Everyone understands that hardware is necessary, yet hinges, latches, knobs, and escutcheons often seem like aesthetic afterthoughts. The work produced by the six companies here, however, proves that these physically small design elements can have an outsized effect on the style and impact of a project.
Whether you are looking for a 1920s Art Deco style or are in search of glass knobs for a Greek Revival farmstead, these companies are the perfect place to find the touches that tie together your design.
The hardware pieces E.R. Butler produces are not reproductions: They are historically accurate recreations of designs from American history, explains company owner Rhett Butler. Most of the designs the company sells are at least 100 years old, with some dating as far back as the 18th century.
But E.R. Butler doesn’t merely copy old designs; it captures the details, techniques, and intent of the originals, Butler says.
“It stays true to what was made when it was originally made,” he says. “There is that attention to details, that attention to the history.”
To inform this philosophy of authenticity, E.R. Butler has amassed an archive of more than 10,000 drawings, vintage catalogs, and ephemera. Butler regularly visits historic homes throughout New England and New York to further develop his understanding of the forms and functions of period hardware designs.
Though the company’s designs strive to embody the past, the production process—and the resulting quality—is thoroughly modern, Butler says.
“While we are continuing traditional designs, we do also use very modern technology to achieve very, very tight tolerances on our products,” he says.
Showrooms in Boston, New York City, and Milan.
The company—the oldest decorative hardware firm in the United States—began when founder Pierre Emmanuel Guerin emigrated from Brittany, France, to New York City in the mid 19th-century, bringing with him the craft of handmade hardware.
Since the beginning, the company’s dedication to casting and detailing its work by hand has never wavered, vice president Martin Grubman says. Each piece is cast in fine-grain sand at the company’s foundry, then sent to the fourth floor to be cleaned, filed, and polished by hand. Embossing and contouring are added using textured chisels and hammers to create richly detailed work.
“We do all kinds of handwork that no one else in this country does,” Grubman says.
P.E. Guerin is most famous for its 18th-century French and English hardware designs. But the company, founded in 1857, was around—and designing—through the Art Nouveau movement of the 1890s, Art Deco in the 1920s, and Mid-century Modern in the 1950s. Today, its catalog reflects its deep and rich history, Grubman says.
“We are so much more,” he says. “We can do anything, literally anything.”
Rocky Mountain Hardware
Rocky Mountain Hardware was founded in 1994, but its story begins a few years earlier, when owner Mark Nickum ran a successful door and window showroom. High-end clients, he noticed, were often looking for hardware pieces that just didn’t exist. He saw an opportunity to launch a business focused on creating beautiful, upscale hardware custom crafted for each client.
The result was Rocky Mountain Hardware, a manufacturer that runs its own bronze foundry, casting and finishing knobs, pulls, hooks, and handles to customer specifications. Each item goes through a rigorous, 20-step process to ensure the details are just right.
“Everything is made just for the person who’s ordering them,” says marketing director Christine Kirby.
Today, the company offers 24 different collections, each of which can receive one of 12 hand-applied finishes. Clients looking for a unique design can request small modifications to existing designs or work with the company to create a new look from scratch.
Rocky Mountain’s design styles run from the rustic to the modern, though all are united by the natural qualities of bronze.
“Bronze inherently has an organic texture,” Kirby says. “It’s very warm and beautiful.”
Forward-looking signature styles and a sustainable production process are what make S.A. Baxter stand out from the crowd, says owner Scott Baxter, who started the company in 2006 when he was unable to find hardware that suited his tastes during his own home-building process.
Clients can choose from project-ready designs or work with in-house designers to create unique custom looks. The company’s approach combines contemporary aesthetics with classic style to produce designs that are at once fresh and timeless. Art Deco, Bauhaus, Georgian, and Arts and Crafts influences can be seen in S.A. Baxter’s collections.
Baxter decided early on that the whole process should be as sustainable as possible. All of the company’s brass is lead-free, which has helped them cut back on energy use and create a nearly smoke-free foundry. A recycling program means the foundry produces very little wastewater, and eco-friendly machinery and equipment keep emissions exceptionally low.
“We are very proud,” Baxter says. “We have an extremely green facility.”
Still need evidence of their quality? S.A. Baxter’s work is in-demand globally.
“We’re all over the world now,” Baxter says. “We’ve done projects in six of the seven continents —we’re still working on Antarctica.”
Sun Valley Bronze
When builder Robert Commons was unable to find hardware with the style and quality he wanted, he decided to make it himself. In 1992, this approach became Sun Valley Bronze. Today, the company offers one of the widest selections of bronze architectural door, window, kitchen and bath hardware, and lighting available anywhere.
“Our collection is just huge,” says creative director Aimee Commons. “We have just about everything you can think of to accessorize your home.”
Strength and sustainability are at the core of Sun Valley Bronze’s entire line-up of products. A unique production process ensures pieces resist corrosion and are exceptionally durable. When the company brought in a machine to test the strength of the hardware, the machine broke before the pieces being tested gave in, Aimee Commons says.
The company is also committed to being as green as possible. Scraps from casting are recycled and used in later castings, and the company was recognize by the state of Idaho for its efforts to use less hazardous chemicals and reuse waste heat from its foundry.
Styles range from traditional through transitional and contemporary, but if nothing strikes your fancy, Sun Valley Bronze will be happy to help you create a personal design; in fact, some 40% of the company’s work is custom-made.
Whether you’re looking for boldly colored Rococo door handles, Art Deco cabinet knobs, or ornate hinges, The Golden Lion has what you’re looking for.
“We have thousands of products and they are all as beautiful as the next,” says owner Arnaud Massonnat. “It is craftsmanship developed over centuries.”
Founded in 1994, The Golden Lion aims to unite Old World beauty and workmanship with the most modern service and attention to detail. The company works with suppliers across Europe to import the finest pieces. Their inventory includes not just knobs and handles and hinges, but everything you could need to embellish your home, including fountain spouts, front-door peepholes, decorative nails, picture hooks, and elaborate brass moldings.
The Golden Lion works with customers to create detailed proposals and schedules, including all needed pieces for a given project. When projects are nearby enough, site visits during the installation process help ensure quality.