June 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Home Touch

Add some subtle panache to decor with new doorknobs

With a timeless quality that appeals to both young and old alike, crystal doorknobs feel luxurious in the hand. (Baldwin Hardware)

Your home design can take a turn for the better when you get a grip on the door’s hardware. See how decorative knobs or levers — made of metal or glass — are opening doors to home design.

“An entrance door handle is really the first point of contact a person has with a home,” says Fredy Orellana, global senior project manager for Baldwin Hardware, a doorknob design company since 1946, based in Lake Forest, California. “And the kind of knob or lever that’s on a door can help make for a grand entrance.”

Orellana says a doorknob can, in turn, be both functional and ornamental, like “jewelry” on the blank canvas of an interior or exterior door. “The doorknob becomes a focal point as you use it to open the door to enter a room,” he says. “But form should never compromise functionality.”

Many doorknobs are manufactured to fit the American standard door with a 212-inch precut hole. Shiny brass doorknobs, found in hardware and home improvement stores, are ubiquitous standard builders’ grade that are installed by people who, perhaps, don’t even consider the other opening (and closing) options.

But Orellana says a home that is well-designed pays attention to the smallest details, such as the doorknob hardware. “When it comes to doorknobs, we are finding that what was old is new again, as people are restoring old homes or just want a quality product that focuses on design and craftsmanship,” he says.

The doorknobs used within a home must complement a house’s architecture. A scrolled, ornate doorknob wouldn’t open new doors in a modern, minimalist design, and a bright shiny doorknob would look out of place in the renovation of an older home.

Renovating homes with older appeal can include adding doorknobs that are oval-shaped with decorative designs. Brass remains a popular doorknob metal, but for a one-of-a-kind look, shiny finishes are out, while oil-rubbed and matte finishes are in.

When it comes to transitional spaces that blend both a traditional and modern aesthetic, there is a strong resurgence in crystal doorknobs. With a timeless quality, crystal doorknobs feel luxurious in the hand, says Orellana. The price is also a luxury — costs can soar up to $500.

Contemporary spaces look cool and polished with shiny nickel knobs and barlike levers. “A lever works the same way as a doorknob, except that it is much easier for both adults and children to open,” Orellana says. “There is strong demand for levers in contemporary design, as many no longer have that ‘institutional’ look.”

Levers are popular in homes that employ the concept of “universal design,” so retirees can age in place. The addition of well-designed levers, instead of the sometimes more difficult to turn doorknobs, is key is to making accommodations in a home, without making it look too institutional.

A well-designed doorknob on an exterior door has to pull double-duty: It not only has to look stylish, it also has to help provide a level of security. “It used to be that double doors on the front of homes were popular,” Orellana says. “But now, more people want larger single front doors that lock into the doorjamb.”

An exterior doorknob, lever or latch system with a deadbolt lock should meet the highest American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rating. A Grade-One deadbolt is best, which meets impact standards and is pick-resistant.

Original, antique doorknobs are prized among those who are renovating their homes, but make sure the handle sets are in good working order before purchasing. Swapping out a builders’ grade variety for knobs that blow the doors off design can be a do-it-yourself project that is achieved by using a simple screwdriver, says Orellana.

“A simple doorknob can reflect great design,” Orellana says. “By turning your attention to the small details, a doorknob becomes something more than a way to open a door; it becomes a small delight in design that you hold in your hand.”

Contemporary spaces look cool and polished when using modern levers that ... (Baldwin Hardware)
For a one-of-a-kind doorknob design, the shiny finishes are out, while oil- ... (Baldwin Hardware)
A doorknob can be functional and ornamental. This doorknob has a vintage ... (Baldwin Hardware)