A big part of the aesthetic of antique furniture is in its hardware. Metal hardware makes a nice contrast with the wooden surface of antique furniture and completes the look.
Are you missing some hardware from your old furniture? Perhaps you want to decorate some modern furniture with some antique hardware? In any case, you’re in luck!
In this article, you’ll learn more about the different types and manufacturers of antique furniture. We’ll also help you choose which hardware to pick and how to maintain it.
Keep on reading to find out what is the best antique furniture hardware!
History and Manufacturers of Antique Furniture Hardware
Before the Industrial Revolution, all hardware manufactured in America was handmade with an emphasis to function over form. Most designs and materials were imported from England with little innovation.
The Industrial Revolution changed the hardware manufacturing process significantly. Hardware was mass-marketed and mass-produced around a specific theme and style. Also, America’s most famous hardware manufacturers established their companies around that time.
Some important hardware manufacturers are:
Philip Corbin, an American industrialist, founded his company P&F Corbin in New Britain, Connecticut, around the 1840s. Initially, the company manufactured functional hardware for buildings.
In 1870, P&F Corbin switched to manufacturing decorative hardware for buildings. Corbin’s adorning hardware can be found in several important buildings from Boston to Philadelphia, including the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford.
Yale is one of the oldest manufacturers of locks, with its current headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden. The company was founded by Henry R. Towne and Linus Yale, Jr, in Newport, New York, under the name Yale Lock Manufacturing Co.
Linus Yale, Jr, the son of Linus Yale, Sr, perfected his father’s invention of the pin tumbler lock and patented several other lock systems. Some of Yale’s locks and hardware can be found in buildings such as the New York Life Building, the Lincoln Building, and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower.
Russell & Erwin
The Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company was established in 1839 by Henry E. Russell, Cornelius B. Erwin, and Frederick T. Stanley. It was based in Connecticut and manufactured door hardware, including door locks and padlocks.
Some of the company’s most popular products include the “Russwin” Builders’ Hardware. In 1902, Russell & Erwin merged with P&F Corbin to form the American Hardware Corporation. It was eventually purchased by Assa Abloy in 2000.
Types of Antique Furniture Hardware
In general, there are numerous different types of antique furniture hardware. Some of the most popular vintage hardware is part of these categories:
Cabinets are usually found in the kitchen, but they can be a part of other types of furniture like dressers. All cabinet drawers utilize some kind of pull or knob to open them. Knobs that open cabinet drawers were usually simple in design without any fancy decorations.
Pulls, on the other hand, are one of the most popular types of antique hardware. There are numerous different types of furniture pulls, like the ring pull and the drop pull. But, by far, the most popular drawer pull is the bail pull.
Bail pulls consist of the bail itself and the handle, which is connected to two posts. The handle rotates, which allows you to grab it and open the drawer. Bail pulls were made of different metals, with brass being the most prevalent one.
Doors usually come with a variety of different hardware, depending on the type of door. All doors have a knob or handle to open them. Antique knobs were initially made from wood and eventually from metal or even glass.
Also, all doors come with hinges and a locking mechanism. Hinges were simple to make and were made from cast iron or brass. Interior doors could have less secure locking mechanisms like latches, but exterior doors needed a reliable way to lock.
Locks and padlocks were a big part of hardware manufacturing in the United States for several centuries. Therefore, it’s no surprise that some of the most well-known American hardware manufacturers crafted locks.
Windows were less complicated than doors or cabinets and required less hardware. All windows needed some hinges to open and close, as well as a security mechanism like a lock or a latch.
Some windows would open with handles, whereas others used a lift & socket system. Also, some windows came with adjusters and curtain hangers.
How to Clean Antique Furniture Hardware?
If you want to purchase some antique furniture hardware, several online sellers have numerous pieces to choose from. A popular one is Bob Roth’s Antique Hardware in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
You can also find some in antique stores, flea markets, or yard sales. However, these will need some care before you can use them. If the hardware seems slightly dirty, then you can clean it yourself in a few simple steps.
First, you must remove the hardware from its furniture carefully to avoid damaging either one. Next, boil it in water for a few minutes. You can also add some vinegar to the water if there is rust or large smudges on the hardware.
After that, scrub it thoroughly using a metal cleaning agent. Rinse under cold water and should be clean and shiny. Consider asking for professional restoration if your hardware is heavily soiled, rusted, or damaged.
What Hardware Is Still in Style?
Modern households often look for more sleek and streamlined designs for their hardware. This hardware usually comes in a matte or satin finish in neutral colors like black or white. However, it’s not uncommon to see modern hardware made of brass or copper.
The warmer color tones of brass have always been popular for kitchen hardware, as they make it seem more inviting and cozy. If you want to equip your house with vintage hardware instead of modern, you won’t have any problem finding some.
Hardware that’s based on famous architectural period styles like Art Nouveau, Art Deco, or even older ones from the Victorian era is always popular. You can pair them with antique furniture or use them in modern furniture. Antique brass hardware, especially, will blend in very well with the modern aesthetic.
Antique furniture hardware can be a great way to add a vintage aesthetic to your modern household. You don’t need to own antique furniture, as antique hardware can also be seamlessly incorporated into contemporary furniture.
You can look for actual antique hardware or opt for reproduction hardware. In the case of the former, you’ll get the sturdy build quality, but its materials may have deteriorated over time. In the case of the latter, you get the vintage elegance in a brand new product, but you miss out on the true antique essence.
No matter what you choose, go out there and look for antique furniture hardware. You never know what hidden treasures you might find!