From kitchen cabinets to wardrobes, built-ins are everywhere in our homes. They’re often seen as indispensable during a renovation, but they don’t have to take over your interiors—in fact, minimising your built-ins and opting for loose furniture can have some surprising advantages.
We chatted with homeowners Fariza (@frouhaha) and Khairil, who kept their built-ins to a minimum and have a little something to say on the topic. Here are five reasons to go low on built-ins and opt for loose furniture instead!
You can space out your purchases
Built-ins usually have to be installed in one go during the renovation. You’ll likely have to agree to the total amount of cabinetry from the start, which means that you won’t have a lot of wiggle room to change your mind and really think through each step.
Loose furniture, on the other hand, can be bought piece by piece over time. You can get the basics first and slowly build on your furniture collection as and when you realise that you need to add on, be it more storage space or an extra table. Fariza and Khairil went down this route too, picking up their furniture over time and really thinking each purchase through.
This gave them extra flexibility during the design stages and allowed them to save some money as well—and they couldn’t be happier with the end result.
You can change up the design
While considering each purchase is a great way to save some money during your renovation, opting for furniture over built-ins has a creative advantage too: it gives you the freedom to change things up all the time!
Fariza and Khairil love that their space is flexible and has the potential to evolve alongside their taste and needs over the years.
You can see and feel the pieces before you buy them
While you can (and should!) feel the materials that will be used for your built-ins, you won’t be able to see the finished cabinetry and assess how sturdy it is until it’s already installed in your home.
Of course, built-ins are custom-made for each space, so that makes them likely to be a good fit—but nothing quite compares to touching and feeling a piece of furniture and having that gut feeling that it will look amazing in your home.
“We bought our big-ticket items in local stores like Castlery, Grafunkt, Commune, IKEA and MUJI,” shares the couple. “We needed to feel and see the items in real life before committing.”
You can achieve a more eclectic look
If you’ve seen Fariza and Khairil’s home, you know that it has a unique and entirely eclectic look, something that’s difficult to achieve with just built-ins.
Loose furniture pieces have a much cosier appeal and break up the monotony of straight-lined cabinets and built-in wardrobes, evoking a more playful vibe.
You can bring your furniture with you if you move
Not everyone plans on moving home, but if you ever do, the great news is that your furniture can follow you. Removing built-ins and re-installing them in a new space is very troublesome and often not worth the cost. Getting your favourite furniture delivered to your new house, on the other hand, can be very convenient (and sustainable!).
In fact, Fariza and Khairil did this when they moved into their current place, most of their furniture having followed them from their first house. With a bit of creativity and a flexible mindset, old pieces can end up working in entirely new ways and make you instantly feel at home.
“Everything eventually found a place, albeit in different areas,” the couple shares. “For example, there was an IKEA table that I used as a side table in my old bedroom; now it serves as a coffee table for the balcony. I think it looks even better there.”
This post was adapted from an article originally published in idealhomes 2022.