Gate Hardware
That isn’t like your neighbours.

the typical fence

I live in a small town.

In my small town everyone’s fences are the same.  To stray from said typical fence can cause quite a stir.

I designed and then had a new fence built.  It strayed from the typical small town fence.

It caused quite a stir.

No joke.  When I tried to explain to my fence builder what I wanted, he kind of shook his head and gave me the look that said you’re lucky this isn’t Salem and the year isn’t 1693, lady. Boards running horizontally?  That’s just crazy talk.

Then he saw my wad of cash and build exactly what I asked for.

I couldn’t be happier with my new contemporary fence.  It’s big and beautiful and plain.  The problems arose when I went looking around for hardware for my fence.  Everything looked like this:

Unless I searched “contemporary gate latches” in which case it looked like this …

Uh huh.

Nothing is particularly “wrong” with these pieces of hardware.  In fact I quite like the classic set in the first photo.  It just isn’t what I wanted.  It wasn’t contemporary.  It wouldn’t get me burned at the stake.

So I got my thinking cap on and thought … well, why the hell do I have to use actual gate handles??  Who says I can’t just use cupboard handles???  So I did.  I also managed to find some very plain rectangular hinges that work well with the fence.

The handles are wood handles I found in the discount bin at Ikea.  They were about $1 each if I remember correctly.  I put a couple of coats of Polyurethane on them to protect them from the elements.   I had NO idea how they’d do as fence handles, or how well they’d fare outside so I bought a bunch of extras.  It’s been a year and they’ve held up perfectly.

For the hinges, I came across these which match the contemporary feel plus the lines of the fence,

These I found at my local Home Depot.  Plain, black, discrete(ish).

The moral of this story?  The little things make a big difference.  In this case, the wrong handles and hinges on my fence would have ruined it.   Also, don’t feel limited.  Use things in different ways for different purposes.  The minute you train your brain to … Oh God … I can’t believe I’m going to say this … think outside the box (of prepackaged gate latch sets), you’ll open yourself up to all kinds of possibilities.



The only problem … as you may have noticed, is the fact that the handles I bought are just that … handles. They aren’t latches. So NOW I had the problem of figuring out how to keep the gate closed and latched, without an ugly latch or bolt to distract from my sleek and beautiful handles.

Check the next post for an easy way to keep your gates closed without needing ANY sort of latch or bolt at all.  It’s a gate miracle.  Well, that and a bit of witchcraft.



  1. alan says:

    just happened upon this blog ten years later! love the simple gate hinge. can’t seem to find anything like it online. any ideas where/brand of that gate hinge? thanks!

  2. margaret says:

    That is a gorgeous fence! I’ve never seen one finished on both sides; bet you got some side-eye from the builder about that too!

    Just a heads up: some day you may find that the leverage required to open a horizontal handle (bi-fold doors are the worst…) hurts arthritic hands… Vertical handles – or even knobs – that you can pull straight out are more comfortable…

  3. Denise says:

    Hello. I am very interested in the hinges you used for your gate. Can you please provide the size of your gate and approx. weight? Thank you so much.

  4. Adam says:

    I’m under the impression that most people don’t recommend or build horizontal boarded fences because most homeowners don’t take proper care of fences anyway – staining and protection cost extra and people often opt-out. It generally holds that in a rainy environment, the large horizontal surface area between every board will collect and retain moisture, causing the boards to rot much more quickly than a vertically boarded fence. It’s good to see you’ve used pressure treated wood, which should minimize this.
    It is beautiful!

  5. Mike Jacob says:

    Sorry, must be an optical illusion. The last picture shows seams on gate more or less level, with latch side seams an inch or more lower. Glad I’m wrong. I see altogether too many sagging gates, and it’s just not necessary if the gate is built properly.

    • Karen says:

      OH, I see. No it’s just from using a wide angle lens to get a shot from a tight angle. It skews things a bit. ~ karen

  6. Mike Jacob says:

    Love the fence, but who made the gate? Because you chose a non- adjustable hinge, the gate should have been built stiff enough to not sag. Since it appears it wasn’t, an inexpensive fix would involve removing a board at the top, one at the bottom, and one or two in the middle to allow access as you apply a turn buckle and cable. Attach one end of the cable at top on the hinge side, other end at bottom diagonally, and use a wrench to draw the gate back to square. Then reattach the hide the tur buckle. You should be able to find cable (stainless steel ) and turn buckle, (stainless or galvanized) at a good hardware store. Note I did not say big box store. Even if they had it, the quality would not be there.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mike – I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about. The gate isn’t sagging at all, LOL. The interior of the gate is where the structure is (which you can’t see in the pictures because both sides of the gate/fence are finished. Not to worry. No sagging here. Not on the gate anyway. ~ karen!

