Door knobs: Don’t neglect these when planning your new old home

Updated: Mar 15, 2019

The lowly doorknob.  No one ever thinks about them.  Ask almost anyone what kind of doorknobs they have and most won’t be able to tell you.

Choosing and installing door hardware is one of the last steps to building a new old house or restoring an old home.  When it is decorative it makes a statement and helps set the tone of the home.  Decorative hardware is not expected, it is something that is used and touched every day.  It is an integral part of the home.

Decorative hardware should match the style and age of the home.  

  • Early American homes had simple round brass and rim locks.  (A rim lock is surface mounted and is seen on the outside of the door).  Brass was scarce and expensive so doorknobs were usually undersized.

  • Small brass knobs gave way to ceramic or porcelain doorknobs in the early 1840’s.  White, black and Bennington (aka mineral) were the colors used.  Bennington doorknobs look like marble and sometimes burled wood.  They are made by hand mixing three colors of brown clay.

  • The Victorian Period featured Aesthetic Movement hardware with birds, plants, Oriental and other foreign influenced decorative hardware.  It was made of cast bronze.  After the civil war, casting reached its high point and decorative hardware reached its zenith.

  • Following the Victorian Period, Arts and Craft and Mission styles predominated.  Lines were very simple.  Patterns were either cast or stamped in iron, brass and bronze.   Art Noveau and Colonial Revival decorative hardware also was utilized but less so.

  • The Art Deco Period came next.   During the Depression glass doorknobs and mass produced stamped steel and brass rosettes and back plates ruled the day.

  • After World War II, The Modern Movement did away with glass doorknobs and switched to less decorative wrought hardware in new finishes of chrome, brushed brass, and steel.

Kitchen hardware remained simple until the Victorian Period.  Many of the common themes of that time were reflected in decorative cupboard knobs and hinges.  Pieces were made in cast bronze.  Hinges were plain cast iron without any decoration before the 1870’s when cast iron decorative scroll hinges with ball or steeple tips came into common usage.  More expensive homes had decorative cast bronze hinges that matched the themes of the Victorian Hardware Period.  The Mission and Arts and Crafts Periods had hinges without details except for plain ball tips.

Don’t neglect the important details of decorative hardware.  It makes a big impact and gives a big bang for the buck.

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