Kitchen Cabinet Handle Placement Dos and Don’ts

Tell all ya friends and neighbors!

Kitchen cabinet handle placement can be a doozy – one wrong screw hole, and you may hose yourself. Read this guide for dos and don’ts of where to put knobs and handles on kitchen cabinets


Cabinet Knob and Pull Placement Guide

Slowly but surely, this kitchen is coming along.

For me, the key to surviving a total gut job kitchen renovation is lots of memes and knocking out smaller projects that I can to make it seem like something is getting done.

For this next smaller project – time to knock out our cabinet hardware placement. I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to teach you where to put knobs and handles on kitchen cabinets if you’re trying to figure this out too.

Where should cabinet handles be placed?

Cabinet doors that aren’t slab doors are made of 2 parts – stiles and rails

kitchen cabinet diagram of rails and stiles

I tried to show it in this super technologically advanced diagram, but the stiles of a cabinet door are the vertical sides, and rails are the horizontal pieces at the top and bottom.

You may also have rails in the middle of your cabinet door, depending on the type of cabinet door style you choose.

Typically, when figuring out where to put knobs and handles on kitchen cabinets, you’ll use the rails or stiles as a guide if your cabinet door has them.

How do you know where to place cabinet pulls?

As usual with anything when making your space your own, this will most likely be a personal preference, but I do have some general guidelines if you’re more of a rule follower.

Feel free to get creative on your own cabinets, but if you have slab, go by the 2×2 rule – 2″ in, 2″ up from where the drawer meets the cabinet.

For raised panel cabinets, you can use this as a guide – but keep in mind, if your cabinets are taller than average, you may want to go 3″ up from where the drawer meets instead of 2″.

For recessed panel cabinets (the ones where the door is set inside the frame), I would again use the 2×2 rule, but also make sure that wherever you place your hardware is where it will line up best with the design of the door.

You don’t want to place your handles in a weird spot just because it’s where the stile meets the rail if it throws off the overall look or will drive you insane every time you try to open the drawer or door.

Should cabinet handles be centered?

I’m definitely on the side of having your drawer handles centered, especially if you’re mixing sizes with your handles.

closeup of Emtek matte black cabinet hardware knurled pull

We chose the knurled knobs from Emtek because they come in more than just 2 or 3 sizes.

Some of our kitchen drawers were huge, and some were 9″ spice drawer pullouts, and we wanted to be able to use as many of these pulls as we could because we are in love with the knurled detail. 

Should cabinet pulls be vertical or horizontal?

If you’re trying to figure out the correct upper cabinet hardware placement, they’ll need to be vertical.

For lower drawers, the pulls will need to be horizontal.

Knobs vs. Pulls

While we are on the subject, let’s talk about knobs vs. pulls.

Emtek matte black knurled pulls and knob on white quartz counter

In our kitchen, we chose both because we knew since we weren’t using too many upper cabinets, pulls would seem too “heavy.”

closeup of Emtek matte black cabinet hardware knob

Instead, we chose these really gorgeous knobs also from Emtek because we loved their modern design, but loved that they had the separate backplate on them that gave us an option to have it more minimal.

We put the backplate on it because it felt more “complete.”

Are knobs or pulls better for kitchen cabinets?

The good news is that knobs and pulls can work in any space.

SW white upper cabinets Sherwin Williams Peppercorn lower kitchen cabinets

In our old kitchen, we had pulls everywhere – upper cabinets, lower cabinets, and lower drawers.

In our new kitchen, we didn’t have nearly the amount of upper cabinets, and so we wanted to keep it visually minimal, so we went with knobs.

Psst. Don’t have the money for a huge gut job? Here’s 7 DIY budget friendly kitchen ideas you can make to change the entire feel of your kitchen!

closeup of Emtek matte black knurled pulls and knob on white quartz counter

Since all of our lower cabinets are now drawers, we went with the pulls in 3 different sizes.

Sizes of Cabinet Handles

How long should pulls be on cabinets?

This is part aesthetic, part math. Let’s take a look at the following few photos for examples.

