Fair warning, this is a monster post filled with locksets, handlesets, knobs, escutcheons, trimplates, backsets and more galore! I could go on and on, so I’m probably gonna.I casually mentioned before what a struggle it was to find mid-century leaning door hardware for the front door. As if just finding something cute and mid-century compatible in a sea of ugliness isn’t tough enough, there’s actual practical factors that need attention. The options seem overwhelmingly endless but then at the same time constrictively slim. Aesthetic considerations include metal finishes, new vs. vintage hardware, handlesets vs. knobs, and to escutcheon or not. Functional considerations include mortise vs. cylindrical/tubular locks, using existing holes vs. drilling your own, having double cylinder deadbolts if you have windows, backset measurements, and if the thing you actually decide on will even fit your door thickness. Basically, just so many choices and factors to weigh for one small, but important, part of your home. After months of knocking around options in my brain, I finally settled on that vintage beauty above and somehow narrowed infinity down to 6 different paths to front door happiness…
OPTION 1: NEW HANDLESETS/LOCKSETS
Going with all brand new hardware is totally tempting. New is easier to source, install, and offers up-to-date lock technology. I found several really good looking new pieces out there, especially among handlesets and locksets. Handlesets and locksets are more streamlined and beefy than just a knob and deadbolt set up, since all of the parts are usually coupled into a cohesive piece. Several reasonably priced products out there are clean and modern enough to look right at home on a mid-century door (though if you want brass your options are more limited). Proof:
A great place to start is the Schlage Century Handleset. The value is unbeatable. The chrome and nickel finishes look super nice and I’ve been seeing these on modern renovations all over the place. I’m not feeling the very 80’s looking polished bright brass version they offer, but the antique brass finish could be promising. Again, unbeatable price:
Next, check out Emtek. Their satin brass finish is incredibly pretty in person and is what initially attracted me to their company, though it’s sadly not available on all designs. I was ready to purchase one of their sets before I found out it wouldn’t fit my door thickness.
Emtek Stretto Modern Rectangular Sideplate (my first choice, but without that lever…Emtek levers and knobs are customizable and choices range from simple circle knobs to kooky octagons to modern crystal!):
Emtek Modern Rectangular Two Point (b in photo below) – LOVE it so much with that knob, but no brass option:
OPTION 2: VINTAGE LOCKSETS
I didn’t have much success finding good looking vintage sets in usable condition. I saw one or two but none that blew me away. However, (dream door knob alert!) I offer the Jonathan Adler as the final word that it is actually possible and to never give up because you just may end up with the greatest hardware ever, the elusive Schlage Sahara:
OPTION 3: NEW KNOBS
Plenty of lock companies are producing the same classic keyed entry knobs they have been for 50 years. On their own they may be a little underwhelming, but these are the perfect base for gussying up (see #4-6 below!).
OPTION 4: VINTAGE ESCUTCHEONS
By far the most exciting option, in my wacky opinion, when paired with any simple (or amazing) knob. Escutcheons serve as decorative plates around doorknobs (see #3 above) and the ones they were pumping out in the 50’s and 60’s are amazing!
But first, consider your backset. If you buy a whopper of a vintage escutcheon for a newer predrilled door, it will not fit! Standard backsets for modern doors are 2 3/8″ or 2 3/4″ while it’s not uncommon for mid-century era doors to have backsets of 5″, 7″ or even centered on the door. Backset extenders are available to increase the spread for undrilled doors or for replacement hardware on backset vintage doors. I badly wanted a plain door with a center set knob surrounded by a crazy huge escutcheon, but practicality (and my spouse) shouted that down.
The problem with having a non-standard backset is where to put the deadbolt. It is entirely possible to extend your deadbolt a few inches with a 5″ backset deadbolt like this. But if your knob is deeper or, for example, centered, you’ll need to consider deadbolt placement into the design and I could find no modern day option for center setting a deadbolt or aligning it with the latch, as it is above. (Old school locksmiths: reveal your secrets, how is this done???)
Enough practicality, back to the decorative. Ebay has a steady stream of reasonably priced escutcheons, many new old stock, in all shapes and finishes. Many listings use different words like escutcheon, backplates, plates, rosettes, trim, mid century, and/or vintage, so search thoroughly for the best pieces. Some brands to search are Schlage, Kwikset, Weiser and Trimco. Check out these current and recent ebay goodies:
Vintage Schlage ManhattanVintage Schlage Ming (oh MAN!)
Vintage TrimcoVintage Schlage Shou
And on a house (source: midcentury.life)Vintage Kwikset PairThis awesome mid century bird escutcheon has been popping up occassionally and could be so awesome on the right houseVintage Weiser Escutcheon Vintage Weiser Escutcheon (this one is all mine!)
OPTION 5: NEW ESCUTCHEONS
Don’t want the hassle of vintage escutcheon shopping? No worries, many new options…
Rejuvenation is producing some high quality, true reproductions (of some riskier crazy designs, too) of vintage pieces for a reasonable price (around $135) with wide availability. Recently, selection has gone up and prices have gone down! Here’s two of the most unrestrained, but they have such a good selection of simple designs too. Again, pay attention to your backset! That Star below needs a large spread.
Mid-Century Modern Ornate Backplate – their reproduction version of the vintage Weiser above!
I was so excited to see these on an actual house (in Palm Springs). They look as great in person as you’d imagine!
Liz’s Hardware is also worth checking out if either of their two reproduction pieces catch your eye.
Starburst (only $95 and fits standard backsets!)
REPRODUCTION EICHLER ESCUTCHEONS
Eichler owners, you may already be aware of this, but a fellow Eichler owner makes these great reproduction Eichler escutcheons:
OPTION 6: DIY SOMETHING AWESOME
We’re gonna finish this out right with some DIY inspiration. A little metal work may be all it takes to turn bland into crazy sweet, like these custom door plates:
Or, how about a DIY starburst nail design (someone PLEASE do this!!!!!)
And there you go. That concludes the longest post of all time. Who has some other ideas or sources or throwback locksmith knowledge? Leave them in the comments! Thanks for reaading!