Sleek And Seamless: Timber Integration In Contemporary Kitchens

Sleek And Seamless: Timber Integration In Contemporary Kitchens

The Rise Of Minimalism In Kitchen Design

As I was designing the mountain house kitchen, something I seriously considered before we landed on Shaker cabinets, which might STILL change, folks, was nixing the hardware altogether. Nothing is more minimal than, well, having nothing. We found so many examples of beautiful kitchens without their jewelry, and while I obviously love what the perfect hardware does to cabinetry, I wanted to explore this clean look further.

First up is probably my favorite of all the no-hardware versions—something with a lip or a pull out of the same material as the doors and drawers. I love what that simple line does to the look, and in the same material, it still looks minimal. I can’t tell what they did above for the fridge pull, as I don’t think just a wood lip would function as well. I also don’t know if any of the lips are as easy to pull as knobs and pulls, but likely these people care about how things look and might have sacrificed a bit of ease for that.

This one above is ALSO so beautiful. One of the reasons it works is that the marble is the big moment, while the cabinets just support the link, so you can go minimal if you have a statement backsplash. The interesting line work makes it look really interesting and not basic, but it is still just so simple and graphic, and something that your eye can easily figure out. I also love that you can see the wood grain through the paint, which adds warmth. That blue striped wood on the right is also inspiring—I wish I could see more of that.

Eliminating Hardware: Exploring The Options

To get a closer look, we pulled some zoomed-in details and put them together so you could get a better sense for what these look like on different materials and in different colors. So effortlessly minimal yet impactful.

Now for the flat panel, which has literally nothing on the face. This treatment looks the best, in my opinion, when the cabinet door is made of wood or at least you can see the wood grain through a finish or paint. I don’t think I can ever be minimal enough, especially not at the cabin, to do a flat panel that is just painted a color—give me some texture at least.

Well, I say that, and then I see this next photo that makes a convincing argument. It’s probably too cold for Brian, but at an office or retail space, this is a STATEMENT I can get behind, but mostly because the lighting and the table and chairs are the stars here. But if you are a serious minimalist and like your kitchen space sparse and clean-cut, and you pair it with those lights and that faucet like below, then I can see it looking awesome.

But for me and this house, I would want the wood grain, but love it without hardware. I’m assuming a lot of these function by pushing them in a bit, then they spring out a little so you can actually open, although I do caution about this. My friend did this, and if it’s at hip level and the countertop doesn’t protrude enough, then every time you lean to do anything, it opens. They had to pay to have it fixed.

Unexpected Openings: Creative Hardware Alternatives

I’ve pinned the below photo from Studio McGee so many times, but now I’m realizing that I don’t know how they open. Maybe the top portion cuts back at an angle so it’s easy enough to grab the door and pull it open, but the bottom cabinets—another case of push and pop open, maybe? Or maybe there’s hardware there I’m not seeing because of the angle of the photo. Not sure, but so beautiful.

It seems like there is a tiny white pull on the bottom right cupboard and a little brass thing on the other cabinet. How do these actually function? Next, we are noticing a lot of circle finger pulls, and we like them for the right spaces—deVOL does them a lot. As we were designing this house, I realized why—you can make them very small, and thus they don’t crowd your paneling. It’s like a tiny knob, but different and less expected. I’m assuming they have to be deep enough to tuck your sausage finger in there, but those above look pretty shallow, so not sure how functional that is.

I think they look great in the right style and space. I wouldn’t do this in a traditional house, especially if you are going for something timeless. This isn’t timeless, but it’s cool and fun and adds interest in a fairly simple way. We have seen these a lot lately, though, so we’re kind of looking for what the next circle hole is, and we found a ton that are pretty awesome.

That wood behind that blue is pretty beautiful, especially with the wood stile, the vertical space between the cabinets and drawers. That right there is BEAUTIFUL. Some can get more basic, like a simple rectangle, but I like the look, and I think it works in something mid-century, contemporary, industrial, or new build. AKA, be careful if you have an older style of house.

So we’ve got circles and rectangles—why not explore the rest of the shapes and do a triangle? It’s cool and weird and not for every project, but again could be great in a restaurant or some sort of commercial space. I love this oblong inset handle—it’s totally unexpected, and in the wood, it’s not loud. It’s simple and quiet, but throws you a little bit.

We found so many pretty cabinet details, little cutouts, niches, and architectural moments that help things function but also create some custom interest. What was a flat-front, plain cabinet is all of a sudden interesting and less basic. It’s those little details that kick things up a notch in a way that’s still subdued and sophisticated. Plus, it’s nice that your hand can actually open your kitchen cabinetry.

