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Everything you need to know about front door knockers & how to pick one

Front doors are a wonderful way to express your design style and hospitality. One of our favorite ways to add a finishing touch to an entryway is with front door knockers.

Entryway doors are both functional and a key aesthetic in your home’s architecture. As a decorative element, front door knockers also serve both purposes.

However, finding the right door knocker is a big decision. There are many options to choose from, and it can be difficult to know which one will work best with your personality and your home’s exterior style.

In this article, we discuss 42 options for front door knockers that will transform the look of your home! But we don’t stop there. We hope you’ll also enjoy a little history and symbolism surrounding door knockers around the world!

front door knockers
When choosing front door knockers, the first thing to decide is what style fits your personality or your home design.

Are front door knockers still in style?

Yes! Front door knockers are still in style and are a popular way to add personality and style to your home. You might say that front door knockers have been in style for hundreds and hundreds of years!

Front door knockers are so much in style nowadays that you can find just about any design you want from antique to nautical to modern. They can add to your curb appeal!

I live in New England where door knockers seem to be ubiquitous. We have a lot of lion heads and nautical themed door knockers. Depending on where you live, you might consider door knocker styles that are either part of the area’s history and culture or reflect your heritage.

In many European countries, door knockers are still a standard architectural detail on all types of homes and even government buildings.

You’ve heard of 10 Downing Street in London and its famous lion head door knocker, right? It has been the residence of British prime ministers since 1735.

What are those door knockers called?

Door knocker is the correct term, but if you want to get technical, they can also be referred to as door furniture, decorative elements for the front door, or architectural details. 

You can also use the word “door rapper,” but it’s not as popular or sophisticated to use!

Spelling can be another difference. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it should be two words, but in some historical writings, it’s often seen spelled as one word – doorknocker.

Why are door knockers a thing?

Since about the 16th century, front door knockers have served two purposes: 1) Function and 2) Design. 

Before doorbells or shopkeeper’s bells, door knockers alerted your household to a visitor at your front door. Historically, front door knockers were also a way to welcome visitors as well as show off your social status. 

The more ornate door knockers were reserved for those who could afford to commission them from the local blacksmith or trades craft people.

In our modern times, door knockers are primarily for aesthetic purposes – an architectural detail to add a finishing touch to your front door. 

Just like in historical times, front door knockers can become a topic of conversation. Instagrammers may flock to your street just to get a photo of your unique door knocker!

Are front door knockers valuable?

Yes, they can be very valuable. Even reproductions of antique door knockers can run on the expensive side if they are handcrafted.

Here’s a case in point. A 130-year-old door knocker was stolen right off a British law firm’s front door – along with the nameplate of the law firm. According to the Swindon Advertiser newspaper, who reported the theft, the knocker was “called a doctor’s knocker, designed to wake up a doctor in the middle of night during an emergency.”

Authorities surmised the knocker was stolen for the value of its metal.

Turns out that theft of door knockers is a common crime in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

Where did door knockers originate?

In a 1918 journal article in The Art World, experts reported that the first use of door knockers occured in ancient Greece. For the Greeks, it was a breech in manners to enter a home without announcing oneself. Nowadays, we couldn’t imagine someone just walking into our home unannounced!

The wealthier Greeks kept an attendant, usually a slave, at their outer door. It was a boring job, and legend has it that an iron ring was affixed to the door to which the slave was chained to keep him from running off. An iron bar was also attached and could be used as a rapper. 

The idea of a door knocker evolved from there.

“Early door knockers were fashioned of iron then of bronze and later of brass,” according to the journal article. “In any and all of these mediums there was every opportunity for the craftsman and designer.” 

In medieval England, door knockers were called sanctuary rings or sanctuary knockers. 

“Durham Cathedral in England has an ornamental sanctuary knocker dating from the 12th century. According to the ecclesiastical law of the Middle Ages, a fugitive had only to touch the knocker in order to gain immunity from arrest,” as reported in Toronto’s National Post.

“Between 1464 and 1524 more than 300 fugitives are said to have claimed sanctuary at the cathedral, evading prosecution from crimes including murder and robbery.”

lion head door knocker on teal door
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Front door knockers around the world

Colombia, Latin America

In Colonial Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), door knockers took on the symbolism of power and status. The saying was “A tal casa tal aldabam,” which roughly translates “to such a house such a knocker.”

“I was surprised by the quantity and, above all, the variety and exoticism of many of these pieces that, without a doubt, embellish the doors of the old houses and palaces of colonial style,” wrote José Miguel Redondo in his travel blog.