  7. Catherine says:

    Karen, Love, love, love your fence! Would love to build one just like it although I expect my (retired) neighbors will have a fit :). Could you post a drawing/plan to follow? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      HI Catherine – I’m afraid I don’t have any plans for my fence. :( But it couldn’t be easier. Just have your 4 x 4s set and then run your boards horizontally on both sides of the posts. (You need to run 2 x 4’s in between each post to nail the horizontal boards to so they don’t warp or sag) The horizontal boards stop 4″ from the top of the posts, then 2 x 4s are laid across the tops of the posts for added interest. That’s it! ~ karen

      • Catherine says:

        Thanks Karen, Just to clarify, are the 2x4s horizontal or vertical between the posts? how many between posts? Thanks!

  8. Dina says:

    Lovely fence! My husband and I built a similar fence a few years ago. We live in the suburbs of a major city, and we still had negative comments about the fence. Most came from our neighbour that shared our (free for them!) fence. They called it a bunker. :/
    Regardless, we love the way our fence looks, and most of the neighbours have come around over the last 2 years! Except the ones next door!
    Just thought I would share our similar fence tale.
    Best of luck!

    • Karen says:

      Dina – Thx! I had the same reaction from people but more like shock. They called it the fortress! I’ve also had a ton of people say they love it and in fact I’ve noticed copies around town. ~ karen

  9. Jeff Smith says:

    Horizontal bars ?? Hey, it really *does* make your yard look fatter! In this case I think that’s a good thing :)

  10. Samantha says:

    We moved into a subdivision recently (not our first choice, but it was cheap and nice and didn’t have a giant boiler room in the basement…) where all the fences are the same and dingy. My husband has plans all drawn up for a horizontal fence a lot like yours! Yay!

  11. Debbie says:

    Hi Karen

    Loving your blog – Ironically found it through Nester even though you are practically in my back yard – I am in Burlington!

    We are completely redoing our back yard this summer and in the market for new fences and fell in love with yours…

    I have a question for you….

    Are you worried about the fence and a windstorm? I made a mental note of something that Mike Holmes said during one of the Handyman contest shows that ironically (once again) you were hosting… I digress, I remember him saying that you always have to leave spaces in a fence so that if a big wind storm came through the entire fence would not fall over…

    Did you accommodate your design with such space? How was it during our nasty wind storm last week?

    thanks so much for letting me pick your brain… as well as your blog – I am thinking I will be spending a few hours here “catching up”.


    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie!

      That’s funny! Yup. Here I am around the corner. :)

      I too remember Mike Holmes saying that! I also remember thinking um … no it’s not. The fence would have to be about 100 feet long in the middle of a Saskatchewan field in order for it to blow over in my opinion but … He’s Mike Holmes and I’m Karen so … pick who you want to believe. :) The fence boards are right up tight against each other when built and as it ages gaps inevitably form as the wood dries out and shrinks. So regardless, there will be holes for the wind to go through. Lemme know if you have any more questions about the fence or the hardware. ~ karen!

  12. Holly says:

    Do you have another more specific post on your fence design? We SOOOOO need a new one and this is beautiful plus I think it would work better for our dogs and the neighbors dogs! Cost similar to the “normal” stuff or signifigantly more? Figuring footage? etc…. PURTY PLEASE?

