How to Update Hardware & Metal Finishes in Your 90s Home

Quick and Easy Hardware and Finish Solutions for a 90s Home Refresh

Wondering how to give your 90s home a refresh that won’t cost you an arm and a leg? Swapping out your hardware and finishes is one of the least expensive solutions that has a huge amount of impact. It turns out that with a few tweaks here and there, your kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanity, doors, lights, and more can feel completely and totally transformed. Read on for our rule book on how to do it right – it’ll make your remodel steps a cinch to complete.

Rule #1: Try to DIY First

A little DIY can go a long way! So, before you go out and purchase all new hardware or fixtures, try a good old fashioned coat of paint. Not only can you completely customize the look you want, but honestly, paint is one of the most inexpensive ways to upgrade your home. And you’d be surprised at just how much the look of a pull or light fixture can change with a more contemporary finish.

Wondering how to do it the right way? Check out these great articles to help you DIY like the pros: Porch Daydreamer, SF Gate, Our Hopeful Home.

Rule #2: Keep it Simple 

Drilling new holes or plugging and painting existing ones can be headache-inducing. Try to use existing holes for a hardware swap whenever possible. Make sure to first note the type of hardware you have to help you narrow down your selection. As a rule of thumb, pulls typically use two screw holes while a single knob uses one. For pulls, measure from the center of one screw to the center of the other screw for proper sizing. Worried about not being able to use a style you really love? Fear not – there are endless possibilities in many different styles, both pull and knob, so you’re sure to find one you adore.

Brushed nickel knobs make this laundry room’s aesthetic crisp and clean, with pulls added to the drawers for easy opening. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Brushed nickel knobs make this laundry room’s aesthetic crisp and clean, with pulls added to the drawers for easy opening. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Beautiful oil-rubbed bronze contemporary hardware pulls are used throughout this kitchen, adding a touch of cohesiveness and that is unmatched. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Beautiful oil-rubbed bronze contemporary hardware pulls are used throughout this kitchen, adding a touch of cohesiveness and class that is unmatched. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: Are White Kitchens Timeless or Trendy?

Rule #3: Keep Your Finishes Contemporary

The simplest way to upgrade those 90s-style hardware pieces is to pay attention to your finishes. 90s finishes are usually shiny brass or oil-rubbed bronze, and while it’s definitely possible to find beautiful contemporary versions in these finishes, it’s much easier to search if you keep your finishes more contemporary. Matte black, brushed brass, brushed nickel, chrome, and more are great options to consider and are guaranteed to give your home an instant upgrade.

A brushed brass shower faucet in this bathroom offers a soft, yet modern element, pairing perfectly with the penny tile in the shower niche. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
A brushed brass shower faucet in this bathroom offers a soft, yet modern element, pairing perfectly with the penny tile in the shower niche. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: Tile Ideas & Inspiration

While this master bathroom has a traditional style, it still feels contemporary and fresh thanks to updated bright chrome hardware throughout. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
While this master bathroom has a traditional style, it still feels contemporary and fresh thanks to updated bright chrome hardware throughout. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

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Rule #4: Keep Things Streamlined

There’s no denying that keeping things visually streamlined is key to avoiding the overly-ornate styles of the 90s. When in doubt, stick to sleek lines and silhouettes. Not only is it a cleaner look overall, but it kicks those 90s vibes to the curb and invites instant contemporary class instead. Oh, and while you don’t necessarily need everything to be matchy-matchy, sometimes it’s better to keep your hardware consistent – think doorknobs, cabinet pulls, etc. – to keep things curated throughout your home. 

RELATED: Quartz vs. Granite, How to Choose the Right Countertop

Sleek and streamlined matte black hardware pulls pair with matte black lighting finishes for a curated and contemporary aesthetic throughout this living room. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Sleek and streamlined matte black hardware pulls pair with matte black lighting finishes for a curated and contemporary aesthetic throughout this living room.(Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Matte black hardware pulls add a layer of contrast to this bright white kitchen, infusing modern style into the space. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Matte black hardware pulls add a layer of contrast to this bright white kitchen, infusing modern style into the space. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Rule #5: Keep Things Interesting

Speaking of matching – don’t be afraid to mix and match a few different finishes in a room! Mixed metals can look amazing when done right. Just remember to keep the same finish together on one plane. It avoids too much chaos (e.g. all lower cabinets to have the same hardware finish, light fixtures in another finish, and faucets or doorknobs in another finish). It can be intimidating, but we promise that when the final reveal comes along, it’ll feel fresh and oh-so-far away from the 90s.

Brushed brass finishes take center stage in this kitchen and dining room space, and while the island pendants and dining room chandelier are different in style, they work cohesively together. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Brushed brass finishes take center stage in this kitchen and dining room space, and while the island pendants and dining room chandelier are different in style, they work cohesively together. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Matte black hardware and sink faucet work seamlessly alongside chrome taps in this brewery-inspired basement. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
Matte black hardware and sink faucet work seamlessly alongside chrome taps in this brewery-inspired basement. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Rule #6: Keep Your Room Aesthetic Cohesive 

As a final rule, when swapping out your hardware and finishes, you want the room to remain aesthetically cohesive. The overall goal of your space design should be clear from corner to corner. If you have an ultra-modern aesthetic, avoid a more traditional-style hardware pull. Likewise, if you like things a little more classic (but still contemporary), don’t go too streamlined and modern in your fixtures. It’s all about balance and keeping things curated and collected. The ultimate intention is to make everything feel distinct, yet part of a larger whole.

In this kitchen, a warm modern aesthetic reigns supreme thanks to a pairing of rich brown cabinetry, bright white tiled backsplash, and soft brushed nickel hardware and finishes. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
In this kitchen, a warm modern aesthetic reigns supreme thanks to a pairing of rich brown cabinetry, bright white tiled backsplash, and soft brushed nickel hardware and finishes. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
In this master bath, chrome and brushed nickel finishes are seen throughout, adding to the simple and relaxing neutral color palette of the space. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)
In this master bath, chrome and brushed nickel finishes are seen throughout, adding class to the simple and relaxing neutral color palette of the space. (Interior Design: Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

RELATED: Best Greige Paint Colors

Remember not to get too overwhelmed by the prospect of transforming your 90s home. A few small upgrades here and there can give your space a whole new look. And sometimes, when you can make a big impact with just a little bit of work, the rest of the to-do list doesn’t seem so bad (or unattainable) after all.

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Carla Bast Design

3 Responses

  1. There are so many useful tips in this post, Carla – thank you! I love the idea to try painting hardware. I had never thought to do that, but I have some silver hardware in my kitchen that I don’t like, and I may just do that!

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