“It is as if in the city there had been a competition between neighbors for centuries to decorate its doors with the most curious knockers.”

Redondo says he read that Cartagena has the largest collection of door knockers in the world. Journalist Mariana Osorio says she has heard the same claim. Osorio was fascinated enough to do more research. She found that the door knockers also held meaning, originally, although probably not anymore. 

  • Lizard = part of royal family
  • Lion = part of military command or church
  • Fish or marine figure = merchant
  • Hand = hand of the Virgin of Fatima, which meant it was a religious family

London, United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, door knockers are architecturally steeped in the rich history of buildings and homes. There was a time, however, when the loud clacking of the knocker was not a welcome sound. During the First World War, the clattering of the knocker could be terrifying. 

In historical documents, Vera Brittain retells her experience, which was republished in the The Independent newspaper in London: “For a moment I thought that my legs would not carry me, but they behaved quite normally as I got up and went to the door.

“I knew what was in the telegram – I had known for a week – but because the persistent hopefulness of the human heart refuses to allow intuitive certainty to persuade the reason of that which it knows, I opened and read it in a tearing anguish of suspense.

The telegram read: “Regret to inform you Captain EH Brittain MC killed in action, Italy, June 15th.” He was her brother.

Where do vanished objects go?””Into nonbeing, which is to say, everything,” replied Professor McGonagall.

“Nicely phrased,” replied the eagle door knocker, and the door swung open.

Author J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter

Iran, Middle East

Architect Alireza Jahanpanah’s passion for design led to an interest in documentary photography, which was sparked by his travels related to a research project on indigenous and historical buildings in Iran, his home country.

One architectural detail in particular caught his attention – the old door knockers. Historically, an Iranian home had two gender-specific door knockers so that the inhabitants would know if a man or woman was knocking at the door. 

Jahanpanah and his wife migrated to Canada in 2009, but they continued documenting and researching, which culminated in a 2015 art show and a documentary highlighting their findings and some of the 2,500 photos that they had collected.

Jahanpanah says he wanted to learn more about the forging methods and designs used in the door knockers. 

“Hammer work followed by file work in order to create these patterns on iron has been extremely difficult,” he says. “They used iron for its strength since a door was made to work for years and a door knocker was supposed to be used repeatedly.”

To document the door knockers, Jahanpanah spent 200 days a year over the span of 6 years traveling across Iran in search of indigenous living spaces. “I mapped, researched, discussed with locals and photographed,” he says.

Learn more in this short documentary film by Jahanpanah and Irandokht Pirsaraee:

Italy, South-Central Europe

During the 16th century Italian Renaissance, sculpted metal door knockers were elevated to art status. In Venice, every palazzo entry door had to be adorned with a bronze door knocker. 

From the 13th century, door knockers in much of Europe were crafted from iron, but the Renaissance ushered in a renewed interest in bronze as it was easier to melt and sculpt compared to iron. 

“As the first art object a visitor to a Renaissance household would encounter, the doorknocker

could disclose such facts as the family’s arms, their city o f origin, and possibly their metier or station in life,” writes Robin M. Wyshak in her dissertation What Knockers! Italian Bronze Doorknockers: Mainly Renaissance A Study of Functional Sculpture.

In her research, she found that the door knockers served a functional yet decorative purpose. They also became collectible items that could be viewed in collector’s cabinets as well as on the grand doors of Italian homes. 

In the online travel magazine, Slow Italy, travelers are encouraged to stroll through the narrow, cobbled stone Italian streets to savor all the details you might normally miss. 

Significant among architectural details are the door knobs and door knockers.

Italian front door knocker at The Met
Late 15th-early 16th century Italian door knocker in bronze and iron. Image courtesy of The Met.

Early American front door knockers

In the United States, door knocker history dates back to Colonial times.

“Door-knocking décor has a rich history steeped in basic functionality – in colonial times, knockers indicated people’s professions,” according to an article in the St. Joseph (Missouri) News Press. A blacksmith had a different knocker than a tailor, and just a glance at their doors would let you know who lived there.”

The door knocker was the most distinctive feature of the Colonial front door, according to one of the most prolific historians of American Colonial architecture Mary Harrod Northend. 

In the early 1900s, Northend, who was from Salem Massachusetts, wrote extensively about American Colonial architecture. She is best known for the thousands of photographs her work provided to document Colonial style.

