Door handles are the first thing we touch when entering a place. It is also the last thing that we touch while leaving. This tactile feeling of holding the door handle or knob, and pressing or pulling the door, can determine whether you feel welcomed in a place or not.
Doors are one of the most intimate items in a home, office, restaurant, or any other place. Every door holds the key to stories and inner worlds; it lets you in and out of different spaces. You put your hands on them, press or pull, and just like that, you enter each story.
Over the years, the knobs and handles have undergone an enormous transformation. The exact reason for this transformation is hard to pin down. But the safe bait would be because architects now know that they hold the power to transform both the look and feel of a room by paying a little bit more attention to the details, in which the knobs and handles of the doors and furniture play an important role.
Earlier, knobs and handles of doors and furniture were mostly mass-produced. That is still the case for most people. But custom-made doors, handles, and knobs have recently gained popularity in interior design.
According to Mahmudul Gani Kanak, a Dhaka-based architect from Chinta Sthapatya, knobs and handles are now integrated into the broader architectural context, especially in interior design. "We can no longer say that knobs and handles are mere appendages to our home and furniture doors. Rather, they contribute to the overall rhythm and harmony of the space," Kanak said.
Kanak had the opportunity to design door handles for both homes and furniture. What fascinates him the most about the knobs and handles is that they react and have dialogues with light, shadow, and surrounding elements.
"This is how handles and knobs create a visual symphony that engages us in many ways with the overall theme of the space," he added.
Clean lines and simple shapes are trends that can be seen in kitchen and office cabinets. These designs are smooth and simple and offer a seamless experience when opening the doors of a closet or cabinet. So much so, that sometimes, when you enter a kitchen or an office, you cannot even see the handles—it is just a clean-cut, simple notch at the top or bottom of the furniture door.
"Handles and levers are more popular than knobs now for a few reasons," said Kanak. "From the designer's perspective, you can go crazy with the handle designs without compromising the overarching theme of the project. From the users' perspective, on the other hand, handles are more accessible and inclusive, especially for the sick, the elderly, and people with special needs."
Operating a handle, no matter the shape or size, is much easier than operating a slippery, circular knob.
Enhancing the visual aesthetics
Architect Rafia Mariam Ahmed specialises in designing door handles. One of her fascinating projects is the interior of the Thai Emerald, a restaurant in Dhanmondi. The double doors of the restaurant's private rooms have door handles shaped like a lotus; when you close the door, the two halves of the handles come together in the middle and form the lotus.
"What interests me the most about doors is that every door contains not just one but multiple people's stories," said Rafia. "It can be the door of a village home made out of tin or a sleek modern door in a metropolitan city, but doors, especially their designs and materials, always reflect something about the people who own them. And that revelation is nowhere more apparent than the door knobs or the handles," Rafia told TBS.
She points towards the lotus design of the Thai Emerald door handles. In Thai tradition, the lotus flower is seen as a symbol of purity, faithfulness, and spiritual awakening. This significance of the lotus in Thai culture inspired Rafia to design the door handles after it.
Her inspiration for other projects also comes from diverse cultures: the huge Egyptian doors with golden knobs in the middle, the circular motifs in the Chinese temple doors, the subtle golden accents in the Roman door knobs and handles, etc.
"I like neat lines while designing doors. So, when I want to play around with the design of a door, I do it with the handles," Rafia added. She designed the door handles of Terracotta Tales, another restaurant in Dhaka, a bit triangular, and the Gala Spa and Wellness Centre round.
According to Rafia, what is most important in designing the door handles is how they feel when you hold them because "when someone uses the door to enter a space, you don't touch it; you always touch the handle or the knob.
Everyone going in and out of a house, room, or closet constantly interacts with the door handles, making this small and seemingly negligible part of the interior so powerful.
Materials and prices
A sleek and modern handle or knob for the furniture piece or door that blends right in with the overall theme of the interior is the most popular design right now. People can also choose their own door handles from the marketplaces in Dhaka and even online at times.
A preference for this sleek and cool design helped the door and furniture handles evolve to a more minimal and modern vibe. For this type of handles, metals like brass, aluminum, and stainless steel are usually used as materials. At times, there are hints of wood and plastic in the readily available ones.
These are mostly imported products. The range of these available handles starts from Tk1,000-20,000, and for the knobs, Tk300-5000, depending on the size and material.
And if the architects are designing the knobs for furniture or handles for the doors, those are mostly custom-made according to the client's desires. Materials like wood and metal are mostly used. The price range usually varies from design to design and also depends on the quantity and type of materials used.