Mid-century modern door knobs (and other bold hardware) with a space-age theme were all the rage in the 1950s and 60s

Mid-century modern door hardware from the 1950s-1960s

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If you want to figure out when a house was built, one of the first things you can do is to look at the front door.

You can tell a lot from the features on the door itself — the type of wood panels, glass, finish — although you might even be able to identify the age of a home by the doorknob alone.

With space-age design elements like starbursts and swooshes, and the large backplates of various shapes and styles, some of the most popular mid-century modern door knobs (and other door hardware choices!) that were available back in the 50s and 60s are easily identifiable.

Here’s a look at some of that era’s most iconic elements that were right there out in front.

Dramatic center-mounted ornamental starburst mid-century modern door knob

Bright bronze vintage Schlage Astra design front door handle and back plate (escutcheon)

Contrasting finishes are effective! This is the Astra design, in bright bronze, mounted on the wide Novo auxiliary escutcheon, finished in brushed chrome.

See how the plain background surface emphasizes the richness of the metals.

Bright bronze vintage Schlage Astra design door handle and back plate (escutcheon)

Vintage mid-century modern door knobs in retro designs (1959)

Polished brass with Holiday knob, and satin anodized aluminum with Concave door knob

ALSO SEE: Pretty vintage concrete block walls offered privacy & light for mid-century modern homes in the 50s & 60s

Vintage mid-century modern door hardware in retro designs (1959)

Vintage mid-century modern space-age dull bronze front door handles (1959)

Vintage mid-century modern space-age bronze door hardware (1959)

Vintage brass Schlage door knobs

Bright brass glorifies the softly-contoured circles of the Schlage Pantheon design door knob with its 8″ escutcheon

Bright brass vintage Schlage Pantheon design door handle and escutcheon

ALSO SEE: 16 kitchen islands: Home inspiration from the ’60s

Dull bronze finish front door handles: Holiday & Thor knobs

Another starburst backplate design, and a circular model

Vintage mid-century modern doorknobs and locks from 1959 (6)

Vintage Schlage front door knobs & backplates: Saturn design

The distinguished spherical knob of the Saturn design is mounted on a banded Riviera auxiliary escutcheon, 5-1/2″ in diameter. Both are finished in bright brass.

Bright brass vintage Schlage spherical Saturn design front door knob and backplate

Decorative mid-century modern door knobs and door handles in the mid-60s

House & Garden magazine (1966)

Until recently, if you wanted to find a generous selection of finely crafted hardware of distinctive design, you had to go to a specialized big-city shop that imported its products or had them made up to order.

Today, the larger manufacturers are all making or importing in quantity a profusion of handsome hardware that you will find anywhere in the U.S., either in hardware store stocks or in the catalogs the stores keep on hand.

Decorative door hardware in the mid-60s

The sampling on these pages illustrates several trends:

TWO FACES OF BRASS: the mirror-like yellow finish and the heavily etched — are coming to the fore in important hardware. For instance, the front doorknobs on the vertical panel, above — the one mirror-finished, the other with etched circles.

EXOTIC MATERIALS are back, especially for interior door handles where no lock is needed. See the polished onyx and brass pull, top center of page.

DISTINCTIVE DRAWER PULLS for built-in storage are being made in a variety of materials. On the square panel, top of page (top to bottom), faceted lead crystal knob; a Spanish knob of dar brass; a bar of brushed chrome; a ceramic pull in glossy black and gold.

THE DECORATIVE HINGE, once an important architectural detail, is now available again in excellent reproductions such as the classic finialed English hinge of solid brass at right of drawer pulls.

ALSO SEE: See why people loved these elegant & affordable linoleum floors and vinyl flooring from the 1960s

Vintage door knobs and hardware from the 1960s

MATCHING DOORKNOBS FOR INSIDE AND OUTSIDE come with locks for exterior doors, without locks for the interior.On the big square panel, above (clockwise from top center): a hand-fashioned nugget of gold-finished brass; a round brass knob with a circular design repeated on its plate or “rose”; a brass knob with a sunburst pattern; a perfect sphere of brushed aluminum; concave knob and rose each in brass with matching striated edging; and, center, a hexagonal brass knob.

LEVER HANDLES are being made for both inside and outside doors. On horizontal panel, opposite page (from lower left to top right): a curved han-dle of brushed bronze; a brass-finished lever of more intricate French design; a brushed chrome lever in a sleek right angle; a screen-door handle of shiny brass that you pull toward you to open
the door; a curved lever in brushed chrome.

IMPRESSIVE FRONT DOOR KNOBS have been inspired by the designs of many lands and periods. At right end of the horizontal panel: a brass-finished box lock in American Colonial style. To its right: a nickel knob of Regency design with a lion’s head that moves aside to admit the key; a bronze knob and rose with motifs from Mayan carvings.

