If you build it…

A good little Iowa girl can never resist a reference to Field of Dreams; not even after she’s moved to London. But today I’m not talking about baseball fields or cornfields; instead I’m talking about built-in furniture. For some reason, I’ve always loved a place with built-in bookcases, window seats, breakfast bars, & wardrobes (not so rare in the US – very rare in the UK). For me, it adds character and personality to a house, and is often a clever alternative to a bulky piece of furniture. I have yet to see a wardrobe that I prefer to a closet. In my opinion, they dominate a room and can be clumsy, oppressive pieces to work around. Whereas a floor to ceiling closet simply streamlines the space, and allows a bed or a feature chair to take centre stage.

With all the advantages of built-in furniture, they do come with their own host of challenges. Once you’ve spent time and a bit of money creating them, it’s a permanent investment that will remain with the house. It’s not likely to add a lot of tangible value to your property (plenty of charm tho, which often does help!), and too much of a good thing can also lock your home into a one-way layout, making it a less flexible space. I like knowing I can move most of my furniture around to suit our changing lifestyle, but I also appreciate a bit of stability to anchor myself.

So what’s the right balance? When is it right to add a permanent feature to a house, and when is it time to invest in some great, standalone pieces of furniture that you can move around and take with you when you move?

Personally, I love built-in features that enhance a room and also perform a function or make the most of an otherwise awkward area in a room. Floor to ceiling bookcases to dramatise and maximise high ceilings, or tuck cosily around a fireplace. Or a window seat that highlights a bay window, whilst also making the most of what otherwise is difficult space to use. So things like this (all courtesy of Pinterest – click the photo to see the original source):

Clever use of space
Clever use of space
Accentuate an entryway and add character
Accentuate an entryway and add character
Sunny breakfast nook
Create a sunny breakfast nook
Get uber-cosy
Get uber-cosy and create a useful place to hide away clutter
Bookcases in our rental that have helped us make our temporary house feel like a home
Bookcases in our rental that have helped us make our temporary house feel like a home

Having lived in a short-term rental property since April with half-finished built-in features (see bookcases directly above – the wood isn’t even stained!), the one thing I will stress is if you’re going to take the time to do it, please do it properly. The point is to create a focal point in the room, and the last thing you want people to notice is an eyesore.

What do you think? Have you created built-in features in your home? Or have you done the opposite and removed built-ins that someone else has installed?

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