As furniture handles and knobs are the part of the item that you touch and experience on a daily basis, these should be the best quality and design you can afford. This will make your furniture a real pleasure to behold. You should choose a handle with a design that reflects your character and tastes and the function of the piece. Designs range from Art Deco and Art Nouveau handles with all their beautiful shapes and decadent design, to Mission or Shaker style handles which are simple and understated. Handles often have motifs included in the design such as lion’s heads, Prince of Wales feathers, flowers and basket weave designs.
You need to choose a handle to suit the piece of furniture - if you have a 19th century filing cabinet in your office, you’d want a simple pull to make the piece look functional and serious. If you are restoring an elegant bureau, you’d want to use a vintage Chippendale style pull to make it look it’s most beautiful.
Should I use old handles on my antique furniture?
Using handles that are genuinely old on a restored piece of antique furniture or a reproduction can sometimes be problematic because of the degradation and wear and tear on the metal of the handle and much of the design may be rubbed off due to years of use. Reusing old antique handles also relies on the right number and correct size being available for the piece of furniture you are working on. So a good solution is to use reproduction antique furniture handles. Many of these are based on the same designs used in the past and made using the same traditional methods and the same materials, but are reproductions of Victorian or Regency designs. Many are made from the original press tools at some of the older manufacturers factories. The advantage of these is that they can be purchased in a choice of finishes so that you can choose the finish which makes them suit the piece of furniture. A good choice is antiqued brass which doesn’t look too shiny and bright and obviously new. There are unlimited numbers of these being made and lots of different sizes are available meaning that you can purchase the perfect handle, knob, pull or escutcheon for any project. These types of handles are ideal for both the reproduction and the restoration of 17th, 18th, and 19th Century period antique living room furniture, such as desks, sideboards, and cabinets and also for bedroom wardrobes and chests of drawers, or bookcases and display cabinets.
Types of furniture ironmongery
The types of furniture ironmongery available ranges from simple pull handles, to hinges, escutcheons, ring pulls, drop handles, plate handles, pull handles and knobs:
Oval plate handles are very popular with restorers and repairers as the shape of plate is often referred to as a 'cover-all' in that it easily masks earlier fitting marks and drillings. Both Sheraton and Chippendale used these types of handles extensively into the early years of the 19th Century on their beautiful furniture.
Many vintage handle designs are stamped which means that they have a raised pattern to them. This is a really good choice for a vintage handle on a piece of furniture that you want to look old as the process for stamping cold metal shapes for furniture decoration was patented in Birmingham in 1779 and has been widely used ever since, making your piece ageless.
The engraved plate handle is the style of handle widely used by the higher end quality manufacturers of antique reproduction furniture. It is more expensive than many of the pressed plate versions available but the difference the cast brass process makes to these handles and the delicate nature of the hand-chased designs on the plate is clearly seen once they are mounted onto your furniture. These handles really do look a million dollars once on your cabinet or desk.
Some plate handles are available in different thicknesses of brass. Historically this was the style of handle widely used by the mass producers of antique reproduction furniture you would see in all furniture stores throughout Europe. To keep the costs down the plates were thinned to reduce the metal content and reduce the price. Some handles can be supplied today in different thicknesses with 20G the thinnest, 18G is in the middle, and 16G of a good thick quality.
Being able to buy pieces of old furniture, which are possibly missing some items of ironmongery and replacing any worn out or missing items with reproduction handles, pulls, knobs and escutcheons means that you can buy something relatively cheaply from a junk shop or car boot sale that’s in a poor state, restore it and add some beautiful vintage handles. You will end up with a stunning piece of furniture for a relatively small budget that is unique. Beautiful ironmongery can make a relatively average piece of furniture into a real centrepiece in a room. A good quality handle will make the whole piece of furniture feel like it’s of good quality once it has been well restored.
The Victorian Emporium sells a wide range of handles for kitchen, living room and furniture including pull handles, oval plate handles, fretted plate handles, engraved plate handles, ring handles, drop handles, cabinet handles, tray handles, wardrobe handles, pedestal handles, chest handles, coffin handles. Arts and crafts, art deco, art nouveau, shaker, Chippendale, Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Mackintosh.