Built-ins. Whether they’re bookshelves for additional storage or banquettes providing cozy kitchen seating, everyone loves the way they perfectly fit your room and style.
But how can you make built-in bookshelves and seating work for your home? It’s possible to get classic built-ins that are both gorgeous and versatile, but you have to put some thought — and design! — into it.
That’s why hiring a designer can be key — we can help you find that perfect stylish and fun design that will fit your space. And we can steer you clear of those times when you actually don’t need a built-in to complete your space (yes, it’s happened).
Remember, whatever custom solution you need built in to your space, it’s going to be there for, well, awhile and then some. So before you start building, find out what the problem is with the space. And for your own sanity, measure three times: There’s not exactly a lot of wiggle room — literally — to be off by a few tenths of an inch.
And no matter where your built-in is going, remember to think about electrical access. If your built-in is going to block outlets or light switches, you’re going to need to reroute those wires to make them functional. And if you’re designing a built-in entertainment center, then you absolutely need to think about how all those plugs and cords are going to work into the design!
Let’s breakdown all that built-ins have to offer and what you need to consider before getting one designed for your home.
How will built-in bookshelves help you improve the space?
The worst thing is installing glorious new built-ins only to realize they don’t fit your style or needs, at all. That happened with one of our clients in their office. A contractor installed lovely traditional shaker style built-in cabinets with a mix of closed storage and shelves, all painted white.The problem: The built-ins didn’t fit the client’s needs OR style preferences.
Not only did they not want a white traditional look, they also actually didn’t need storage in the office. To top it all off, they were placed in a corner of the room that made the office feel even more boxed in.
Essentially the client wanted a space in his office to display his collectibles and other cool stuff. Once we figured out he didn’t want a place to store things out of sight, we ripped out the brand new built-ins and created wood floating shelves with a nice dark stain that matched the desk and rest of the room.
And we actually found another use for part of the built-in bookcases for another space in the home. We repurposed the bottom half to use as storage where the clients actually needed storage — the media room. We also painted the existing built-in cabinets, to erase the white traditional look, and added a wood countertop to keep with the style of the (now-redesigned) home.
Built-in bookshelves: Not just for display and storage
Thought built-in bookshelves were relegated just to your media room or office? Think again.
Sometimes you need to think a little bit outside the box. Remember what we were talking about with determining what you need in a space? That can flow into any room in the house, including your bedroom or living room, and I’m not just talking about media storage.
One of our clients had two puny-looking white built-in bookshelves next to their large stone fireplace, which has a mounted TV. They didn’t match the style of the home, you couldn’t reach the top shelves and the glass shelves and mirrored just made the pieces feel even more dated. To be blunt: It just didn’t look right.
These clients weren’t searching for much storage or display in their living room — they needed more seating. They held large gatherings with friends and family and wanted to make sure there was room for everyone. So we took out those shelving units and created built-in benches and used old barn wood as a backdrop to give it a rustic feel that fit with the style of the home.
While you can’t see the TV from the benches, you can see the entire living room, allowing for tons of space when hosting parties, just sitting around and talking with all their friends, or simply cozying up to the fireplace to read a good book.
Built-in nightstands for additional storage
Another client had an awkward bedroom situation — of the architectural type.
The fireplace in the living room created a large bump out in the wall in the master bedroom with two equally as large and deep large openings on either side. The space with the bump out perfectly fit a king bed, but the two large openings made it difficult to find nightstands that fit the space well. They all ended up looking too small or too shallow and would have wasted space.
Enter built-in nightstands: We created custom pieces with bold hardware that perfectly fit each opening and matched the style of the rest of the room — and home.
Adding a banquette in the kitchen
Built-in banquettes are a great solution for adding seating — and potentially storage — to your kitchen. And they let you talk more easily around a table than at a bartop, where you have to look one way or the other while talking with multiple friends or family who have come over.
When we build banquettes, we often use a similar set-up: a large table, with the banquette taking up about half the space, followed by two or more chairs rounding out the seating on the other side. This also allows you to easily bring up other chairs from the dining room or kitchen if you need even more seating.
If you’re worried about all those red wine and spaghetti stains on your brand new built-in, there’s a solution for that, too: performance fabrics. These are stain-resistant fabrics made from a special thread that’s dyed all the way through instead of just the top layer.
And if you’re building a banquette against a wall, make sure it is professionally constructed and installed, especially if you’re placing it against a wall, where it needs to be anchored.
Looking to skip anchoring to the wall? Consider adding a banquette to the other side of a kitchen island. Plus, bonus! This gives you extra storage and counterspace as well as more seating.
When you shouldn’t add a built-in
As much as we love them, a built-in bookcase or banquette isn’t always a great idea.
For starters, if you think you might change the space in the future to a different function — don’t add built-ins. So if you’re thinking of turning that office into a dining room in the future, then you might want to pass on the built-in for a more easily movable furniture.
And secondly, just because you plan to use the space for the same need for years to come doesn’t mean that a built-in is the ideal solution. If you’re looking for more storage in a kitchen that already has ample cabinet space, extending a countertop to create a dry bar could look out of place.
One of our clients faced exactly this dilemma. They came to us with the idea of expanding their countertop and lower cabinets into a large, empty space along the wall. Instead, we recommended a wooden sideboard that leaves a little room on either side, breaking up the space slightly and relieving the issues of trying to match cabinets and countertops built years ago.
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