Glutz works closely with architects to achieve their vision. We even help architects to design their own handle. Here we talk to Architect Robin Partington about his love for door handles and how he worked with Glutz to create his own design.
A door handle is often the very first point of contact when you enter a building, and it can therefore have a pivotal role, influencing your first perceptions of quality and security. Doors are a portal from one world to another. They define and hold the boundary between the comfortable conditions maintained inside a building and the uncontrolled environment beyond, between a place of safety and comfort and the less predictable world outside.
The original idea for the design of our own door handle came from a conversation with our client on a high profile residential development at Merchant Square in Paddington, London. We discussed how we could change people’s perceptions of quality and add to the value of a property, not only through crafting the design and layouts of accommodation within, but by the touch and feel of the materials and finishes that we specify.
Craftsmanship and design
I have long had a fascination with materials and finishes and the way that the design of even the smallest components in our buildings can inform our perceptions of quality, comfort and security. Door handles and their associated ironmongery have a key role to play. Door handles can celebrate craftsmanship and provide focal points with elaborate design in appropriate locations, but the results can also be uncomfortable in regular use, because the shape and feel does not respond to the simple task in hand. I want a door handle to strike up a dialogue with the user in the same way that a hand shake conveys a greeting and welcome between strangers. When you enter a building or a room it is an opportunity for the building to welcome you.
We set out to design a door handle that would convey a sense of strength and security whilst also being a delight to look at and use; one that would work within a wide range of contexts, complementing rather than competing with the design of the surrounding building.
Home sweet home
Door handles to residential properties should feel different to those designed for commercial use, and internal doors should feel different to external doors, responding to the subtle change in formality and implied security. Internal doors can have a lighter feel, but should also convey the simple message that they are maintaining essential privacy between one space and another, often from a more open and public area such as a living room or kitchen, to a more private area like a bathroom or bedroom. You want to have confidence that the door is not going to drift open at an inopportune moment. Our Glutz door handles are cast from solid brass or stainless steel, so you feel the weight and inertia as you use them, but they are in perfect balance with the mechanism inside. Carefully weighted springs counterbalancing the mass of the handle makes them a delight to use, with bearing to ensure a smooth operation. This reassures that you are passing through a secure boundary and the handle and associated locks have substance, and that you are safe and secure within. A satisfying ‘clunk’, that‘s what we aim for.
Form and function
The form of our door handle is simple yet elegant, it is a delight to hold, kissing the palm of your hand, with a radius on the edge that snuggles into your fingers as they curl around it gaining purchase to open. The handle is a delight to use regardless of whether it is formally addressed, or informally swiped with a downward push of an elbow or arm when your hands are full of shopping or bags, and the door should close with a satisfying clunk. We started by looking for a handle that satisfied our brief and were surprised and frustrated that we could not find a suitable product, so we started to explore a bespoke design working with one of the best known and most reliable suppliers and manufacturers in the industry – Glutz. The process started with a detailed review of what we didn’t like about the wide range of products available on the market. This included sourcing samples, trying and testing them, and in doing so, developing a deeper understanding of how handles and their associated mechanics work, why they fail, and what it is about many on the market that make them feel badly engineered, awkward, quirky or uncomfortable to use.
Looking beneath the surface
Understanding the hidden mechanics was key to the design process, as the handle has to be paired with a mechanism that gives it the right feel, whilst being reliable in use, recognising the differences between a domestic situation and an office or work environment. We also thought carefully about the brief for a design that would feel bespoke, but also lend itself for use in many different types of building, a form that complemented the prevailing style of a building rather than competing with it, with a selection of materials and finishes that would drive a mass market appeal. The feeling is important From the initial concept sketches, we developed a series of simple hand carved foam models to test the proportions and feel the ergonomics of the handle. Asking ourselves questions such as does it ‘bite’, is it long enough to feel comfortable in the palm of the hand when approached from different directions, does the tight radius create a snug fit for the hand as your fingers wrap around, does it feel secure and serviceable, is it comfortable to press, rotate, push and pull, can it be comfortably operated by your arm when your hands are full, and most important, is it tactile and a delight to use? The next stage was to develop more sophisticated 3D printed models to confirm the proportions and elegance of the line, before making a formal cast metal prototype and finally proofing the design. In parallel with the design of the handle, we also worked with Glutz on the internal mechanics to ensure that the operation of the handle was smooth for the domestic door with springs that were strong enough to counter the added weight of a solid cast metal.
Merchant Square enjoys a cosmopolitan scale, marking an important point of entry and departure for central London. One of the reasons why exclusive, tailor made handles are important for architects and clients is because they allow you to add a level of bespoke detail at a human scale as an integral part of the fabric of the building. handle. In doing so, we recognised that cast brass and bronze is slightly heavier than stainless steel or cast iron, and that different inserts would affect the weight and mechanism. An office door handle would want to have a lighter feel and be quicker in operation, whilst able to withstand many more cycles of operation and perhaps abuse, than in a domestic situation.
We started with a simple palette of finishes including polished chrome on brass, still my favourite, satin finished cast stainless steel and bronze patinated brass along with a myriad of potential coatings. We have also explored a variety of inserts including leather, timber and ceramics that can be integrated within the design of the handle, again creating a feeling of quality and craftsmanship.
One of the reasons why exclusive tailor made handles are important for architects and clients, is because they allow you to add a level of bespoke detail on a human scale as an integral part of the fabric of the building, not an abstract surface but something that you touch and hold on a regular basis. A door handle can ‘ignore’ you and simply serve its purpose and function, or it can add a subtle level of humanity, delight and detail to your life, a source of satisfaction and enjoyment to one of the simplest of everyday tasks, the opening and closing of a door.
The bespoke door handles and associated ironmongery range that we designed are calm, elegant and a joy to use. Sitting comfortably in your hand, reinforcing the spirit and character of the building, beautifully weighted and robust, they add to the sense of quality and feeling of security. Let‘s face it, I love door handles that are a joy to use!
Handles made by Glutz are popular and successful because they are beautifully engineered and thoroughly tested products, combining elegant design with craftsmanship in
Developing a design for a suite of door handles and associated accessories by RPP filled a gap in the market place within the residential sector. We developed a design solution that was both simple and elegant whilst still projecting the necessary of substance and security that a door handle of quality requires. And Glutz was the best partner to realise it!