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how to swap knobs for pulls

Just as jewelry can elevate a simple outfit, cabinet hardware can polish off a kitchen with  personality and panache.

Sure, it’s one of the smaller items you’ll find in a kitchen, but the shape, size, and finish of decorative hardware can have a large impact on the space. Want to add a modern touch? Try matte black knobs. Love a traditional style? Switch to polished chrome cup pulls.

In my own 1940s kitchen, I’d been wanting to swap out white ceramic knobs and silver pulls for something warmer and more contemporary. I opted for unlacquered brass  and decided to replace all of the pulls with knobs for a more cohesive look.

It was an easy switch, but there were a few steps I needed to take. Ready to change up the hardware in your kitchen? I’m sharing all of the how-to details, but first here’s a peek at what my kitchen looked like before. 




Use a screwdriver to remove the existing hardware. There should be screws located on the inside of the cabinet door or drawer that are holding the pulls or knobs in place. 



Apply wood filler to cover the holes of the original hardware. Use your finger to push it inside the holes, and then a putty knife to smooth it out. It’s better to use more than not enough, since you can always sand it down. Allow the putty to dry fully for several hours or overnight.



Sand the wood putty with a 220-grit sanding block until it’s completely smooth and blends in seamlessly with the cabinet surface. Wipe away any sanding dust.



Paint a coat of primer over the areas you filled with wood putty. It’s important not to skip priming—especially if you’re using a light paint color— because you don’t want the color of the wood putty to bleed through the paint. This will also ensure a smoother paint adhesion and avoid any potential flashing (where areas of the paint can take on a different sheen). Allow the primer to dry for one hour.



Use a high-density foam roller to apply a coat of paint to the areas you filled. You could use a paintbrush if you like, but a foam roller will give you the smoothest coverage. Allow the first coat to dry for two hours, and apply a second coat, if needed. Allow the paint to dry at least 24 hours.



Place a piece of painter’s tape in the approximate area where you’d like to install the new hardware. Then use a measuring tape or a handy cabinet hardware jig and pencil to mark where you need to drill holes. Use a drill bit that’s the same size as the screws you’ll be using to attach your new hardware.

Tip: Knobs are generally placed 2 to 3 inches from the corner of doors or centered on drawers that are 24 inches or smaller. For drawers that are larger than 24 inches, you might consider placing two knobs that are centered in the outer thirds. Pulls are generally placed vertically on doors 2 to 3 inches from the corner or centered horizontally on drawers.



Peel off the painter’s tape, install the new hardware, and enjoy the updated look of your kitchen cabinets.

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We are no strangers to DIY home renovations at Semihandmade. After all, that’s where the idea for making doors for IKEA kitchen systems came from. So naturally, we had to dedicate an entire section of SemiStories to celebrating our design community’s ingenuity, from DIY kitchen ideas to thinking of smaller details like rattan glassware and easy-to-make wall hangings. Don’t just take it from us: we’ve tapped the best in the business. Anita Yokota shared her best trick for a $20 bathroom renovation, Jessica D’Itri Marés shared her favorite spray painter, and Jenna LeBlanc showed us how to give wall-to-wall storage a custom touch. Maybe you’re just dipping your toes in the world of do-it-yourself, in which case we recommend starting small: try your hand at making your own speckled candle holders, for example, or give your greenery an updated home with pretty stacked planters. If you have a handy side (maybe you’ve put together DIY kitchen cabinets or are not afraid to use a power tool), we have projects for you too: painting a hand-painted mural is a fun way to give your favorite room some life or maybe you’re game to try putting together your own TV cabinet like Sarah Sherman Samuel did (PS: she saved thousands in the process). Experts, we’ve got you covered too: from learning to tile and grout your own backsplash to painting your cabinets without a hitch, we have plenty of DIY kitchen renovation ideas to keep you busy. We don’t stop at the kitchen either: from wall-to-wall media centers to fluted doors made for playroom storage, you’ll find ideas to improve every room in the house