Handleless kitchens first became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, but they have enjoyed a massive resurgence in recent years. As many homeowners’ preferences have evolved towards smooth, sleek and ultra-modern kitchen interiors, the handleless kitchen has come back sharply into focus once more. Handleless kitchens offer simple, clean designs and a contemporary, timeless feel.

Handleless kitchens are perhaps the most expensive of all kitchens. They are also notoriously tricky to fit. However, when something looks this good you can forgive certain issues. There is a lot of choice too when it comes to handleless styles too – and plenty to consider. So, Kitchen Warehouse have put together a comprehensive guide: Everything you need to know about handleless kitchens.

Handleless Kitchens: The 3 different types

First of all, we need to cover the basics. There are two key questions: What exactly is a handleless kitchen? What are the different types of handleless kitchens? Well, as the name suggests, a handleless kitchen design has no handles on any cabinets, drawers or cupboards. The result is a smooth, clean and totally uncluttered look. It creates a feel for any space that is minimalistic but extremely elegant at the same time. It also gives a kitchen a really modern and contemporary vibe.

Although handleless kitchens is the catch-all title given to all kitchen units without handles or knobs on the door fronts, there are three distinct and different styles available.

J-Pull Kitchen Doors

Strictly speaking, J-pull doors do actually have a handle. However, it is cut into the back of the door, recessed, and hidden from view. Essentially, the design incorporates a handle into the drawer or door itself. The name comes from the fact that a ‘J’ shaped curve is built into the cabinet. This allows you to easily place your fingers to pull open the door. The shadow gaps allow for access. Typically, the handles will be placed at either the top or the bottom for drawer units, and integrated dishwashers. Meanwhile, for cupboards, integrated fridges and washing machines, the handles are placed to the side. J-Pull kitchens can have soft closing doors.

Push-to-open

Push-to-open mechanisms are placed on the inside of the kitchen cabinet doors. No hardware can be seen from the outside. As the name suggests, you literally push on the door and the mechanism will spring the door open. Just a gentle, light push and the door will open. Lower-level cabinets can even be pushed open by foot. This style of kitchen has no kind of handle groove at all. Because the drawers are pushed to open, it is not possible to combine with a soft closing design, as these simply work against each other. With this style, you will also need to choose a push-to-open dishwasher.

True Handleless

Unlike a J-Pull design, a true handleless kitchen cabinet has no handle built-in to the design. Instead, a rail runs behind the drawer or door. A recessed space is created which allows you to put your hand behind the door to open it. Such units can be opened either from the top or the side. This design is known as the True Handleless system. True handleless drawers can have soft closing doors,

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The pros and cons of handleless kitchens

It’s no surprise to see that so many people are blown away with the look of a handleless kitchen. It’s a design that truly catches the eye. However, it’s important not to get swept away in the excitement of it all. As with any large home improvement project, you need to think with your head as well as your heart. Therefore, it is vital that you weigh up the pros and cons of handleless kitchens before going ahead and choosing one.

The Pros: The safest a kitchen can be

There’s no denying that the kitchen can be a dangerous and hazardous place. Hot stoves, gas and electrical appliances, knives and other sharp utensils – there are a lot of potential hazards all over the kitchen. It can be particularly dangerous for children. A handleless kitchen design minimises the potential risk for kids by removing handles and knobs that can be accidentally run into. This means no more cuts and bruises.

The Pros: Extra space

Space is always at a premium in any kitchen space and handleless kitchens can help to create space. There is no overhang on the cabinets which gives you valuable extra space. This can be extremely useful if you are considering an open plan design for the kitchen. Not only does it help to create a light and airy feel, there are no handles to upset the fluidity of the design either. The overall effect really does create the illusion of space.

The Cons: It takes longer to clean

Of course, nothing is ever absolutely perfect. Every type and design of kitchen has its own set of advantages. However, it will also have some disadvantages too. Weighing up the pros and cons of handleless kitchens against each other is important. It is only by doing this that you will be able to decide if a handleless kitchen is the right choice for you.

