A new stove can make a kitchen look cleaner. But a glance at the checkbook can make updating your kitchen seem like a bad idea.

"In this economy, complete redecorations aren't always financially feasible," says Marianne Buckman, an interior designer who owns CocoBello Interiors in Hudson, Wis. "People are always looking for a way to change their kitchen's look, and updating hardware is a great way to refresh cabinetry."

With catalogues layered with thousands of tiny, nearly identical-looking photos of handles and knobs, it's hard to know where to even start. Take a look at your fixtures, Buckman says. If your faucet is a stainless steel swan-neck shape, you probably shouldn't get square brass knobs. Then take your cabinets' material into account. If you have gorgeous wood cabinets, you'd want something simpler to accentuate the grains, according to Terri Ulisse, an interior designer at Richmond, Va.-based firm Custom Kitchens. She says a black or white painted cabinet can take a highly decorative pull. And to really visualize your new knobs, "you have to see it on a door and touch it," Ulisse says, so head to the local hardware store.

Knowing your kitchen's style can help you pick the right hardware. Buckman says antique brass lends itself to more of a traditional kitchen, whereas oil-rubbed bronze is the latest trend with Craftsman-style homes. Highly polished chrome is another slick, modern metal. And cut crystal pulls give an elegant look, Ulisse says.

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