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Handle-less Kitchen design and other types?


Are you considering the Handle-less kitchen for your next project? While style, budget and current trends are all to be considered it’s all also handy to know the pro’s and con’s with each option. Let’s look at the most common and popular handle options in Australian kitchens and see how the options stack up for you.

Making the best decision for your next project will mean your kitchen looks great and functions just right for you.


Silence is Golden!

Before we discuss handle types let’s clear up another term often mixed in with any discussion on handle-less kitchens. Soft Closing Doors & Drawers are very popular and it’s important to talk about this now before we discuss other opening types. Soft Close refers to a smooth closing action in both doors and drawers which resists them being slammed shut – this will definitely make your kitchen quieter.

Soft close is a great option for any design and while it is an upgrade and will therefore add to your budget, it is relatively economical to include in your design. Some kitchen designers will offer this as standard although this just means it is built into the price. Choosing soft close or not is generally an independent question to consider and is not strictly related to whether you have handles or handle-less door styles in your design.

PRO TIP

Remember there is a difference between Self-closing Doors and Soft Closing Doors. The “self” element means that the hinge or drawer has a built-in design element that pulls the drawer or door shut for a positive close, sometimes with a tap or bang. This ensures your doors and drawers don’t sit ajar!

“Soft”-closing refers to a smooth closing action which resists being slammed shut – this will definitely make your kitchen quieter. Most components that are soft-closing are also self-closing, but not all self-closing components are soft-closing.


Option 1: The Handle

The good old popular handle is still here. Never has there been such a huge range of handles from classic through to modern & chic and in a huge range of colours and finishes… While many are quick to suggest that ‘modern’ means a handle-less Kitchen, this isn’t always required to achieve a minimalist, modern contemporary or Scandinavian look. Handles can be used very effectively to improve functionality (particularly for elderly or the mobility challenged) and access & enhance design styles such as classic, art deco, industrial or French provincial.

The type of handle you select is important. Handles are one of the finishing touches that can make or break the style you’re trying to achieve. Choose a complimentary colour to avoid a visual clash, or when needed (all white kitchen), think about using a strong handle to contrast your design. Consider your drawers and what’s going inside your drawers; if they’re likely to get heavy you’ll want a handle sturdy enough to grab and operate all day with ease.

PRO TIP

If finger marks are a concern but you don’t like the look of handles, there are plenty of discreet style handles that are far less noticeable than others, so you can still achieve a minimalistic look without the constant maintenance of cleaning finger marks.

Another option is to use a clean looking handle on the bottom and no handles on top. This is a sensible compromise as it will reduce the busy-ness and potential for messy finger marks at the same time.


Option 2: Push To Open

This option is ideal for very modern and sleek designs where your impact is created via other visual design elements or textures.

Push to open is just that – you push on the door and it pops open 30mm-50mm, so you can then grab the front and effortlessly open up, simply press shut. Closing is just the reverse. The real advantage here is you can have a minimalist design with no handles and no visible opening type (i.e. the shadow line or rail effect in traditional handle-less kitchen).

This mechanism allows you to have no handles on any type of cabinet material, however as this requires you to press on the door or drawer directly with your hands it does mean that you’ll be leaving finger marks behind every time you open or close them. Certain finishes will show marks less than others and greatly improve this drawback so talk to your kitchen designer if this is a concern for you.

PRO TIP

The Blum range of hardware offers beautiful opening via push to open and soft closing action for any kitchen design. From smooth action on both opening and soft closing doors through to full extension drawers that open effortlessly with a push and still close softly, even under heavy weights, this is professional and very contemporary way to finish off your kitchen design. Plus, the lifetime warranty is great to have right?

CONS

Think about size of door – too large and the zone of action to activate the spring mechanism will be more focused. Think about large pantry doors, if the push to open mechanism is in the middle of the door than you will need to push in the middle of the door to activate. If you push at the top of the door you may not open the door.


Option 3: Lift Up Systems

While this section is only relevant for overhead or wall cabinets, it is still worth understanding. Many effective kitchen designs aesthetically blend different styles for your above counter units compared to the choice of handles on under bench cabinets.

There’s a great range of Blum lift up systems available for overhead cabinets designed to make access a lot easier. As well as being more functional and easy to access for above shoulder storage, this option is a great alternative instead of regular doors that swing open sideways, particularly if you are tight on space. Lift up doors are just that, they move up & out of the way so you can leave them open without the risk of banging into them with your head.

Lift up systems can be operated manually or automatically using Blum’s electrical ‘Servo Drive’ mechanism, which can be particularly useful for high or hard to reach cabinets. For smaller cabinets, they can also be operated via push to open mechanisms.

Blum SERVO DRIVE

PRO TIP

Regardless of your final handle choice, considering Lift Up Units in your design will definitely improve accessibility in your kitchen design. When combined with Push To Open the result is very smooth and modern overhead panel options which can be combined with any other handles option below your benchtop level. This is  perfect option for overhead cabinets in a handle-less Kitchen design.


Option 4: Classic Finger rail

Handle-less kitchens are one of the most popular requests we still get from clients – there’s something about the clean and effortless look of a handle-less kitchen that homeowners are drawn to, particularly in contemporary kitchens. If you’re keen to do away with handles, then consider how you might achieve a handle-less kitchen design without compromising on practicality. After all, you don’t want to be bothered by having no handles to grab and open drawers and cabinets quickly when you’re running around the kitchen in a tizz!

Handle-less kitchens, depending on the option you choose, generally cost about 20%-50% more than a kitchen with conventional handles. The reason for this is the additional labour involved in the manufacturing process of handle-less cabinetry, as well as the cost of a more involved installation.

PRO TIP

While this style is not beyond the experienced DIYer it is definitely a more complex design option to incorporate your design and you may wish to factor in either professional design services and / or installation.

CONS

While this look is all about being clean and flat, the nature of the style means you will have lines or channels created by each rail. This can be somewhat annoying for those of us that are more particular and is worsened if your drawers are not naturally aligned. This channel can become a dust and crumb collector and will require regular cleaning. It’s something to take into consideration if you prefer to keep your home as low maintenance as possible.


Option 5: Hidden Pull Handles

This is a simple and very cost-effective option for achieving a simple and clean look in your design. While ideally suited for below-counter cabinets, the hidden pulls are simply fixed to the top edge of each door or drawer panel so that just a sliver juts out. Some styles are more invisible, and others, called “edge pulls,” are just very, very minimalist—but both are easy to grasp with your fingertips and pull on.

PRO TIP

Be aware, depending on the profile of the handle, you may require a slightly larger gap between doors & drawers in order to ensure the hidden pull is not scraping on the benchtop or adjacent panels. While this can be easily accommodated for by most flexible manufacturers at time of ordering it is very expensive to rectify this after (this means cutting back every panel).

CONS

Be aware, in some cases this larger gap can be distracting from what is meant to be a minimalist design!


Conclusion – is the Handle-less Kitchen right for you?

Being aware of the different options will assist you in making the best design decision. Whilst you may have your heart set on a handle-less Kitchen, understanding the pro’s and con’s of each option will ensure you are well placed to make an informed decision.


More Resources…

Try these resources for other useful tips…

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Design Trends

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