Our Best Advice for Picking, Installing, and Placing Handles

We sell three different styles of leather handles, which (unlike pulls) have two points of contact against the door, drawer, or cabinet surface for a sturdy connection. In this post, we’ll share some of our best tips and tricks to help narrow down the search and choose the right style, size, and placement of handles for your furniture and kitchen remodels.

Jump ahead to section:

Measure Center-to-Center (C2C) Spacing

Unlike a knob or pull with a single point of contact, a handle needs a measurement of the distance inbetween the two sets of hardware. That measurement is taken from the center of each hole, which is why it’s called the “center-to-center” dimension (or C2C, as it’s abbreviated in the biz).

Illustration of Center-to-center (C2C) spacing: distance measured from the center of each hole

When updating hardware on existing cabinetry, designers may be constrained by the locations of the existing holes in the cabinet surface, or they may need to carefully and artfully plug the holes and/or hide them strategically behind the handle itself.

When installing on new cabinetry that has no existing holes, designers have more flexibility and can choose the right pull for the right cabinet based on its function.

Leather HandleRecommended C2C Spacing
Hawthorne Small4.25″ (10.8cm) +/- 0.25″ (0.6cm)
Hawthorne Large9″ (22.9cm) +/- 0.25″ (0.6cm)
Hawthorne Wide9″ (22.9cm) +/- 0.25″ (0.6cm)
Sellwood Small9.5″ (24.1 cm) +/- 0.25″ / (0.6cm)
Sellwood Large15.5” (39.4 cm) +/- 0.25″ / (0.6cm)
Tilikum Small4” (10.2cm) +/- 0.25″ / (0.6cm)
Tilikum Medium5” (12.7cm) +/- 0.25″ / (0.6cm)
Tilikum Large6” (15.2cm) +/- 0.25″ / (0.6cm)

Comfortable Clearance for Hands and Fingers

We have 3 styles of handles with two points of contact in our Leather Drawer Pull collection, and each projects off the surface of the cabinet differently, creating a different shape in the negative space between the cabinet surface and the handle surface.

The larger this “clearance” space is, the easier and more comfortable it is for the whole hand or fingers to go in and grab the handle. A large gripping space is critical for a big and heavy drawer or door, but may not be desirable at all on small or fine furniture. Additionally, there may be space constraints in tight spaces or awkward corners which make a large projection impractical.

As shown in this sketch:

  • The Tilikum handle creates the most space, allowing for wider hand / finger space than the C2C. Note the gripping surface is two layers of leather riveted together for a sturdier construction and thicker grip.
  • The Sellwood has the most lift off the cabinet surface for easy reaching in. It also has the widest grip area with a 1″ dowel, perfect for larger hands.
  • The Hawthorne “Flat” has one layer of leather and is a good choice for tight spaces that need a less prominent handle, or for more delicate applications like small drawers and desktop furniture.
Handdrawn sketch of the 3 handle styles showing how much clearance is off the cabinet surface
Hand-drawn sketch of the 3 handle styles showing clearance space for hands off the cabinet surface

Gripping Surface: Size, Temperature, and Shape

Gripping surface is also an important consideration in handle selection: size as it relates to the scale of the application (cabinet/door/drawer), the “temperature” of the material choice, and shape as it relates to differently-sized hands.

Grip Size for Furniture Scale

Colloquially, the width between the C2Cs is measured in “fingers”, which is a measurement that makes intuitive sense. On a delicate or lightweight piece of furniture, only 1 finger might needed to comfortably open a drawer, but on an extra-wide and heavy kitchen drawer or a sliding barn door, the whole hand should be used.

The easiest way to know how big you’d like the handle is to close your eyes and imagine opening the drawer/door. Are you reaching with your whole hand, or just a couple fingers?

Material Temperature

Handles are, by their very nature, meant to be touched by the hands regularly, so the tactile experience of the surface should be a more-discussed consideration. Metal and glazed ceramic have been the handles of choice for a long time, but both feel cold to the touch.

The most regular and consistent feedback we hear from customers is how much they enjoy the warmth of leather and wood. It is often a surprise what an everyday luxury the comfortable touch of natural materials is.

Grip Shape for Differently Sized Hands

Different hands are different sizes, so measure your own hands and add some extra contingency to come up with a comfortable shape. Among our handle collection, the grip is quite different between the 1″ round wood dowel on the Sellwood design, two layers of leather in the Tilikum design, and one layer of leather in the Hawthorne “Flat”.

Sometimes couples or family members will have dramatically differently-sized hands, which should be a consideration. One person with large hands may find a “1-finger” pull to be too small to be of practical use: in those cases, it is always better to err on the side of up-sizing.

This photo gallery of customer installations of the Hawthorne installed “flat” with two points of contact, like a handle instead of a loop.

Custom Sized Leather Handles

Yes! We can make custom sizes. Designing an entirely new style from scratch is a lengthy process, but modifying an existing handle design with these two dimensions is easily enough done for a custom order:

  • The width of the strap: standardly-available dimensions are 1.25″ (31.75mm), 1″ (25.4mm), 3/4″ (19mm) and 5/8″ (15.9mm) but other widths are possible.
  • The length of the strap to accommodate any desired center-to-center (C2C) hole spacing.

Contact us with your custom leather handle requests!

Bonus Video: How to Locate Leather Handles on the Door

Nobody explains it better than the experts at the PBS show, This Old House. This YouTube video has great tips and tricks for locating handles on doors and drawer surfaces.

About the Walnut Studiolo Leather Drawer Pull Collection:

  • Architectural Beauty: Original designs by former Architecture Principal Geoffrey Franklin, Walnut Studiolo’s collection of leather drawer pulls combines minimalist modern design with old-fashioned natural materials. 
  • Sustainable American Story: Behind their good looks, there’s a great story. Handcrafted in small batches in the USA from oak-tanned leather and oil dyes, our low-impact environmental values shine through. 
  • High Quality, Durable Materials: Our unique hand-dyed American leather gets better with age, offering a warm and comfortable touch with strong, long-lasting durability.
  • Award-Winning Designs: Chosen by discerning designers for projects big and small, from home IKEA hacks and vintage Airstream remodels to mountain chalets and executive mansions. Honored at the “Best of Portland” awards and editorially featured in Real Simple, House Beautiful, and Interior Design magazines. 

About Walnut Studiolo

Walnut Studiolo crafts original modern designs by hand in our Oregon workshop using only natural materials. We are a family-run company located on the North Oregon Coast. Learn more about us on our website: https://walnutstudiolo.com

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