Built-ins. When you see that word on a real estate listing, your heart can go a-flutter at the thought of not only a beautiful presentation somewhere, but also a way to store as well as display elements of your life — books, artwork, or knickknacks. There is a certain distinctiveness in something built-in. Built-in refrigerators and other appliances that “disappear” into the wall have been alive and well for decades, although relegated mostly to high-end homes until homebuilders realized how even everyday homebuyers salivated over them.
If you are buying a home with experience, however, built-in features may have passed their prime, style-wise. Pieces constructed years or decades ago often boast materials, hardware, or ornamentation that now looks rather provincial. Even homes from the ‘90s often have built-ins designed for TVs that pre-date flat screens, leaving huge, deep niches that have no place to go.
You can usually remove built-ins without causing structural problems, but the process of ripping them out, hauling them away, and patching and painting newly exposed walls, floors, and ceilings can be expensive unless you are a handy person with unlimited time and okay with construction messes for an extended period of time. Think, then, of remodeling them than removing them altogether.
Built-ins can be a room’s focal point, so it’s important to think long and hard about how to treat them. Here are a few things to consider to breath new life into your built-ins.
Painting or re-staining updates the look and can be an eye-catching, inexpensive solution. Design experts recommend a color that matches the trim in the room for continuity. While painting is less expensive than staining, go with quality paint in a semigloss or gloss finish that can withstand the wear and tear of books or toys thrown into them at the last minute.
What if the storage unit is simply too elaborate and outdated? You can remove pilasters and molding that don’t fit your aesthetic, and no one would be the wiser even if the millwork was someone else’s pride and joy. Touch-up work will be required, however.
As with women’s fashion, simply changing the accessories can make a huge difference. Changing hardware is easy, but if you choose knobs that don’t screw into existing spots or locations, more touch up will be in order. Trends in hardware can change fast, however. Remember shiny brass? It once took over light fixtures, bathroom faucets, and even furniture for a while, but now is among the first thing homeowners change out. Strangely enough, washed or satin brass are now making inroads, reminiscent of mid-century modern subtleties, and brushed chrome seems to have a good deal of staying power. The shape of the hardware makes a big difference as well. Long, skinny or minimalistic pulls have a more modern feel; rounded or dome-shaped pulls announce rustic or farmhouse-friendly.
If doors are overly ornate for the space, you can switch them out for simpler designs such as flat panel or simple Shaker-style panels. If you want open display areas, however, you can simply remove cabinet fronts entirely, finish the edges, and turn closed cabinetry into shelving. If you want your shelves to reach the heights of your room for a grand look, add a rolling ladder and you’re ready to be featured on HGTV.
Accent lighting always adds drama. You can use battery-powered LEDs to avoid hiring an electrician, but you may have wished you had wired them in after a while.
Big box stores are usually happy to have one of their design people sit down with you to help with your ideas as long as there is something in it for them, saving you the expense of a design expert. The key to built-ins, however, is to blend your design to make it look seamless, adding dimension as well as updated practicality to any area, often hiding life’s little messes as well.Source: Realtor Magazine, TBWS
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