MORE DOORS: 25 ideas for Christmas door decorations from the 1950s: Be inspired by doors of yore!

Polished brass mid-century door locks and backplates: Venus knobs

Mid-century modern doorknobs

Vintage 1950s Schlage Color Accent doorway locks and backplates (1956)


Color-Accent is achieved by placing color behind an open-back escutcheon to contrast with door surfaces, harmonize with adjacent walls, or complement any part of the doorway.

Schlage’s original open-back stylings let you create the effect-by applying your favorite paint color, cutting a texture to size, or even placing a leftover piece of wallpaper behind the lock. The possibilities are unlimited and you are the designer.

Whether you’re building, buying, remodeling or just in the mood for a change, Schlage’s “Color-Accent” locks give you a wonderful new way to display a fresh fashion note in your doorway decor.

Top: Manhattan design escutcheon. Colored background is paint applied to door. Shown with Tulip design lock.

Bottom: Continental design open-back escutcheon. 11″ x 8″. Background is patterned metal cut to size  and applied to door. Shown with Saturn design lock.

Vintage 1950s Schlage Color Accent doorway locks and backplates (1956)Mid-century 1950s Schlage Color Accent doorway locks and backplates (1956

Vintage mid-century modern Atlas brass handle set (1959)

Vintage mid-century modern Atlas brass doorknob (1959)

ALSO SEE: 47 vintage backyard ideas you’ll want to re-create for a relaxing sixties-style outdoor vibe

Vintage Kwikset Trim Rosettes mid-century door knob

Vintage Kwikset Trim Rosettes mid-century door knob

Vintage Schlage Holiday door knobs in dull bronze & anodized aluminum (1959)

Vintage Schlage Holiday knobs from in dull bronze anodized aluminum (1959)

Vintage mid-century modern Challenger brand brass door knob (1959)

Vintage mid-century modern Challenger brand brass doorknob (1959)

MORE: 20 stunning space-age retro futuristic home concepts from the 60s

Iconic mid-century modern door knobs for the front door (1958)

Weiser mod door locks for home from 1958

Vintage Schlage brass mid-century modern front door knob (c. 1962)

For the front door:

Lovely locks… the jewels of home.

Your welcome said in sculptured metals by the famous locks of Schlage

All who come to see you see your locks. And day to day your family lives with locks, which can both safeguard and — if they be Schlage — adorn a home. Yet even Schlage locks are a very small cost item in building or remodeling.

Should you make sure the Schlage name is on every lock throughout your house, you will experience an extraordinary pleasure. For these are the beauty locks. And each in its working is precise as a fine watch.

Your builder, architect and lock dealer know Schlage — the leading quality brand name for quarter century. Your preference will be theirs.

One hand unlocking — just turn Schlage key in knob
Security you can see with Schlage turnbutton
The name that means years-ahead features.

No other home accessory deserves such thoughtful selection

Vintage Schlage brass mid-century modern front door knob

Plus-shaped starburst mid-century brass door knob with deep blue backplate (c. 1962)

Lovely locks.. the jewels of home — Master craftsmen beauty-style the famous locks by Schlage

The eye and hand are one in pleasure when you meet with a Schlage lock. Though representing only a tiny fraction of total building costs, locks are always seen… say a great deal about family taste.

Today as for a quarter-century, the name that means lock leadership is Schlage. For Schlage designers endow security with charm, wed function with beauty in sculptured metals.

Your builder, architect and dealer know Schlage locks. You will be well-advised to ask for Schlage beauty-styling all through the house. Schlage Lock Company…San Francisco, New York. Vancouver. B.C.

DON’T MISS: 50 mid-century modern carpet styles from the ’50s & ’60s: Vintage wall-to-wall flooring in all its glory

Vintage Schlage iconic starburst design front door handle c1962

Amerock Catalina: Vintage door & drawer pulls and knobs (1962)

Distinctive designs for replacement or new construction. Pol. Chromium, Polished Brass, Satin Copper, Satin Chromium or Dull Bronze. Large bases on pull cover old screw holes and marks — 3″ centers. Pulls start at 29 cents retail.

Amerock Catalina Vintage door drawer pulls and knobs (1962)

Amerock Contemporary: Vintage door & drawer pulls and knobs (1962)

At home in the kitchen, den, or living room. Beautifully finished in Satin Copper, Ebony Black and Gold, Polished Brass, Satin Chromium. Pulls from 39 cents retail.

Amerock Contemporary Vintage door drawer pulls and knobs (1962)

The popular (and iconic) starburst design again, but with a concave Sapphire door knob

Starburst design door hardware from the late 1950s


Of course, not every homeowner in the fifties and sixties was into the mid-century vibe.

