Photos by James Bombales

European-style cabinets, which open upward, not outward, are designed with a sleek, minimalist aesthetic. Although they look good on the outside, inside they are potential death-traps, waiting to clonk you on the head, or cause a tremble that will shatter your best champagne flutes.

So, what’s a home cook to do with a kitchen full of slamming doors and drawers? Upgrade to soft-close hardware that will save your sanity and your glassware.

We recently caught up with interior designer Christine Dovey at an event for GRASS, a leading developer and manufacturer of slide and hinge systems, as well as flap and corner cabinet systems. We asked her about the ins and outs of soft-close technology, and how she integrated GRASS products into her own home.

Designer Christine Dovey

BuzzBuzzNews: Why is soft-close hardware worth splurging on?

Christine Dovey: We often pay a lot of attention to what something looks like on the outside, but what the soft close hardware does is it allows you to take notice of how things are working on the inside. Many kitchens nowadays have lower cabinets without uppers, and one of the issues with that is you’ve got to keep glasses and dishes in the lower cabinets. If you don’t have soft-close hardware, you’ll have glasses in drawers that are essentially slamming shut. This can cause the glasses or plates to break and create a big mess.

For a lot of modern design choices, the soft-close hardware makes it possible to re-navigate how you would design a kitchen. To be honest, this wasn’t something I was thinking about when I put in my kitchen. I was just like, ‘How do I achieve the look I want with X amount of money,’ and aesthetically, it looked great, but the noise drove me crazy. Everything was slamming, everything was breaking — soft-close really gives you the flexibility to design in different ways.

BBN: How can it benefit families with kids, in particular?

CD: Kids are known to attack lower cabinets because they can’t reach the uppers. When you have lower cabinets without the soft-close, basically your whole life is listening to your kids smash the drawers shut! In my house, we have these large pantry drawers, and one of them is stocked with all the kids’ food so they can access it themselves. Those drawers are heavy, and without GRASS hardware they wouldn’t operate properly because there’s just too much weight. Most hardware companies, their maximum weight is 40 kilos, but GRASS can hold up to 70 kilos. It allows you maximize storage in your drawers, and use them for food rather than having a giant pantry cupboard. Plus, your kids can utilize those drawers without breaking your dishes or making you go deaf in the process.

BBN: Can you install soft-close systems yourself or should you hire a professional?

CD: For me, personally, it’s one of those things that I could try to do myself, or I could pay somebody else to do it properly. If you’re spending thousands of dollars on a kitchen renovation, it makes sense to have a professional install it so that it works the way it’s supposed to. Unless, of course, you’re legitimately very handy, but that’s just not me!

BBN: Can you update an older kitchen with soft-close hardware?

CD: Yes, it is possible to retrofit soft-close systems. You can take your existing hardware and replace it, which is great if you don’t want to renovate your entire kitchen, but the drawers aren’t working properly. You could even buy big-box store cabinetry and then invest in soft-close hardware that’s going to make it function better.

BBN: What’s the difference between a big-box store soft-close product and the GRASS line?

CD: Most big-box store soft-close hardware is made in China, and they’re essentially knock-offs. The difference in price between a cheaper quality product and GRASS in a kitchen can be anywhere from $200 to $500. So, for just a bit more money you get innovative German engineering, a lifetime warranty and peace of mind. Even if you plan to stay in your home for 30 years, and after all that time the hinges stop working, GRASS will replace the hardware free of charge.

BBN: Other than the kitchen, where else can soft-close hardware be installed?

CD: Bathrooms, especially vanities! If you’re loading up your vanity with cleaning products, soap, or heavy shampoo bottles, soft-close hardware can be a real lifesaver. It’s also great for mudrooms, in mine we use soft-close hinges for our full-length closet and the sliding drawers where we store boots and shoes. You can basically install it anywhere you have cabinetry, even in pieces of furniture or built-ins.

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