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A seamless home design is one that perfectly marries everyday practicality with appealing aesthetics. Almost nothing achieves this balance as well as built-in furniture—features such as cabinets and desks that sit flush with walls, fill alcoves, and bridge awkward gaps for streamlined visuals that please the eye.
Add to that the structural integrity of furniture adhered to its spot, and you have remarkable pieces with long-lasting durability to serve you for many years.
“There are so many benefits of built-ins,” says Jen Paul of Sunshine Built In, a custom woodwork company in Austin, Texas. “Books are easy to grab off the shelf, photos and keepsakes are finely displayed, the kids’ toys are tucked away but accessible, and all those miscellaneous items you didn’t know what to do with are contained and organized.”
Many retailers offer ready-made pieces to fit more common areas, or you could reach out to a custom woodworking or cabinet shop to discuss solutions to underutilized or hard-to-fill spaces. Either way, the built-in possibilities are numerous. Check out these popular pieces and some other creative concepts to inspire your next home-improvement project.
Staples of Tudor studies and Gothic Revival libraries, bookcases carry a nostalgic, almost romantic appeal with their nod to the joy of reading and traditionally meticulous woodwork that perfectly frames the book spines. Today’s craftspeople have modernized them for those who enjoy simple, sleek designs, commonly adjusting shelf dimensions to suit various decor beyond books, including ceramics and photos.
“A lot of homes, particularly newer builds, do not have cabinetry or shelving in the living areas, and yet those are ideal places to display your belongings,” says Paul. She recommends adding bookcases to empty living room walls, as a frame to a fireplace, or in your home office so you can show off your favorite books and decor for a balanced style.
These broad chests of drawers are essential components of bedrooms, and similar pieces like sideboards and buffet tables offer great storage solutions for dining areas, living rooms, and other spaces. Pack everything from clothing to serving platters in their wide drawers and deep cabinets, then shut it all to form a neat, flush facade.
While you could simply slide any old storage piece into a room, built-in alternatives may better economize square footage since they are designed to tuck snugly into awkward or tight spaces. Integrated cabinets can also seamlessly blend with the architecture of a room for a cohesive, clean-lined look. “They offer ample storage solutions without occupying extra floor space, contributing to a more organized and clutter-free environment,” says Corrine Lombardo, co-owner of Raleigh Woodworks in North Carolina.
You may look around your house and wonder how you’ve collected so much stuff: coats that pad the back layers of your closet, holiday decor that swells out of its shelves, and the appliance you forgot your in-laws gave you that nearly concusses you every time you open the pantry.
Enter closet systems, which integrate features like tiered shelves and cabinets into storage areas to maximize their potential. “Built-ins help declutter spaces by providing designated areas for items, thus reducing visual chaos and promoting order,” Lombardo notes. “Well-designed storage solutions also make everyday items easily accessible while keeping them neatly stored away when not in use.” Try installing a system in your most disordered depositories, including your bedroom closets, kitchen pantry, and garage—even a simple one can go a long way.
In an era of widespread remote and hybrid work, having an efficient yet stylish home office is paramount. “Built-in offices are a common request,” Paul states. “Our clients often have a beautiful front ‘office’ with empty walls. Now more than ever, folks are working from home and want a proper area they can comfortably settle in.”
Optimal built-in desks should combine cabinets for stowing unappealing tech accessories, drawers for supplies such as printer paper, open shelves for grabbing a quick sticky note, and a broad work surface that you’ll love pulling up to every morning. These features will maximize efficiency while lending a neat aesthetic that will help preserve your focus.
While the above examples are some classic built-ins with demonstrated perks, there are up-and-coming features in the design sphere that you may start seeing everywhere, from high-end design outlets to home tours. Lombardo offers a clue into what’s trending now: “Homeowners are seeking pieces that serve dual purposes, such as seating with hidden storage, fold-out desks, and wall-mounted tables. Additionally, there’s a growing interest in sustainable materials and minimalist designs, with a focus on clean lines and neutral colors to create timeless aesthetics.” One of her recent favorites is a “Murphy door” for a home library, which is a moving bookcase attached to a door that disappears into its surrounding shelves when shut from inside the room.
But the built-in potential doesn’t stop there. Homeowners who think outside the box may prefer to custom build a distinct feature for an even more unique purpose. To spark inspiration, consider the above project for a mixed guest room and office. “One of our clients requested a range of custom features for their home office so friends and family could comfortably use it as a guest room,” Paul says. “The finished piece included TV surround storage, stacked drawers, adjustable shelves, a wardrobe, shoe cubbies, and a handsome finish that tastefully tied the whole unit and room together.” What was once an unfocused spare room was now fitted for a variety of entertaining possibilities and elevated with smart style.
Imagine what kinds of built-ins could enhance an underutilized area in your home with clean-lined looks, neat storage, increased value, and so much more. Few other home design projects offer such a perfect balance of function and form—or the ability to truly transform a space.