The streets of some of the old towns of New England are lined with Colonial homes. Every door boasts a knocker. Some of them are severely plain but graceful in shape, some attractively ornamented with beadings, flutings, reedings and turnings, and others are fanciful in outline where they bear upon the wood.

It is a rare thing to find one that does not show some excellence of design, while a great many are small masterpieces and a source of never ending joy.

The Art of Home Decoration by Mary Harrod Northend published in 1921 in New York

Some of the documented Colonia front door knockers photographed or commissioned by Northend included designs in brass and wrought iron depicting such forms as a:

  • Dolphin
  • Serpent
  • Irish harp
  • Woodpecker
  • Lion’s head
  • Eagle
  • Seashell 

Browse the collection of her photographs taken between 1900 and 1925 at the Winterthur Digital Collections. In our Ultimate List of Best Door Knockers below, you’ll find several styles appropriate for a Colonial-era home.

Front door of a Georgian Revival house in Salem, Massachusetts
This Georgian Revival house in Salem, Massachusetts was built circa 1916-1917 by architect A.G. Richardson for lawyer Robert M. Mahoney. Image by Mary Harrod Northend.

Ultimate list of best door knockers

Traditional door knockers

When I hear of traditional front door knockers, I think of clean, aesthetically pleasing door knockers that are either colonial style or imperial style. These are ones that you would expect to see on a front door but are elegant in nature and design.

Ring door knockers

A great place to purchase traditional door knockers is Pottery Barn. They have a collection of beautiful ones that are both functional and stylish.

Our favorite is the ring door knocker. This brass door knocker will shine on your front door! Make sure to only wash with soap and water – using any products on it could ruin the shine.

Ring style door knocker by Pottery Barn

This ring knocker (see below) is a Baldwin design. You may see more Baldwin hardware designs throughout this article, and for great reason. Baldwin is known as one of the top hardware designers in the country. 

Baldwin was founded in 1946 by Severin Fayerman. Baldwin is most known for developing the first Lifetime PVD finish (physical vapor deposition) for decorative hardware.

To learn more about Baldwin, and how its products are made, see their process here on their website.

Colonial door knockers

Knowing that the history of the door knocker in the US dates back to the colonial era, choosing a colonial style knocker can be a great way to keep tradition. 

The colonial Venetian bronze front door knocker below is as traditional as it gets, and because it is a Baldwin, we know it has a beautiful and intricate finish. 

Home Depot checked with the manufacturer, and they did confirm that this could be engraved if desired.

If you are looking for a traditional colonial door knocker to add to your colonial home, we also have a mega-guide of colonial front door decorating ideas, as well as 30 colonial planters that will guarantee your design victory.

Imperial style front door knocker

While still traditional, imperial style door knockers give that extra pizazz that you may be looking for in a front door. 

When looking for one, we recommend build.com since they almost always have one door knocker in many colors and styles. For example, the one below is in nickel, satin black, bronze, and chrome. Click through all the colors to find the one that would best match your door.

Door knocker with an eye viewer

When choosing a front door knocker, many go for the option of buying a door knocker that also has an eye viewer, or a “peephole.” This is a great way to give your door knocker more than one purpose. It is also a way to add style to your peephole you may already have.

We chose our six favorites below. Most of our favorite door knockers with an eye viewer came from Etsy.

One benefit of buying from Etsy is you have the option to use Klarna, which is an interest-free way to split up your payments.

This vintage door knocker is marked as an Etsy rare find. If you are looking to replace a knocker from the 1970s or early 1980s, this is a great find. When you order it, it comes out just like the photo shows – no surprises!

Vintage door knocker
Peephole Door Knocker Vintage Traditional Styling

Another classic front door knocker with an eye viewer is the one below. This extremely fair price comes from a “star seller” on Amazon, meaning they have a lengthy history of 5-star reviews, shipping on time, and replying quickly to messages.

This classical front door knocker also has a peephole. It is Baldwin design, and guaranteed to impress those that come to your door.

This is another traditional door knocker that shows the peephole a bit more so your guests aren’t surprised that you know it’s them at the door!

door knocker with large peep hole
Deltana brand door knocker with wide angle peep hole

If you’d like to cover up your boring peephole, but are looking for a more modern approach, this Etsy option is great.

It is from the 1980s, so it is a great combination of vintage and modern, as it holds that fun rectangular shape.

If you want one that will definitely draw attention to your door (in a good way!) try this stylish door knocker below. The brass is from Portugal. It comes with easy-to-install instructions. From the shape of the knocker, it would give quite the knock!

