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Budget-Friendly Bathroom Updates: Choosing Better Cabinet Hardware

If you’ve been looking for budget-friendly ways to update your bathroom, there’s one piece of advice that you’ve probably been hearing a lot: update your cabinet hardware. But if you’re like me, that’s an easy tip to skim past. After all, how big a difference can a few drawer pulls make? What I’ve discovered, though, is that the answer depends entirely on the hardware. While swapping from one fairly-standard pull to another certainly won’t be eye-catching, well-chosen cabinet hardware in a unique color or design can alter the style of your vanity more than you might expect.

Choosing The Right Color

Columbia 36" Single Bathroom Vanity in Coffee Oak and Radiant Gold 388-V36-CFO-RG from James Martin Furniture
Columbia 36″ Single Bathroom Vanity in Coffee Oak and Radiant Gold 388-V36-CFO-RG from James Martin Furniture

Most bathroom vanities are designed with hardware that’s meant to blend in – like a dark oil rubbed bronze to match an espresso colored vanity, or a simple brushed nickel for a white or gray vanity. So step one in building a more distinctive look is to opt for cabinet hardware that contrasts the color of your vanity rather than disappearing into it. Right now, one of the most popular finishes to do this with is a bold gold or brass. Because warm toned metals have been pretty rare in recent years, this color feels particularly bold right now, and stands out against almost any wood or paint color.

Providence 72" Double Bathroom Vanity Cabinet 238-105-V72-CWH in Cottage White from James Martin Furniture
Providence 72″ Double Bathroom Vanity Cabinet 238-105-V72-CWH in Cottage White from James Martin Furniture

If you’re not a fan of trendy warm metallics, never fear: that isn’t your only option. The point isn’t having the trendiest color, it’s creating a nice contrast between your vanity and the hardware. An oil-rubbed bronze or antique pewter, for example, will stand out beautifully on a white vanity, adding a little heft and weight to your design. Bonus: if you can match the color of your faucet to your hardware, you’ll get a little extra mileage and a nice sense of harmony to your design – better still if you can match hardware elsewhere in your bathroom.

Pasadena 36" Single Bathroom Vanity in Burnished Mahogany 250-V36-BNM from James Martin Furniture
Pasadena 36″ Single Bathroom Vanity in Burnished Mahogany 250-V36-BNM from James Martin Furniture

That said, even very simple hardware can look incredibly distinctive if it’s chosen purposefully. Satin nickel might be one of the most standard and commonplace finishes out there, but it can be totally eye-grabbing when it’s used on a dark wood vanity. A little contrast not just in color but also in style between your cabinet hardware and vanity can also give you a more distinctive feel. It can even subtly alter the style of your setup, giving it a more modern or traditional feel, depending on the hardware.

What about style?

Tahoe 59' Double Bathroom Vanity in Natural Zebrano Wood and Radiant Gold 867-V59D-NZB-G from James Martin Furniture
Tahoe 59′ Double Bathroom Vanity in Natural Zebrano Wood and Radiant Gold 867-V59D-NZB-G from James Martin Furniture

Significantly changing the style of your cabinet hardware can also be a great update, even if you stick with the same finish. Especially if your hardware is already either distinctly old fashioned or very streamlined and contemporary (or if your cabinets don’t currently have any hardware at all), opting for something very different can bring a fresh new style to your vanity. For example, adding ornamental door handles and drawer pulls to a very simple modern bathroom vanity will immediately elevate the style, giving it a more transitional look and a more elegant and sophisticated feel.

Any Options For Materials?

Malibu 48" Single Bathroom Vanity 500-V48-HON in Honey Alder from James Martin Furniture
Malibu 48″ Single Bathroom Vanity 500-V48-HON in Honey Alder from James Martin Furniture

The vast majority of cabinet hardware is made of some kind of metal, and ones made of other materials are often made of the same material as the cabinet itself (in the case of wood) or are specifically designed to create a particular aesthetic (like vintage porcelain drawer pulls). Even so, it’s not impossible to find cabinet hardware made of wood, porcelain, leather, or even glass. These certainly have a more distinctive style, though one you want to be sure matches the overall design of your space. A personal favorite of mine are more complex wood handles, which are decorative enough that they don’t need to perfectly match the finish on your cabinets to look great.

What about pre-made bathroom vanities?

Palm Beach 48" Single Bathroom Vanity in Dark Amber 420-V48-DKA from James Martin Furniture
Palm Beach 48″ Single Bathroom Vanity in Dark Amber 420-V48-DKA from James Martin Furniture

To be fair, it’s much easier to talk about swapping out hardware on custom-built cabinets, which often come either with very generic pulls or no exterior hardware at all. But pre-made bathroom vanities are designed down to the last detail, including hardware that’s thoughtfully chosen and specifically paired with the vanity. Which isn’t to say you can’t change it after the fact (you most certainly can!). But if you’re considering changing out your hardware yourself, designer bathroom vanities like those from James Martin can serve as a useful guide to help you figure out what kind of hardware you like and what will look good with the style of vanity you already have. Another bonus? Many high end bathroom vanities come with your choice of hardware color right out the gate, so you can get the look you want upfront (and some easy replacement parts if you ever want to change it up!).

While swapping out your cabinet hardware might seem like a change that’s too insignificant to make a difference, if you choose your hardware well, it’s a great way to perk up your space on a shoestring budget.