Where to Put Knobs and Handles on Kitchen Cabinets

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated September 28, 2022
Mother and daughter in kitchen
Photo: fizkes / Adobe Stock


  • The cost to install new kitchen cabinet hardware ranges from $100 to $10,000

  • Knobs and pulls are the main types of hardware. 

  • Use all knobs, pulls, or mix and match for a unique aesthetic. 

  • Appropriate placement depends on the type of cabinets you have and your preference. 

  • Where you place the hardware can create a traditional or modern look and improve ease of use.

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Since cabinets are featured prominently in kitchen decor, they often become the room's focal point. You can shift your aesthetic to a more modern one by switching out crystal knobs for brushed nickel knobs, but hardware placement is also a style choice. Here are some guidelines on positioning knobs and handles on kitchen cabinets to achieve your desired look.

Types of Cabinetry Hardware: Knobs vs. Pulls

There are two basic types of kitchen cabinet hardware that you can choose between: knobs and pulls. The cost to install cabinet hardware ranges dramatically from as low as $100 to as high as $10,000, so careful planning is essential to ensure you get the right look for your kitchen design and your budget. 


Knobs are similar to doorknobs (on a smaller scale) and come in many different designs and materials. They’re easy to install since they only require one screw to affix them to a cabinet. 

Bar Pulls

Bar pulls are exactly what they sound like—slim bars that you attach to your cabinets. Like knobs, they come in more modern shapes like straight, slim bars or more traditional ones with curves and designs etched into them.

Cup Pulls

Cup pulls look like half-cups attached to your cabinets that you can slip your fingers underneath and pull out. These pulls provide a modern look on shaker cabinets or a farmhouse look on traditional cabinets. 

Edge Pulls

Edge pulls, or tab pulls, don’t require any additional hardware because they’re affixed to the edges of the cabinets or carved out of the side. These are the most minimalist type of pulls since they have a low profile and blend in with the cabinets, so it looks like there’s no hardware at all.

Where to Use Knobs and Pulls

There’s no hard or fast rule on where to use knobs and pulls on specific types of cabinetry. The answer comes down to personal preference and practicality. For example, you can choose to place knobs on your cabinet doors and pulls on your drawers since drawers are harder to open with a knob. 

For drawers on the smaller side, knobs can work in the middle of the drawer front. But pulls are especially helpful on heavy drawers or large drawer fronts. 

If you have a contemporary kitchen design with slab cabinet doors, you can add pulls for a modern vibe that will match your aesthetic. On the other hand, if you have a traditional kitchen with raised-panel drawers, you might decide to install pulls for a timeless look. But there’s no right or wrong answer. 

Below, we’ll discuss options for mixing and matching knobs and pulls or sticking to one style entirely.

Knob and Pull Combinations

When deciding between knobs and handles and where to place them, you can choose one type of hardware for consistency. For example, use knobs on every door and drawer or just pulls. Although, it can still be fun to mix the two. 

All Knobs

If you’re looking for lower-profile hardware that’s more functional than decorative, using all knobs is a good way to go. Since knobs are usually small, they have a more subtle look than pulls, allowing other elements of your kitchen to shine. 

When you’re choosing sizes, 1.25-inch knobs work well, but you should go smaller if you want to minimize the look of your hardware. To draw more attention to them, choose larger-sized knobs. Just make sure you’re not placing them too close together on your cabinets and drawers.

All Pulls

Pulls are generally easier to use than knobs, simply by design. They’re easier to grip, and because they occupy more space on your cabinets and drawers, you’re less likely to touch the front surface, meaning that the wood or acrylic won’t get as dirty as if you were using knobs.

As far as sizing goes for pulls, a good rule to abide by is to use pulls that are one-third the length of your drawer or cabinet. However, if you’re looking to make a statement, you can use pulls that are larger or span the entire length of the cabinet for a modern look—but it’s all about personal preference. You may need a longer pull or two pulls for large drawers to make them easier to open. 

Pulls and Knobs Mixture

For an eclectic look, try mixing pulls and knobs. Putting knobs on your upper cabinet doors and pulls on your bottom cabinets is a great way to mix it up without having your kitchen look too chaotic. You can use matching hardware for both the pulls and the knobs to avoid a decor mismatch—unless that’s the style you’re aiming for. 

Cabinet Knob and Handle Placement

kitchen drawers
Photo: Julien McRoberts / Getty Images

The right hardware placement makes just as much of a statement as the actual cabinets and makes opening and closing them a simpler task. 

Paneled and Shaker Cabinets

Generally, one to four inches from the top or bottom of a cabinet door is the best placement for hardware. For a classic look on shaker cabinets, position your knobs slightly higher than the lower edge of the panel. For a more contemporary look, line your knobs up with the bottom of the panel. If you’re using pulls, make sure the bottom of your pull lines up with the bottom of the panel.

Paneled and Shaker Drawers

With paneled or shaker drawers, you have two choices for your hardware placement. You can center your pulls or knobs in the middle of the panel, which is a common design choice, or you can mount your hardware in the middle of the top rail above the panel for better ease of use. 

Slab Cabinets

Hardware placement on slab cabinet doors is a little trickier than on paneled doors. A good rule of thumb is to keep your hardware equidistant from the side and bottom edge of the cabinet—two inches works well and looks appropriate with this design. Measure each cabinet door carefully so your hardware placement is consistent throughout your kitchen.

Slab Drawers

Pulls are the best-looking option for slab or traditional drawers, and there are two ways you can style them. The first, more classic option is to center your pulls on smaller drawers, but keep your pulls near the top on deep drawers. The second and more modern look is to position all of your pulls near the top of the drawers.

If you prefer to call in a pro for this project, a local handyperson can assist you with installing your cabinet hardware, so you can get back to accessorizing and decorating your kitchen. 

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