Functionality vs. Aesthetics: The Trade-Off

So what do you think? I know that all of these options are only for custom cabinetry and likely only by higher-end brands or very well-skilled furniture makers. It’s not that many couldn’t do them, but they probably haven’t before. It’s obviously for a particular look, one that favors architecture over style, and while it this no-hardware hardware adds style, I guess it’s less decorative because it’s integrated into the piece itself and not applied.

My question is, do these work even half as well as a traditional pull, knob, or handle? Are they secretly a little bit annoying, but you don’t care because you have stunning cabinetry? Are they better for vanities that you use less than kitchens? I really love the look of the wood pulls out of the same material and finish as the fronts, and now I’m sold. It’s interesting without the business of traditional metal hardware, and it doesn’t feel too trendy since it’s just a piece of wood that is acting like a pull.

But what say you? They are quite common in Europe, and I have lived with a handleless kitchen for a few years, and I loved it. You get used to handling it quite quickly, and in my opinion, they work just as well as handles. Also, I’m very clumsy, and I don’t have to be afraid to run into any hardware and get those nice bruises on my thighs, haha.

I know IKEA have a few handleless options if you want to check some out. In my opinion, handleless is a lot more timeless as the hardware designs and trends change a lot, and I am also a big fan of the clean design. Exactly! It’s almost surreal to read that only the most skilled cabinet makers may do it because here in Italy, every kitchen furniture brand down to the cheapest ones has at least a couple of hardware-less options.

IKEA, as you said, has it both lip grip inset and inset handle style. My own kitchen, Immagina by LUBE (ah, not a very English-friendly name), has 7 styles for the inset grip just for that one model, plus the inset handle one, plus the handle on top one, plus however many hardware options that I don’t even know about because I went straight for a clean front style.

My fronts are just plain panels with, on the top, bottom, or side, a 1 1/2″ gutter that allows me to stick my fingers in and grip the cabinet door and open. It’s the Immagina Neck configuration if anyone wants to see how it looks. Of course, some of the kitchens posted here look astounding, but it has to do with the material and deviation from the standard model than the style itself, which is quite normal here.

Embracing the Trend: Considerations for the Mountain House

I know, right? I thought the same thing when she wrote about hidden appliances and was like, “who doesn’t have hidden appliances these days?” Well, at least if you are building a new kitchen. But I guess that’s just the difference between Europe and North America. Agree completely with you—I live in Europe, and I have handle-less cupboards in my kitchen too. Easy clean-up, looks sleek, and no fuss. Highly recommend.

I think you have found the perfect solution for the mountain kitchen. No hardware feels exactly right for what you and the team are trying to achieve with the space. I agreed with several comments in the previous kitchen post that the brass, while beautiful, just felt out of place in the mountain house. It doesn’t fit and seems to shift the mood from Scandi-Cali to glam, whatever shape you choose.

As for the different options shown, I felt the first group—cabinets with wood pulls or even the very first photo—best fit the style at hand. The other options, while exquisite (I literally gasped in awe at the triangle cut-outs), are not traditional enough, as you mentioned. I second Ghalia—something like the first image or the walnut close-up is what your Mountain House needs.

I completely agree. These flat doors with wood grain are what I thought she’d go for in the cabin. I held my thoughts on the earlier discussion about the Shaker cabinets. Sure, EHD could make them work, but you should do something fabulous, and painted Shakers are very common. An earlier post stated that Shaker would always be timeless in Modern Traditional style, but the cabin is not Modern Traditional. If the ceiling really bothers you, stain/paint it, decide on the floor so you can pick an interesting wood for the kitchen cabinets, and then I think you can create a real Scandi-Rustic kitchen.

The Perfect Fit: Seamless Timber Integration

I 100% agree. Yes, good thoughts. Agree. Cabinets with wood pulls for the win—they will look gorgeous and work perfectly. Great research. Love the flat-front cabinets. Enough Shaker already. Have had my white ones for 10 years now, and never again. The little ledge is dirty, and corners hard to clean because I have other things to do.

Anyway, I vote for any pull you want, just no Shaker. Love, love, love the top 3 kitchens. Natural wood integrated handles look beautiful. I agree that the painted ones need texture, at least for my taste. I don’t love the cutouts, but I do think they’d be more functional for visitors. (Guest stands in front of silverware drawer, staring quizzically.) I worry about the damage/wear to the wood with repeated use, but that happens at my house anyway because someone refuses to use the knobs I painstakingly chose and installed.

