn’t have to worry about them peeking out from underneath the cup pulls :)

Overall – such a simple upgrade but one that is so beneficial to all our guests.  I still catch myself grabbing the corners of the drawers instead of using the pulls simply out of habit but Jeremy swears that he can’t imagine jamming his bigger fingertips into the tight crevices ever again (haha).   

It’s also fun to see that our $30 pendants match them perfectly.  Undertones bother me so I’m glad we held out for matching ones instead of just going with the more popular oil-rubbed version.

Here’s a good photo of the side of the island…doesn’t it look cheap!?  I think it would be so much nicer with chunky leg details or beadboard or something to make it look less than an afterthought.  I guess I’ll have to search Pinterest for inspiration :)

Oh and I failed to mention this earlier but those recessed light caps…the gold ones…the ones that stand out like pock marks on a teenager…they can not be spray painted soon enough. 

I also wanted to ask ya a question – sortof like a poll…should we glue a pull on that last drawer.  I think yes.  Jeremy said there is no way to screw it in because the sink comes so close behind it so we would have to glue it on…which I don’t know about sturdiness.  This is very important.  life changing decisions. 

So here is the current condition….

And here is what we want to do with Phase 2 of Operation Heart of the Home.   We want to paint all the cabinets.  The island will get a different color :)  The top cabinets and bottom cabinets will match (Jeremy doesn’t prefer the two-toned and I aim to please)…so we are thinking white…possibly a glaze.  The cabinet above the stove top is very damaged with the smoke and moisture that has continually beat on it.  So the plan is to buy a hood and build around it so that it looks built in and have it vent to the outside.  This poses a problem since most vents need ductwork and we don’t have that.  We came up with a plan…we’ll share it later.  Also – we can not wait to replace the faucets.  It will be so nice not to have a puddle on the countertop around the bottoms…and did I mention they are gold?!

Phase three is a big deal…hopefully we can pick out a great tile for the backsplash.  It needs to be washable…we are messy.  We also hope to replace the stovetop ($$$) which may require a bigger hole in the granite ($$) which is definitely something we will look into hiring out.  And then there is the island…painting it right now is nothing…reworking the details of it will be a much bigger task but hopefully it will look less cheap and really be a focal point in the space.

So how’s that for a lot of info?! 

And did I mention that we want to get phase 2 done this month? 

Yeah.  This pregnancy is starting to get a little tougher…so I need to get my nesting on before I put on that last thirty pounds.  Yes, I am one of those girls that packs on like 60 lbs when I’m growing babies – don’t judge me :)   But seriously – how bout them knobs?!  Took me long enough, huh?!



  1. says

    hi katie!

    my kitchen is very much like yours so i can’t wait to see what you do. i’d love white instead of orange as well—and just got a few estimates to see how much it would be to have it done. both estimates were right at $3,000. a little too steep for us right now.

    after you’re done i’d love to know if you think it’s something that could be diy’d by two people with two full-time jobs and two 4-year-old boys (remember how wild alex and max were?? yeah, times that by 100 these days and add in some sass talkin’!!)—or if it’s too much to tackle and we should start saving our nickels.

    thanks, chickadee! can’t wait to see it all done. and can’t wait to see your next bump picture. i imagine you are really showing by now! ps—i gained 60 pounds, too!

    xo. holly

    • says

      Holly! I have a thank you card for you that has been hanging on the side of my fridge for what feels like years! Could you txt me your address?
      Thanks – oh and I love Alex’s olympic diving photo :)
      xo – kb

  2. says

    We did some cosmetic work on our kitchen in November (paint cabinets, resurface counter tops, etc). My friend, I wish you luck and patience! Can’t wait to see how great it will be!

  3. Sarah says

    I love the idea of painting the cabinets white, check out this other blog and their first house where they painted their cabinets to white. http://www.housetweaking.com/. They also had some advice on how they did it.

    I can’t wait to see the finished look!

  4. says

    Katie! Love the new knobs/handles. They look GREAT! 1. Shouldn’t you have painted the cabinets BEFORE the new hardware? lol I make too much of a mess to try and work around those new beauts. 2. I cannot wait for the white ‘backdrop’, you my friend.. are going to POP (literally and metaphorically). Also, I insist you glue the last handle. It feels so awkward without one. Like, being the 13th wheel kind of awkward. Anywho, keep up the awesomeness!

  5. Jessica says

    I definitely vote for putting a handle on that drawer. Can you not just remove the draw front, screw the knob (haha), and put the drawer back?