One potential disadvantage of a handleless kitchen is that it will definitely take you longer to clean. Dust and crumbs will quickly and steadily build up in the recesses that you pull to open a door or drawer. Essentially, the recess is the only place available for dust to settle, but this does mean that it accumulates quickly. Moreover, fingerprints can also be an issue with handleless kitchens – especially if you opt for a high gloss finish. Obviously, you need to touch the front of the cabinets more often with a handleless design. This adds to your cleaning burden. However, this is offset to some extent because there are no awkward handles to navigate and clean around and behind.

The cons: Are handleless kitchens practical?

In general terms, a handleless kitchen shouldn’t be any less practical or any harder to use than any other type of kitchen. However, there are a few factors that you might want to consider that could make handleless kitchens a little inconvenient for some. For example, if you have very long fingernails, it can be a bit tricky to be trying to grip a door without a handle, although this wouldn’t be with a problem with a push-to-open design. Similarly, for those with strength or mobility issues, especially conditions affecting the hands – such as arthritis – handleless kitchens may not be the best choice. Likewise, for those with really busy lifestyles who are always rushing around the kitchen, you might miss having handles.

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The Cons: A higher price tag

Although you might think that the lack of handles in a kitchen could keep the cost of a kitchen down, you do need to be aware that handleless kitchens do come with a higher price tag. First of all, the mechanisms that are needed to allow doors and drawers to be opened without handles require specialist craftmanship. Not only that, installation of handleless kitchens requires expertise too. All of this adds to the overall cost. It’s a cost that many would argue is well worth it. But that’s a decision that you need to make for yourself.

Weighing up the advantages and the drawbacks

It’s important that you weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of handleless kitchens. A handleless kitchen is hard to beat as a choice if you are looking for a modern, sleek kitchen design. The seamless no-interruption style creates cabinets with clean design lines that is the obvious choice for a contemporary look. As well as that, a handleless kitchen can be a smart choice in a smaller space, where handles can get in the way and take up too much space. Basically, if you love clean lines, smooth finishes, and an uncluttered feel, a handleless kitchen could be the ideal choice.

However, with these undoubted great looks, those practicality issues do need to be carefully considered.

Push-to-open handleless kitchens require you to come into direct contact with the door and drawer fronts. Inevitably, this will mean that you need to clean them frequently. Fingerprints and marks will soon build up. Handleless kitchens can be a little bit more difficult to open. This means that anybody with reduced strength may find things difficult. It’s also possible, over time, that push mechanisms can fail and require more frequent maintenance.

What kind of cabinet fronts are best for handleless kitchens?

As handleless kitchens need to be touched a lot, thought should be given to the material used for the door and drawer fronts in the design. The choice of material can have a significant impact on how often you will need to clean the cabinets. The material, finish, and colour all need to be carefully considered. Staining will naturally occur but over time this can create a polished film of dirt that can become impossible to remove completely. This is regardless of how often or how thoroughly you clean.

Kitchens with a lower sheen tend to show less marks. Similarly, lighter colours don’t tend to show up marks and fingerprints as much as darker colours. Incorporating natural wood and steel into a design can create a superb finish. Not only do they look good, they are also easier to maintain and keep clean. Additionally, any wear that occurs over time only adds to the character and charm of the finish.

So, you can see even though a cooling grey handleless kitchen might appear as if it is the ultimate in contemporary kitchen design, it may not be the most practical of choices – especially for a busy family with children and several mucky fingers.

What about handleless kitchen appliances?

If you want to go for a totally handleless look, you can! The idea of a handleless kitchen now extends beyond the cabinetry and doors of a kitchen’s design. As the trend for handleless kitchens has continued, more and more homeowners have also looked for appliances with handleless doors. They are striving for a completely sleek and seamless look for their kitchen to create a feeling of space. To this end, you will now find more appliance manufacturers who are producing built-in appliances that fit flush with kitchen cabinetry. Some have glass finishes and the ‘touch to open’ mechanism is certainly becoming more popular in appliance design.

