The Austin Chronicle

Nice Knobs

It's Amazing What a Few Small Things Can Do For an Environment

By Matt Patin, January 25, 2008, Features

The big things – couches, armoires, end tables, and the like – are definitely the staples of any home decor, but nothing showcases how freakishly attentive to detail you are like some thoroughly researched and meticulously placed knobs and switch plates. Yes, you read correctly: knobs and switch plates.

Knob may be one of the least inspiring words in the English language. Few other words connote an object so devoid of aerodynamics, elegance, refinement, or subtlety. But there are few things as practical as knobs in your homestead. Without them, su casa would be a wasteland of naked, inaccessible drawers and cabinetry, and doors would be limited to the kinds that swing and slide (like those Western saloon doors that keep you in constant fear of spur-wearing gunmen).

But, despite the stark utility of this essential hardware, knobs can, in fact, be very, very slightly interesting. In fact, there is a dizzying variety of knobs in the knob family, crafted from several materials that each say something different about your aesthetic tastes. (Insert private-parts joke in five, four, three, two ... "The knobs purchased from Adult Megaplexxx, for instance, are made from silicon or glass. Snare, bass, cymbal crash. But seriously, folks, careful with those glass ones. Ouch!")

So, if knobs could talk, what would they say?

Wooden Knobs I'm old-fashioned but timeless, and I can accommodate most of your drawer and cabinet accessibility needs. Be careful placing me in rooms that are often wet or damp, though, like kitchens or laundry rooms, as I don't want to get moldy. Oh, or bathrooms either. I'd rather not be privy to your antics in there anyway.

Plastic Knobs I'm the most versatile knob of them all. I come in limitless colors and designs, and can be placed almost anywhere. Boo-yah!

Aluminum and Stainless Steel Knobs I'm sleek, I'm sexy, I'm rust-resistant, and I love getting wet. Place me on antique-inspired chest of drawers and dressers to create some interesting juxtapositions. Plus, I'm great for accenting your kitchen or bathroom cabinets and drawers. (I'll be discreet!)

Oh, that's just the beginning. There are even more options for the fanatic knob lover. Austin's own Carina Works – who, no kidding, once created a $30,000 diamond-encrusted metal tile – manufactures and sells their sea glass series knobs starting at $14 each. Some glass colors include periwinkle, ice, amethyst, and – perfect for those Southwestern accented homes – gunmetal. Those are some of the more affordable knobs in the Carina catalog. More expensive knobs and pulls have, errr, well, birds, bunnies, and bears wearing sunglasses on them. These are part of Carina Works' handcrafted, artsy and craftsy collection of knobs and pulls for children's rooms.

Enough about knobs already, you say? Well, all right. How about switch plates then?

Nothing says "I want to turn you on!" like a light switch ensconced in a $14.50 switch plate shaped and painted to look like a cowboy boot. That's just one of thousands of switch-plate designs for New York-based You know the drawl: New York City?! Hold your horses. It's Hamburg, N.Y., which is almost rural enough to be Texas-like. has more than 50 categories of switch plates to browse through, including a Western section that includes 36 different designs. Take your pick: Barbwire Black, Longhorn Brown, Bull Rider, Big Ol' Cowboy, and more. Some are made of plastic and some are ceramic, but – and we speak from experience on this one – be careful when buying plates made of metal, particularly the ones that frame electrical outlets. We've paid for this mistake with an occasional electrical shortage.

Here's a mind bender: What do the giant armadillo atop Threadgill's, the Aztec and Mayan artwork at Casino el Camino, and the Paul Cézanne-inspired mural in Central Market have to do with switch plates? Stumped? They're all the products of Austin's own Blue Genie Art and its CEO and art director Rory Skagen, who just so happens to design and paint his own brand of decorative switch plates. Check them out online.

Now you know how knobs and light plates can help you dress your home to impress. So let the search begin. And to make your search more interesting – even intrepid – seek further advice from that burly, hairy mountain man in the big-box hardware store and ask him to kindly show you his favorite knob.

Blue Genie Art

PO Box 684832

Austin, TX 78768


Carina Works

12934 Nutty Brown

Austin, TX 78737



3368 Nash Rd.

Hamburg, NY 14075

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