There are multiple front door knockers with eye viewers; we showed a sample of our favorites. Our top recommendation would be to go to Etsy for knockers with a peephole; our second recommendation would be Build.

Vintage door knocker 

Are you looking for a vintage door knocker? 

Anything that is at least two decades old is considered vintage. That means…yes, even the 90s are now vintage! 

Because of that, vintage door knockers can vary in style and price. A few of our favorites are below to help guide you in what you may be looking for in a vintage front door knocker.

If you are looking for extremely vintage, such as the 1700s and 1800s, a Georgian reproduction door knocker may be best for you.

If you still want vintage, but are looking for something more in the early 1900s, then try this vintage brass door knocker below. It shows the Cutty Sark, which is a clipper ship that was built in 1869. It is known to be one of the last tea clippers, as well as one of the fastest.

Another idea is to choose a vintage door knocker that is deep in meaning, or is one of a kind. This one below is unique because it is handmade. If you and I bought the same one, they would look different!

Contemporary front door knockers

To have your home flare a contemporary style means to have designs of the current time, as opposed to vintage which is at least two decades in the past. 

If you are looking for the latest trends for your front door knocker, this section is the perfect place to start.

The first two door knockers are both Baldwin designs. The first one is a sleek rectangle. The perimeter of the rectangular comes up to be the knocker part. It is solid brass construction, meaning that it is much higher quality than your average door knocker.

The other option we found from the Baldwin Estate Collection of door knockers is the one featured below. It is also a rectangular door knocker, but as opposed to the last one, it only has the perimeter of the rectangle. It is also a bit wider and taller than the one above.

By clicking the image below, you can shuffle through the various designs of this door knocker to see which one is the best option for your door.

Satin Brass rectangular door knocker
Satin Brass

If you are looking for the rectangular vibe without it being an exact rectangle, this contemporary solid brass front door knocker would be best for your consideration.

With over 7,500 sales and 934 reviews and counting, we know this Etsy seller will not disappoint. This specific door knocker is handmade so it will be truly unique on your door.

If you want the sleek option of contemporary style, this unusual door knocker will stand out from all the other door knockers in your neighborhood. Explained by the creator as “traditional class with a contemporary twist,” this brass piece is not only extremely modern, but easy to install as well.

This Taymor modern door knocker is solid metal, which means that its knock is going to be quite effective. This would be a great purchase if you tend to have a noisier house that normally doesn’t hear a normal sounding door knocker. It is a bit bigger than it appears and heavier than it looks, but we see that as a good thing!

It’s perfect for contemporary or modern design homes.

Lastly, we get to my favorite contemporary front door knocker. As opposed to the many rectangular options we have above, this one is triangular, with a running thin rectangular line across it. 

You can purchase this door knocker in a variety of fashions – both the triangle color and the part across it come in different options.

All options are rust-resistant, which means this front door knocker will last for generations.

Pineapple door knocker

Pineapples are age-old symbols of hospitality. This dates back to the colonial era where pineapples were rare and in high demand. Having a pineapple in your home showed a sign of wealth. Some would even rent a pineapple to have at their party for the evening!

We highlighted a great pineapple door knocker below. However, you can find a detailed list of pineapple front door knockers as well as its extensive history here.

As well, if you are looking for any other outdoor pineapple decor to match your front door knocker, we have quite the list for you!

Black door knocker

If you have a bright color door, adding a dark black front door knocker can make it stand out. If you choose a black door knocker that has a unique style, it will make it stand out even more!

This beautiful pine cone door knocker from Pottery Barn is both classy and modern. Pine cones can symbolize regeneration and human enlightenment. Their main purpose is to protect pine seeds, which makes sense because pine trees are some of the oldest trees to exist.

The black pine cone door knocker will truly stand out in your neighborhood, but it comes in other colors as well.

This S style curved door knocker will be sure to attract positive attention to your front door. It comes in all varieties, but the black door knocker can add class to any front door idea you are envisioning for the front of your house or apartment.

It is a great mix of traditional yet modern, so if you have an eclectic home this will be the perfect option for you.

This deluxe ring cast iron door knocker comes in a matte black powder coat. 

Powder coat is different from regular paint as instead of being put on as liquid, it is applied electrostatically and then cured under heat or under an ultraviolet light. It gives quite the touch to this black door knocker.

This door knocker below also has a powder coat finishing. It is not just a ring knocker though – it is twisting iron, which makes it truly unique.

It also comes with a 10-year warranty, so buying this will alleviate any stress or inconvenience.