For reference, our drawer sizes are 9″ (spice pullouts), 18″, 20″, and 30″. The photos will be of our 18″ drawers.

woman's hand holding drawer pull on greige kitchen cabinet door

In this instance, the handle is too long, and it doesn’t sit in the middle of the recessed panel of our kitchen cabinet drawer front, which looks super weird.

woman's hand holding drawer pull on greige kitchen cabinet door

This is entirely too small. These are the pulls we have for our 9″ spice pullout drawers and could also work great on upper cabinets if you choose these matte black knurled pulls vs. going with knobs.

This one could work, but we just didn’t like the dead space to the left and right, so we felt it was still too short.

In the end, here are the pulls we used on each size cabinet:

  • 9″ spice pull out drawer – 4″
  • 15″ cabinet drawer – 5″
  • 18″ and 20″ cabinet drawer – 8″
  • 30″ cabinet drawer – 12″

I wanted brass hardware, but Jordan convinced me I wanted matte black so we went with matte black. I’m not mad about it, but knowing that these handles and knobs also come in mix and match brass, matte black or their new stunning satin copper finish, I went back and forth for weeks.

Emtek knurled knob selection

Take a look at these show stopping color options, holy moly. You can also see them on Emtek’s website to find out where to order these. They’re worth every single red cent.

Step by Step to Correct Cabinet Hardware Placement

Before ordering your cabinet hardware, you want to determine the location of your handles so that you’ll know what size you need.

Which means your first step is to determine where you want your handles placed.

woman's hand holding drawer pull on greige kitchen cabinet door

If you’re using a shaker style cabinet like us, you really have two options.

Option one is to add it to the top rail.

woman's hand holding drawer pull on greige kitchen cabinet door

The second option is going to be in the middle of the recessed panel of your shaker style kitchen cabinet door. This is what we opted for.

yellow tape measure on greige kitchen cabinets

If you have shaker style cabinets like we do, you’ll measure the recessed panel. Depending on the width of your drawer, this recessed part will vary.

kitchen cabinet door hardware kit on greige kitchen cabinets

Using a cabinet hardware installer, find the middle of your cabinet.

As you can see in the photo, the vertical piece is in the center of our cabinet and then we were able to adjust the pieces on the left and right to the size of our handles.

using Ryobi drill to drill holes in greige kitchen cabinet

Drill your holes for your hardware and attach it.

For this section of cabinets we had a smaller top drawer and then the bottom 2 drawers are wider. Which meant we had an option of where we wanted the handles placed.

We almost went with the option on the left, but instead chose the option on the right to keep it more consistent.

Cabinet Hardware Placement No-No’s

You’ll want to avoid a few things when placing your cabinet hardware as well – one is making sure all of your handles and knobs are level.

closeup of Emtek matte black cabinet hardware knob

You don’t want one handle to be higher or lower than its counterpart, so take the time to make sure they’re all level before you start drilling any holes.

closeup of kitchen cabinet door hardware kit on greige kitchen cabinets

Using a drawer cabinet hardware kit can come in handy, and it takes a lot of the guesswork out and can prevent costly mistakes like drilling the wrong holes.

Order your own cabinet drawer hardware kit here!

The second thing you’ll want to avoid is making sure your hardware isn’t too close to the edge of your cabinet door.

You don’t want it so close that it’s in danger of breaking off if someone slams the cabinet door shut – so give yourself about an inch of wiggle room.

And lastly, you’ll want to make sure that all of your hardware is at least the same brand, even if you mix metals or mix knobs and handles/pulls. Mixing metals is in, and I love it when it’s done well, but matte black in 2 different brands is likely to look different.

I know it’s tempting to mix and match, but resist the urge – it will only drive you (or whoever else is looking at your cabinets) insane.

When thinking of where to put knobs and pulls on cabinets, it will still come down to what you like.

But I hope this post gave you a few ideas on starting and where to put knobs and handles on kitchen cabinets in your own home!

A huge thank you to Emtek for partnering with me and helping our kitchen feel more complete. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

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