When renovating an old house, everything is important—from the paint color on the walls down to the type of flooring. Re-creating a vintage kitchen is all about the details, really—from the knobs or drawer pulls to the hinges, shelf pegs, and hooks. Traditional hardware and old houses go hand-in-hand and restored hardware needs to have just the right touch of antiquity to match the drawers and furniture throughout the room.
Locating vintage hardware
So where do you look when current hardware needs replacing? One way to go about it is to sift through architectural salvage shops in your local area. But this takes time. It might work well for one piece of hardware, but if you’re looking to wrangle 15 identical cabinets pulls, your energy is better spent elsewhere. In that case, you’ll want to look to a reputable company in the industry like Horton Brasses, which offers new solid brass vintage-style hardware that are reproductions from the past.
Horton produces more than 1,000 different pieces of authentic reproduction cabinet and furniture hardware. Many are cast brass and feature a fumed antique finish, giving it that perfect level of antiquity that’s so hard to find with a new piece. Each piece is a faithful copy of vintage hardware with no detail spared. They use actual antique hardware for their dies and patterns, and still employ many of the same painstaking methods used by early American craftsmen.
Many restoration hardware dealers produce new items based on vintage designs. If can you can find the same door hardware sets offered by multiple companies, how do you determine which company’s offerings are the right option for your home?
Lost-wax casting method
This labor-intensive method of metal casting occurs when molten metal is poured into a mold created from a wax model. One the mold is made, the wax model is melted and discarded. A hollow core can be altered by the introduction of a heat-proof core that prevents the molten metal from completely filling the mold. The lost wax cast method is also referred to as cire-perdue.
A good piece of reproduction hardware should have good heft with a uniform finish, even if it’s a graduated finish like antiqued brass.
Just like when cutting wood, you want to measure twice. Be sure to check the hardware size you are replacing against the new reproduction model. In some cases, say when new-old cabinets are being installed, the reproduction hinges don’t need to be the same size as the old.
Hardware Pattern Quality
Many modern reproductions are inspired by period originals or patterns found in old builders’ supply catalogs. Aside from checking to make sure the pattern actually matches in size and all details, pay close attention to the crispness of the pattern. This is particularly true in decorative, elaborate hardware like Victorian-era plates and doorknobs. During reproduction, delicate, small details tend to disappear and can look sloppy closeup.
Hardware finishes from the late-19th to mid-20th centuries genuinely vary. Polished brass has always been a favorite to old-house owners. Even if the reproduction is based on a historic pattern, a modern finish doesn’t always equate, such as oil-rubbed bronze. Most importantly, the hardware should be sympathetic to your home’s style, a true complement to your house’s appeal.