Irish door knocker

The most popular Irish front door knockers are the Celtic torc knockers and the Claddagh door knockers. Both give a glimpse into Irish culture. Be sure to share your Irish pride with any of these door knockers below!

Our first Irish door knocker is the Celtic torc. A torc was a piece of jewelry that was worn around the neck at almost all times by the wealthiest Irish in ancient societies.

Torc comes from the Latin word “torquis,” which means twisted, as most of these necklaces were twisted. The opening was at the front, which meant most people wore them rather permanently. 

This Celtic torc door knocker below is a great representation of torcs in Ireland in ancient times.

If you want to embrace your Irish heritage even more, this door knocker below has Celtic writing on it. The phrase “céad míle fáilte” means “one thousand times welcome,” and it is one of the most welcoming ways you could invite someone into your home.

Another great Irish door knocker is the Claddagh ring. A claddagh design is two hands holding a crowned heart that symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and love. Many wear engagement rings with claddagh designs on them. 

This door knocker shows the traditional Claddagh, which is recognizable to both Irish and non-Irish alike.

If you wanted something a little less traditional, this Claddagh door knocker is simple yet elegant, and has shamrocks on the top!

Nautical door knocker

Nautical door knockers are a playful yet laid-back way of slowing the fun side of beach life. All of these nautical door knockers would be great additions to your home or beach house.

The great part about nautical front door knockers is there are a variety of options: sea shells, sand dollars, whale tails, and more. We highlighted a few of the multiple options below offered by Pottery Barn and Etsy.

Animal door knockers

If you really want to bring fun to your front door, add an animal door knocker!

Out of all the front door knockers, this one at my friend’s house grabbed my attention the most. A simple yet beautiful woodpecker being used as a way to knock on the door.

Woodpecker door knocker
Image courtesy of Jocelyn Smith

A great thing about animal front door knockers, as in our example above, is they don’t even have to go on the front door! If installing a front door knocker isn’t for you, this may be the best option for you. We found many woodpecker door knockers, but this one was by far our favorite.

You can find a door knocker for almost every type of animal out there. We placed a few of the best rated ones below that are featured on Amazon, Pottery Barn, Etsy, and Build.com. Click on an image to learn more.

bumblebee door knocker in black and gold
dragonfly door knocker
cat door knocker
frog door knocker
Octopus door knocker

Custom door knockers

Front door knockers can be the highlight of our front door. We can find the right knocker that grabs the attention of your guest, and they can be great conversation starters. 

If the front door knocker is the “centerpiece” of your door, why not customize it to make it personable?

This monogrammed door knocker from Pottery Barn is a great place to start. It is hand finished and available in both brass and nickel. It is also one of the many intricate designs by Michael Healy.

A Michael Healy designed door knocker is unique because all of his work is done through sand casting, a metal casting process that uses sand as the mold material.

Not only is Michael Healy involved in every part of the creation process, his signature is on each piece. More info about Michael himself is here.

This is another option for a customized door knocker. I love this option because not only can you put your family name, but you can also put the “established” date. This would make a great anniversary present for a loved one.

This styled solid brass door knocker is eye-catching with the beauty of the aged bronze. A great thing about this seller is they always double check the spelling of everything before they get started, no matter what. It also has free shipping!

Final thoughts on front door knockers

Journeying through history one door knocker at a time made us nostalgic for heritage crafts. We found ourselves sympathizing with Prof. W. Baumer and his colleagues who in the late 1800s devoted themselves to writing about the Useful Arts.

In their 1869 article Ancient Knockers in The Workshop journal, they lamented that cheap “slop shop” goods were taking over useful ornamentations for the household, such as the door knocker.

Excerpt from Ancient Knockers (1869)

The knocker, once the ornament of almost every door during the Middle-Ages and Renaissance, has not been spared a similar lot. These graceful creations of many an artistic mind, often the charming centre-piece of the decorative device of a door, are highly interesting by the excellent motives, the main features of the design.

Today nothing remains of all this; quite plain where we still find them, they have had in many instances to give place to the bell or the pneumatic or electric apparatus with its plain round button for means of communication and sign of existence, an apparatus which, no doubt, answers its purpose much better by the shrill sound of the bell than by the heavy thumps of the bronze knocker on the massive metal door.

In summary, whether you use your front door knockers for aesthetic purposes or functionality, having a well-thought out one will not only add to your curb appeal, but give character and a personal touch to your home before you even walk in. 

Which type of front door knocker is your favorite? Let us know below.

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