    Thanks! Beautiful fence, and way to repurpose! Would restoration hardware have any plain black latches?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Holly! The only other post I have on my fence is this one, It focuses on the invisible gate latches I made out of Rare Earth Magnets. They’re *very* strong. I can tell you a bit about the fence. It will cost you almost twice as much as a regular fence if you finish both sides. I did. That means the front and the back are covered with the horizontal planks. If you choose to only finish either the inside or the outside the cost would be the same. Also there’s a tiny bit more cost with the finishing rail at the top which adds a bit of detail. To figure footage you literally just walk around with a tape measure, measuring out where the fence will run. I’m not sure about Restoration Hardware having plain black latches. As far as the plain hinges go, I found those at my local hardware store in amongst the fancier hinges. If you have any specific questions or concerns about it just email me and I’ll do my best to answer them for you! ~ karen

  13. Jane says:

    Hi Karen,
    I am very impressed with your fence! It has such a gorgeous ‘sheen’ and I was wondering if you would clue us in on what wood you used. I’m thinking Birch?

    • Karen says:

      Jane – You’re not the first person to comment on the wood! Here’s the funny thing. The hilarious thing actually! It’s pressure treated wood. Yup. Plain, old pressure treated wood which I left without any finish. Pressure treated wood is usually pine or spruce. I *believe* mine is spruce. ~ karen!

      • Jane says:

        Well, isn’t that odd. I wonder why it shines like that.. or maybe it’s just the sun/angle. Either way, it’s a beaut.

  14. Jana says:

    Hi there! Loved seeing your blog! We always had the same situation, except from the supplier side. My husband has been a professional woodworker/gate builder and we could never recommend any great contemporary gate hardware. So we started our own business and began building it ourselves.

    After much development, we’ve finally added a new line of contemporary and modern gate hardware. This is a link to the newest, the Moda Latch, which is brushed stainless and has a sustainably forested tigerwood handle:

    There’s not a ton out there on the market, but we’re rapidly developing more and will add them to the store as quickly as possible! We are total hardware geeks (especially gate hardware); we love this stuff!

    • Dave says:


      I looked at your site. Unfortunately, the expense is far, far too high to be a viable option for the majority of people who want something that doesn’t look like grandma’s gate hardware.

      Some of your gate hardware is cost more than my first car. Seriously, not exaggerating.

      It seems as soon as one attaches “modern” or “contemporary” to the description, the price jumps by thousands of a percent over what it reasonable.

  15. sera says:

    I love the contemporary fence! screw the neighbors (except for the grass free one, she might have something there).

  16. That fence is genius. I think it would actually contain our crazy dog.

  17. ModFruGal says:

    That looks great…I’m intrigued by the latch reveal…

  18. Julie shinnick says:

    Very very nice handles (specially $1 bargain) yay! Love the fence!
    Don’t worry Karen…(I know you aren’t) but they would have to round up ALLLLL of us and that would take them too long!
    And I never think I have done a good job if someone’s head doesn’t spin around (a-la the exorcist) and they give me THAT look…..That’s my pay-off! So glad I am not the only ‘lunatic’ in the asylum! Keep it up!!

  19. Pam'a says:

    As if a pesky stake and a match could stop you. Pfft. Well done!

    And here’s a weird twist: I, who am beneath you (meaning I’m in the U.S.-heh) am going to put in a plug for a Canadian hardware company:! They’re nice, inexpensive in comparison to their competitors, and I’ve ordered tons from them.

    Just a suggestion for the next time. I know they have handles like yours, made of metal!

    • Karen says:

      Plug away. I use Lee Valley all the time. In fact I know the handles you speak of. But I can guarantee they aren’t $1!! Plus I wanted to think “outside the box”. (ick) So I went with the wood handles which blend perfectly with my backyard and gate. By the way … stay tuned re: Lee Valley …. :)

      • Pam'a says:

        As if you need tips on Canadian Hardware from moi! It is, as they say, to laugh. (Really, I can’t figure out what posessed me.)

        I’m very impressed at how well the far-more-thrifty wood ones have held up!

  20. Shannon says:

    It’s amazing what gets done when you just flash some dollars around.

    I am sure you won’t be burned at the steak..I vaguely remember that you give at least one of your neighbours rhubarb.

    • Karen says:

      Pstttt. The neighbour I gave the rhubarb to recently made the bold decision to not have any grass in her front yard. So may be next.

  21. Rebecca says:

    That is one purty fence! Although I live in the big city, I’ve got the aforementioned icky fence. Some day I’ll change it, but that’s not exactly a priority right now. The poop brown baseboards and doors with pee coloured walls (seriously, what were they thinking?) is ahead of the fence for now. Nice hardware, and I’m guessing one of those springy things is the closer?

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