The Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Built-in Furniture for Your Space

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated January 10, 2022
Living room with built in bookshelves
Photo: Bmak / Adobe Stock

Consider this before going all-in on built-ins

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Built-in furniture, or what the cool kids refer to simply as built-ins, are custom-made elements that become a permanent part of the home. Some built-ins provide storage, like bookshelves and recessed alcoves for appliances, while others provide unique seating or resting areas, like a Murphy bed or a breakfast nook.

Well-chosen furniture can add form and function to any room, but built-ins can really level up your current space. If you’re thinking about how to transform your home with built-in furniture, here are some things to consider.

The Advantages of Built-In Furniture

Built-in furniture certainly has its advantages for your home. Here are some reasons you might want to call off that trip to the furniture store and get some quotes from local carpenters instead:

1. Customize Your Space 

Instead of measuring ready-made furniture to see if it fits your space, you can measure your space and have the furniture built to fit it precisely. The sky—or rather, the ceiling—is the limit for built-ins, but you can also squeeze the most out of small and unusual spaces, too. One custom example that is the star of many social media posts are stair risers that have been transformed into bookshelves.

2. Save Room

Many built-ins live up to their name and are actually built into the wall or into recessed areas. A custom element like a window seat essentially becomes the wall itself, rather than a bench or couch that takes up floor space. This is key in the kitchen especially, where bulky appliances like refrigerators or microwaves can blend seamlessly into the wall for a neater, streamlined look overall.

3. Add a Functional Design Element 

In addition to their functionality, built-ins add an attractive design element to the room. A sunny window seat becomes a cozy place to enjoy a cup of coffee or a good book. Built-in shelves in a living room can provide an attractive home theater setup, especially if a fireplace is included in the mix.

The Disadvantages of Built-In Furniture

Kitchen breakfast nook in the morning
Photo: Bmak / Adobe Stock

Unlike a piece of furniture that can be easily moved or even moved out completely when you’re reconfiguring a space, built-ins require a firm commitment. Here are some things to consider before you dive into a custom home improvement project:

1. Built-Ins Are Expensive

Custom anything in a home is pricey because it’s being built from the ground up for your unique needs and your space’s dimensions. It’s no wonder that people will try to save money by purchasing ready-made furniture and attempt to arrange the pieces in a way that makes them look like built-ins—but it’s just not the same as the real thing.

2. They Limit the Room’s Usage

For all we’ve been saying about built-ins making the most of the space, they put very clear limits on what you can do with the space if you ever decide to change things up. For example, if you’ve lined a room with bookshelves for a library or an office, it might be difficult to transform that room into a bedroom. If you are considering built-ins for a room, think ahead to resale. As much as home buyers like to see a staged property so they can understand its potential, they want to make their own mark on it—which can be hard to do when built-ins are dictating the use of the space.

3. You Can’t Take Them With You When You Move

When you sell your home, built-ins are considered fixtures and stay with the property—it’s even listed in the sales contract unless you negotiate otherwise. But even if you wanted to dismantle those bookshelves or that window seat, they were built to fit your current space, not your new space, so they’ll serve no purpose at all. So unless you have long-term plans to stay in your current home, save money and skip the built-ins.

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