Until recently, door hardware was not generally considered a luxury item or an important element of décor. Now, the convergence of evolving consumer trends and increasing manufacturing capabilities is radically shifting the category. Door hardware has become jewelry, and finish and style choices have become a personal expression of taste.
“Things have changed more in the last five years than they had changed in the previous 50,” says John Simpson, new business development manager for Marvin Windows & Doors. Metal finishing capabilities have advanced rapidly, allowing manufacturers to offer more innovative and exotic finish options—leading to a slow dethroning of polished brass.
The “luxury for everyone” mentality that permeates consumer culture has spurred most hardware manufacturers to offer more affordable versions of high-end finishes. Options like satin nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, rustic copper, and others have penetrated the mid-range hardware segment; some are even filtering down to the entry level, made possible by improved finishing technologies that are less expensive than initial introductions, though they tend to have a less hand-finished appearance than the higher-end offerings.
“All the way down to the production builder level, polished brass is finding its way out of the home,” says Mike Slack, director of product marketing for Baldwin Hardware. However, Slack thinks that brass's popularity will be cyclical and that it will re-emerge in a muted format, such as aged brass. Other distressed, rustic, and weathered finishes are likely to see good success in the near future, as well, according to Chris Pageau, senior project manager for Kwikset.
Boosting curb appeal by making a statement with an entry door extends to its hardware. “A lot more time, effort, and money are spent on the entry door, because that's the first impression of the home,” says Minu Youngkin, residential decorative marketing manager for Schlage Residential Security & Safety. Still, homeowners are increasingly interested in coordinating or matching their hardware finishes throughout their homes. “In years past, it wouldn't be uncommon to have a brass doorknob leading into a lavatory with a chrome faucet. Nowadays folks want that faucet to coordinate with the door hardware,” says Tim Ebner, director of business for Master Lock.
In response, some companies now offer suites that encompass entry and passage hardware, cabinet and bath hardware, and accessories like switch plates and house numbers, all in the same finishes. A few hardware manufacturers also have partnered with lighting or faucet manufacturers to develop complementary product collections.
“What these suites do is allow people without designers to create what some will call a ‘designer' look,” guaranteeing an attractive result, says specialty hardware dealer Barry Goldberg, vice president of Union Hardware in Bethesda, Md.
With so many options available and limited showroom space, how much should dealers attempt to display? “I normally suggest the widest variety they have room for in their store,” says Pat Juncker, vice president of sales for Hoppe North America. Because Americans are so mobile, they tend to take their aesthetic preferences with them when they move, he adds. And each has an individual idea of luxury.