Kitchen Planning: Is a Handleless Kitchen the Right Choice For You?

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As with every decision, there are pros and cons to going handleless in your kitchen. Here are a few of the things you should consider.

As an interior designer, one of the most popular requests I get from clients at the moment is for a handleless kitchen. There’s something about the clean and effortless look that homeowners seem to love, particularly in contemporary kitchens. You may not know it was a reasonably common choice for homeowners in the 1970s, too, and now it’s gained popularity again, particularly over the last few years.

If you’re keen to do away with handles, then consider how you might achieve a handleless kitchen design without compromising on practicality. After all, you don’t want to be bothered by having no handles to grab when you’re running around the kitchen in a rush! To help you decide whether or not a handleless kitchen is for you, check out these pros and cons, along with various methods of creating a handleless design.

You can achieve a sleek look…
The absence of handles protruding from the front of cabinets, which leaves a flat, smooth surface, is what makes people love the look of a handleless kitchen.

If you’re considering this sleek look, you’re advised to weigh up the main pros and cons. This should help you decide if this style of plain-faced cabinetry is really for you.

…and their style is timeless
One of the biggest concerns my clients have when choosing their new kitchen cabinets is whether or not the look will date.

I tell them to rest assured. As a handleless kitchen has an elegant, timeless look, you needn’t worry about them looking dated in years to come. The sleek, unfussy profile characteristic of a handleless kitchen ensures the style will always be a ‘less-is-more’ design classic.

…and they’re extra safe
Having no handles is a no-fuss, sophisticated option that has the added bonus of safety. The absence of handles means there’s nothing for you to accidentally catch your clothes on, and one less thing for young children to walk into and bang their heads on.

…but they will require cleaning
Regardless of the type of handleless kitchen, there will be a channel at the top of each door or drawer that creates a space to pull the drawer or cabinet door open.

This channel can become a bit of a dust and crumb collector, and will require regular cleaning. It’s something to take into consideration if you prefer to keep your home as low maintenance as possible.

…and might cost a bit more
You might think a handleless kitchen would cost less because you don’t have the expense of handles, but it’s actually the opposite.

Handleless kitchens, depending on the option you choose, generally cost about 20-50 per cent more than a kitchen with conventional handles.

The reason for this is the additional labour involved in the manufacturing process of handleless cabinetry, as well as the cost of specialist hardware required, such as finger-pulls or electric mechanisms.

You’ll need to consider your appliances
This is neither a pro nor a con, but something to keep in mind when choosing your kitchen cabinetry.

If you plan to have integrated appliances, such as a fridge or dishwasher, there are certain types of handleless kitchens that will work better with your design.

First, select the ideal appliances you would like to have in your new kitchen, then make sure you discuss them with your kitchen designer. This is so that he or she can provide the best type of handleless kitchen for you.

Types of handleless kitchens
Now that we’ve explored some of the pros and cons of handleless kitchens in general, let’s take a look at some of the different styles available. We’ll also look at the methods of cabinetry construction used in each – one of which your designer will be able to have made for you.

Type 1: Overhead cabinets
Overhead cabinet doors can hang down further than the carcass of the cabinet to create a finger-pull lip at the bottom – you just hook your hand under the door and pull it open. They can also come with a push-to-open mechanism attached to the cabinet.

As it’s so easy to have overhead cabinets open without handles, the following methods only apply to base cabinet drawers and tall pantry cabinet doors.

Type 2: True handleless
A true handleless kitchen features a continuous rail that’s built into the cabinet. The rail sits behind each door and drawer front, and creates a space for you to grip, so you can open them easily. This continuous rail can either be the same colour as the cabinet fronts or can be left in a plain aluminium finish to create an additional point of interest.

Pro The main advantage to this method is that no alterations are required for the doors or drawer fronts.

Con Additional costs are a disadvantage to this method, due to the specialised labour required for the installation of the continuous rail. This can only be done on-site once all the cabinets have been put into position.

Type 3: Moulded finger-pulls
A moulded finger-pull style is where a channel is routed into the top edge of the door or drawer front, creating a small lip for you to grip in order to pull it open.

Pros The advantage of this option is that there is no additional hardware required, making this style one of the more cost-effective types of handleless kitchen cabinetry. Also, there are no changes that need to be made to the cabinet itself.

Cons One disadvantage of this method is that the channel that’s cut into the top of the door can be shallow, leaving you with only a small lip to hold onto. This can be a bit annoying, especially if you have big fingers or long nails.

Another disadvantage is that the thin piece of timber or other material left at the back of the routed channel can be more susceptible to cracking or chipping. Ensure you choose a reputable supplier who uses quality materials to avoid this problem.

Type 4: Aluminium finger-pulls
A piece of moulded aluminium is attached to the top of each door and drawer front. These handles are generally sold in long lengths so they can be cut to size, allowing them to suit each individual door and drawer front. Although finger-pulls are handles of sorts, they give a streamlined look and create a handleless appearance.

Pros This method has the same advantage as a moulded finger-pull, in the sense that it gives you full access to the inside of the cabinet. Using an aluminium finger-pull is also a way of adding an element of interest to your kitchen without having protruding handles.

Cons One disadvantage of these handles is that they usually need to have a narrow channel routed into the top of each door for the handle to sit in. This may not be possible with some door materials, such as those with a vinyl-wrap finish, since it may cause the vinyl to start to peel away,

Type 5: Push-to-open mechanisms
This is my favourite method of creating a handleless kitchen. Electric push-to-open doors and drawer fronts are such a pleasure to use. The lift-up overhead cabinet doors pictured here are also opened using an electric push-to-open mechanism. Closing the doors is made easy by pressing a button on the side of the cabinet, which triggers the mechanism to lower the doors back to a closed position.

Pro The great advantage of cabinetry that has this mechanism built in to it is that there are no gaps between the drawers, no finger-pulls and no crumb-catching channels – just a smooth, flat front that’s incredibly easy to clean.

Con One disadvantage of these electric push-to-open doors and drawer fronts is that they can be accidentally opened by simply leaning against them. This can be a nuisance, especially if you have curious children.

Alternative option
If you’re not sold on the idea of a completely handleless kitchen, but quite like the streamlined look, then using a finger-pull with a U-shape profile handle that sits over the top of each door and drawer front may be the answer for you.

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