  6. Trish Robinson says

    Always an inspiration. Love what you are doing and amazed that you do it all! Wood glue, did a high school project circa 1995-96, and wood glue should work well, but then again maybe not, I don’t know, ask the guy at Lowe’s he should know.:)

  7. Tanya says

    Love your style! I’m so jealous of your big kitchen. We have 3 small pieces of counter space in our kitchen and with a family of 5, that’s not much room! Looking forward to seeing the completed project:)

  8. says

    We’re in the middle of updating our kitchen right now! So wish you were going first though! Can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Our orange-y wood cabinets are going white as well, but we’re painting them ourselves to save money. Fun times!

  9. Destiny says

    Just “glue” it! (I couldn’t help myself!) What about some beadboard on the end of the island. It think it looks great, especially in a white kitchen.

  10. says

    YES!! Glue the handle on!! Is it possible to unscrew that panel, attach the handle, and then put the panel back on?! Or is the panel already glued?

    We put similar hardware in our kitchen and LOVE it! We also added the cup handles to the 2 faux drawers below our kitchen sink (in your case it would be the kitchen sink and under the cook top). Have you considered this? Or do you think it will also confuse your guests?! Others may not agree, but I think those faux drawers look so blah without their eyeliner! ;)

  11. says

    I love the knew knobs… and I love that you are painting the wood.

    And – yes, glue it. Before I even saw that you were proposing that, I was thinking it is what I would have done….

  12. Kim says

    1-totally need to glue that extra pull on. I love symmetry
    2-the ceiling lights (I call them high hats) I thought mine were bad in black, but you win. Gold is horrible. A easy fix (tell jeremy to get that ladder out tomorrow)
    3-paint those cabinets girl – your new baby will thank you

  13. says

    Aw I love the wood cabinets but everybody has their own taste and I know your’s will look SO good at the end and I will totally go back on my own wood love. We also added pulls to our cabinets right after we moved in because they never had them. There were small indents to open and close the cabinets but it was too grimy for me.

  14. says

    Instead of just putting a pull on that fake drawer, what about putting a towel rod for an extra hand towel? I know I can’t get enough of those….

  15. says

    I cannot wait to see how your cabinets look white! I looooove white cabinets! And my opinion yes I would get another handle on that last one somehow if you can. It would look better. Not sure how you would do it though. We had the same thing in our kitchen and we haven’t figured out how to make it work. I will have to check your blog to see if you do and do that same! xoxo

  16. Debbie says

    Hi Katie,
    Just love, love your blog.
    I was wondering if the drawer next to the “naked” one comes out. Our new kitchen drawers have tiny releases in the back. If the drawer next to the fake one comes all the way out, could you remove that drawer so that you could screw in the one on the fake one, tighten the back, and then put the real drawer back in. If the drawers do release, that would also make painting them a whole lot easier. Just a thought. Know that between you and Jer, and maybe a phone call to John and Sherry, you will come up with a great idea. I love the new whites in the Benjamin Moore line.

    • says

      We just found out that it’s glued in place. and nailed. so that sucker is stuck permanently. We think that we could use a special ratchet tool to attach a pull so hopefully that will work out.
      xo – kb

  17. Kristi says

    If it is a usable drawer (opens and closes) glue the knob. But don’t if it is decorative. Too many guests and friends have pulled off entire false door fronts due to knobs!

  18. Jessica says

    I’m brand new to your blog and have just been checking things out. Because you don’t have an archive, or at least I can’t find it, I’ve had to go through your kitchen renovation in reverse order. The results are fabulous, BTW. I’m just wondering why on earth you made extra work for yourselves installing the hardware before painting the cabinets? Maybe you decided to paint after adding the hardware, but in the post, painting is on the to-do list. Or did you just cover the handles and knobs with tape and paint the cabinets with them attached? I can’t remember.

    • says

      Well, we were trying to make sure we loved the hardware before painting…the worst possible situation for us would be to paint the cabinets and then drill holes for the new hardware just to end up hating it…so removing and then reattaching hardware is a whole lot easier than removing, filling holes, sanding, repainting, and then going with new hardware :)
      xo – kb

      • Jessica says

        Now, see? That makes total sense. I never even thought of that even though it’s such an obvious answer now. You, Katie Bower, are one clever girl! Thanks for your reply, especially on such a dated post.

  19. Jackie B says

    I think a cabinet panel on the opposite sides of your island and one on the end of the long bay of cabinets would be a good choice. Just order the panels that glue on or nail in. Where the stools go, I would put up headboard there. I would also add some feet on the island and some corbels too where the stools go. If the cabinet panels are too expensive, I would add beadboard all the way around. I do like the color of your cabinets. They are not orangy and I have seen orangy as in red oak cabinets! I also think the floor would look really nice stained darker which would look awesome with white cabinets. I think a brown glaze on the white would look terrific too. And definitely a bin pull on that drawer. That is a no brainer!

  20. Marg says

    I ran into same trouble today with sink too close to handle I was trying to put on. My hubby used a box end wrench with a screwdriver bit end and it worked great. He is a smart fella. Saved his damsel in distress!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *