A Curated Marketplace for Artistic Hardware

Sight Unseen co-founder Monica Khemsurov channels her love for vintage hardware into Petra, an online marketplace where your favorite contemporary designers offer personality-packed takes on cabinet pulls, door knobs, and switch plates.

Headboard knobs by Maha Alavi, sideboard pulls by Lukas Cober, and door handle by Michael Hilal. Image by Nazara Lazaro

Little details tend to catch Monica Khemsurov’s eye—a skill she has flexed for the past 15 years as co-founder, with Jill Singer, of the popular design publication Sight Unseen. The nature of her work means exploring and unearthing design treasures in far-flung places, especially in Europe, where she takes a particular liking to 20th-century Art Deco and Modernist buildings in Italy, Belgium, Portugal, and Scandinavia. Lately, she found herself fixated on the boldly sculptural handcrafted glass and metal hardware adorning the doors of these timeworn buildings. At the same time, she realized the current hardware market skews commercial and mass-manufactured—and noticed designers posting fun tchotchkes online that could function as hardware, but didn’t have a dedicated commercial outlet.

So she decided to launch Petra, an online showroom for artistic hardware fabricated by the visionary designers often published in Sight Unseen. The collection represents select existing boutique lines and newly commissioned works by independent designers, all for sale to consumers and trade professionals. On offer are cabinet knobs, drawer pulls, door handles, switch plates, appliance handles, curtain tiebacks, and towel bars imbued with the flair and signature of their designers, making for obvious statement pieces that can effortlessly add personality to drab furnishings. “There are so many things hardware makes better,” Khemsurov tells Surface. Plus, because these are mostly small-batch pieces made by design studios, “you can trust they’re really well-made.”

Appliance handles by Vonnegut/Kraft, beige drawer knobs by Forever Studio, and cabinet handles by Maha Alavi. Image by Nazara Lazaro
(FROM LEFT) Sideboard pulls by Pamela Love x Guillaume Pajolec; image by Nazara Lazaro. Drawer pulls by Sam Stewart

The launch collection spans pieces by names recognizable to any contemporary design enthusiast—spherical frosted glass knobs by Lauren Geremia, spider-shaped bronze handles by Chris Wolston, a sinuous wooden appliance pull by Vonnegut/Kraft—that reveal new dimensions of their practices. Some talents on the roster, like jeweler Pamela Love, had never previously tried their hand at hardware. She teamed with master jeweler Guillaume Pajolec on a quintet of figural bronze knobs shaped like eyes, lips, urns, anemones, and pomegranates, whose seeds are encrusted rubies. Such treasures abound in Petra’s robust debut. Hardware is small and inexpensive, Khemsurov reasons, that designers can experiment with making it outside of their practice. “I’m not asking them to make a huge armoire,” she says with a laugh.

She also landed historical pieces that had long been on her radar. BD Barcelona will stock licensed reproductions of Art Nouveau–era hardware designed by Antoni Gaudí for Casa Calvet, Casa Batlló, and Casa Mila that can still be found on the buildings. Rounding out the rare finds is the elaborate 1937 Rinoceróntico Knob that surrealist Salvador Dalí originally sketched for Jean-Michel Frank, which Oscar Tusquets and Joaquim Camps faithfully recreated and put back into production in the ‘90s.

For Khemsurov, the most exciting prospect about launching Petra will be the potential to curate jaw-dropping hardware that revives the tradition of attention to architectural detail and artistry. “I love working with designers to bring new things into the world,” she says, particularly looking forward to helping translate their work into an unfamiliar medium. During NYCxDesign, those interested in seeing Petra’s offerings firsthand can browse a selection at the SoHo showroom of lighting studio Blue Green Works, whose founder, Peter Staples, contributed a chain-link cabinet pull to the collection.

Drawer knobs by Sam Stewart, red cabinet pulls by Forever Studio, wood cabinet pulls by Ursula Futura. Image by Nazara Lazaro
Sideboard pulls by Jonathan Cohen and curtain tieback by Platform Studio. Image by Nazara Lazaro
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