I once had a client who specifically asked for "no handles" on her cabinets, as far as client requests go this was not too unusual, but it did provide for an interesting design challenge. The request made me aware of how we tend to overlook handles and consider them, as a last minute decision, running through the hardware store looking at pieces of door grips with the latest trendy finish of the moment (chrome finish, if you were wondering). This is a common mistake as we do use handles all through the day, and their effect on our everyday well-being can't be overstated. This is especially true when living in a household with small children, elderly people or people with disabilities. I for one made the mistake of buying slick looking handles for my kitchen cabinets only to find out that once my boy started toddling around he would bang his head on the sharp edges of my "oh-so-slick" handles... (lesson learned).
"God is in the details" is the famous quote by German born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, no truer words can be spoken about handles. Just think about it, everything we try to open all throughout the day requires a handle - kitchen cabinets, doors, drawers, cars, a gallon of milk, faucets, you name it - and yet we hardly put any thought into choosing handles besides what finish they come in. There are myriad of handle options to pick n' choose from . I for one always feel like a kid in a candy store when I walk into a handle hardware store (they do exist), I see them as a piece of jewelry that will further enhance the design experience of a home.
All kidding aside handles are a pretty serious matter, and in some cases require compliance with ADA (Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities). Using a ball shaped handle verses a banana shaped one will provide you with all dexterity and tactile information that will allow you to figure out how hard or easy it is to use. I for one use a ball shaped handle in my bathroom door, being fully aware my kids will find it hard to use, almost eliminating the use of a lock on that door. As we age our grip weakens and all the round shaped handles are near impossible to use (try opening one after applying hand lotion) it is important to keep this in mind when buying a new home or if renovating.
Handles can be an easy do-it-yourself update for any kitchen/bathroom/closet door. If you are worried about the drill marks try using handles that can be screwed from the inside of the door. There are also products that can fill in old drill marks. Try mixing and matching different styles of handles; one type for top cabinets, another for base cabinets. As long as you keep them aligned it will look good and can become your personal design statement. A great resource for unique one of a kind handles can be find in antique markets, or as they are small and easy to carry why not bring some home from your next vacation?
Quick Tip - To easily measure on where to drill on the handle, make a cardboard templet that you can reuse over and over again, this will not only save you time but will also ensure you have the handles aligned.