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Push vs Pull handleless kitchens

Deciding which type of handleless kitchen to choose will depend on personal preference and individual needs. However, one option that is definitely worth considering is a ‘mix and match’ approach. True handleless and J-Pull designs work brilliantly on base units where doors and draws are easily opened with your fingertips. At a lower level, many people prefer not to have push-to-open drawers as these can sometimes be opened unintentionally if you lean against them.

On the other hand, push-to-open is a really popular option for higher wall units. This is especially the case with large and horizontal ones. It is because they can be opened with a single bit of pressure from a finger. Similarly, they close easily without having to over-reach or apply a lot of pressure. Similarly, you should carefully consider where to place recess handles. For example, it is often more sensible to place them at the bottom of higher cabinets, and to the top of low-level cabinets which are easier to reach.

Kitchen Warehouse: Handleless kitchen options

Kitchen Warehouse can provide true handleless (gola rail) kitchens and they are available in seven different colour handle options. These are: brushed steel, copper, antique brass, bronze, black, graphite, and white. However, we only sell true handleless kitchen options through the showroom rather than on the website. This is because the sales team need to be totally sure that the design is going to work for the space. We also need to make sure that all the correct components are supplied. You can see true handleless kitchen designs at the Kitchen Warehouse showroom.

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Push-to-open and True handleless kitchens

Kitchen Warehouse can provide both push-to-open and true handleless options. Choose from any of the acrylic kitchen doors we have available: high gloss, matt, or textured. There are several designs that are not available on the website yet, but these can be seen in the showroom. All in all, with new designs coming on stream regularly, you are spoiled for choice. There are a virtually limitless number of handleless colour and design options available overall.

The Verdict: Handleless kitchens or not?

It is important to be aware of the main pros and cons of handleless kitchens. This now gives you a better idea of whether a handleless kitchen is for you or not. If you want a clean, spacious and timeless – but incredibly contemporary – design, a handleless kitchen is definitely something to consider very carefully. It provides a breathtaking and eye-catching look for any kitchen space. However, you might want a modern-looking kitchen which is a bit more practical and functional. If this is the case, a design such as a Shaker kitchen might be a more sensible choice.

Handleless kitchen cabinets are surprisingly versatile and can be adapted to fit most kitchens. The result is a cooking and dining space with a contemporary and minimalist feel. Handleless kitchens also provide plenty of practical storage space. For those who crave the elegance of unbroken lines and seamless simplicity, a handleless kitchen could be your ideal pick.

The Next Steps

Handleless kitchens certainly have much to shout about. Firstly, they are pretty much the perfect fit for any contemporary-looking kitchen design. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that an ultra-modern look is all that handleless kitchens are good for. They can actually work as well with classic designs too, due to the smoothness adding to the overall aesthetic. On top of that, handleless kitchens create space and it can feel easier moving around the kitchen without handles and knobs interrupting the flow. You will really feel the difference if your kitchen has a smaller floor space.

Of course, if you are a true traditionalist and love the classic country farmhouse kitchen look, the handleless kitchen is probably never going to float your boat. However, you should always remember that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. Some people go for handlelesss cupboards and base unit level, mixed with handled cabinets on the walls – or vice versa. Treat your new kitchen design as a blank canvas. You can paint anything you want onto it.

Going handleless in the kitchen is a big step but as long as you are sure that its is the right decision for you, you are unlikely to have any regrets. The result will be a truly amazing look for your kitchen for years to come.

Remember that you will need to visit the Kitchen Warehouse showroom to see our fantastic handleless kitchens. The friendly and expert team are there to assist you and to answer any questions you may have about handleless kitchens. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us on contact@kitchenwarehouseltd.com or 01765 640 000 to more information.