Here’s a look at some of the other vintage styles of door knobs, pulls and handles that people were buying back then.

Amerock Modern Provincial: Vintage door & drawer pulls and knobs (1962)

Modern — with elegance and grace of period styling. Pulls and knobs with hinges to match. Choice of Ivory Gold, Antique Copper, Antique English, or Antique Silver finishes. Pulls from 49 cents retail.

Provincial Vintage door and drawer pulls and knobs (1963)

Amerock Colonial: Vintage door & drawer pulls and knobs (1962)

Authentic Early American styling in Colonial Black, Antique Copper, and Antique English finishes. Choice of weathered or smooth-faced patterns. Pulls start at 32 cents retail.

Colonial Vintage door & drawer pulls and knobs (1962)

Vintage painted porcelain Yale & Towne Decor Knobs door hardware (1953)

Recapturing an idea in home decoration reminiscent of an era of gracious living

Now… new beauty for your doors — Designs and colors that harmonize with every decorating scheme.

At last — hand-decorated door knobs that complete the beauty of your home . . . that pull your color scheme together!

MORE: Big paisley & lotus patterns helped create elegantly eclectic 60s dining room decor

Decor Knobs give your rooms new elegance with the exquisite patina, the sparkling decorator colors, the richness that only porcelain can capture. And remember, Decor Knobs are made by Yale & Towne, so you can be sure of their quality and durability.

See Decor Knobs today at your local gift shop or department store. You’ll find styles for every inside door . . . designs to complement every interior from Early American to Modern. And, you can install Decor Knobs yourself in a few minutes . . . simple directions show you how.

The Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company. Chrysler Building. New York 17, N. Y.

Vintage painted porcelain Yale and Towne Decor Knobs door hardware (1953)

Vintage and revival-style door hardware from the mid-century era 1950s 1960s

Revival door knobs, handles, knockers & pulls from the ’60s (1965)

From American Home magazine – Winter 1965

There’s nothing like good hardware for achieving a perfectionist look. Take your pick of these quality pieces for doors, bathroom, and furniture.

1. Mexican black marble sphere knob and backplate of brass and malachite inlay is imported by Paul Assoc, $24.

2. Traditional colonial brass door knocker. Kraft Cabinet Hardware, $18.

3. “Calcutta,” an exterior doorknob in beaded symmetry has backplate in eight sizes, 2-5/8″ to 12″ diameter. Schlage Lock Co. As shown (8″), $155.

4. Versatile brass and malachite pull imported from Mexico can be used on drawers, cabinets, and doors. Available through Paul Assoc, $24.

5. French doorknob and backplate are brass. Chriscot Hardware Co, $26.

6. This sculptured brass doorknob is suitable for a contemporary setting. Functional because it fits the hand. Chriscot Hardware Co, $16.

7. Floral design is hand painted on white china doorknob. A choice of eight colors is available from the Chriscot Hardware Co, $8.

8. Louis XVI design and old-world craftsmanship are combined in this handsome brass door knocker from Paul Assoc, $69.99.

9. Swirl design door lever adds interest to plain door. Paul Assoc, $69.99.

10. Ancient Egyptian design motifs are highlighted in this important-looking exterior doorknob and plaque from Schlage Lock Co, $162.

11. Amusing key door knocker in brass costs $33, from Schlage Lock Co.

ALSO SEE: 47 vintage backyard ideas you’ll want to re-create for a relaxing sixties-style outdoor vibe

Vintage doorknobs, handles and pulls (1965)

Vintage ’60s home decor hardware: Towel racks and hooks

1. Dress up a bathroom with brass towel rack. Chriscot Hardware Co, $36. [All pricing as of the 1960s]

2. Towel ring is wonderful when space is limited. Matching brass bathroom accessories also available from Chriscot Hardware Co, $12.

3. Empire wreath hook, a classic design, is a space saver. Paul Assoc, $7.50.

4. Elegant glass and brass vanity shelf is perfect for holding your toiletries. Available from M Wolchonok & Son for about $18.95.

5. This five-hook brass bar is ideal for both bathroom and bedroom. This piece is also from M Wolchonok & Son. $6.50.

Retro 60s doorknobs, handles and pulls (1965)

AND NOW THIS: See the mid-century modern Scholz Mark ’60 model home from 1960, inside & out

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Comments on this story

2 Responses

  1. Hi, i was looking tor the reasom that bathroom doorknobs in the 50’s were split – solver on oneside and gold on other. Any reason?

    1. Hello Susan!
      They did this if the bathroom fixtures were chrome, the the inside knob would be chrome, and the outside knob would be brass or bronze to match the other door hardware.

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