Also, cleaning my cabinet fronts in general pains me—my next kitchen will have ZERO grooves, handles, or other crevices to collect grime and flying vegetable matter. Apparently, we are pigs. To summarize, give me all the flat, naked cupboards in luscious natural wood. I’ve forgotten what kitchen hardware looks like after reading this post. Me too. I like this trend. Perhaps because I’m an aspiring minimalist. So pretty, but so many look so unpractical—my nails would be ruined QUICK. Try before committing.

We stayed in a friend’s gorgeous, award-winning home overseas for a week with no-hardware cabinets similar to photo 5. The push-to-open door fronts were fine, but drawers were really awkward and uncomfortable to use. The appeal is they are so clean-lined and super easy to wipe down. Looove integrated handles for the mountain house.

I love this look, but I wonder if it wears the cabinet faster. If your oily fingers are always grabbing the door itself rather than a knob, I would imagine the finish would wear away quicker. I agree with this—my sister had cabinets without hardware, and having your hands on the wood wears the cabinets quicker, even if you are meticulous with keeping them clean.

I love the look as well, the photos above are beautiful, but from a realistic point of view, changing out the cabinetry or spending the money on refinishing because they’ve worn is just too expensive. That being said, a vacation home may be the perfect place to experiment a bit since the wear should be pretty minimal. While I love the look of the flat front without hardware from experience, they are just not practical in kitchens and bathrooms.

My hands are constantly wet while cooking, and unless you are meticulous about drying them every time you need to reach for another spoon or plate, it really takes a toll on the wood. All those finger pulls and notches make me cringe—I feel like I’ve stayed at rentals with these, and the wood just feels grimy. Ick.

For fridges without handles, Thermador has one. It is opened with a knock. Miele has a dishwasher like this too. I love the look. Our old kitchen was built without any hardware on the cabinetry, just slab oak fronts with a small lip to grab. There was a small bit of wear on some of the cabinets, but the old cabinets were 25 years old, so I’d say that’s expected at that point, and the wear wasn’t bad at all.

Our kitchen drawers have an inset pull notch that runs along the bottom of the drawer, and they’re super comfortable to use. It also helps that they’re original to the 1959 kitchen and made with dovetail joints. We really did make things better and to last back then, didn’t we? So much of our kitchen has been upgraded—as in, everything else has been upgraded—but the drawers feel timeless and now a little hip.

Embracing the Natural: Balancing Form and Function

The first image is it. I said the Shaker was the your best so far, mostly to avoid the vertical grodiness, but said I’m not sure if you have hit it. I think you have now. Of course, it is always fun for me to spend your money on this project, but that top image is the look you are going for, I think.

The horizontal, bigger planks—I know your contractor is scared, but it is because he hasn’t done it. It isn’t like this is a full-time, heavily cooked-in kitchen. The smaller vertical is where you will get grime and grease and dirt and gunk. I like the simple wood lip, but if it gets too expensive, a simple pull will still look great.

However, you couldn’t pay me to do a cutout in a kitchen—office, yes, kitchen, insanity if you do cook at all. The grossness collecting behind the scenes, multiplying and mutating—that is what horror nightmares are made of.

Cabinets with wood pulls. Love it. So pretty, and because there ARE pulls, I don’t think it will get dated. I also worry that if I need a push mechanism to make the doors and drawers work, that’s something that can break or cause me headache down the road. No, I have white Shaker doors—I hate how dust gets trapped in all those 90-degree angles at the bottom. I feel like I wipe down my cabinets way more than any sane person should, and sometimes I have to use a toothpick in my rag to really get into those blasted corners. Call the funny farm to take me away.

I personally love the look, and I actually think it isn’t as unpractical as it seems. The normal handles in my kitchen are driving me crazy—much harder to keep clean than a clean front. Go for it. The cabinets in our 1964 MCM house have inset pulls, and for the most part, I do like it. However, there was one bit of design that was not truly thought out—the insets of bottom drawers are on the bottom. So to open a bottom drawer, you have to bend all the way down to grab under the drawer. It’s pretty annoying.

We do have plans to renovate the kitchen—we don’t have a dishwasher, and it’s honestly not laid out super efficiently, but right now, I’m planning no hardware. Probably shouldn’t admit this, but when I bought my house several years ago, the kitchen had been updated by


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