D esigning and building custom built-ins for clients is a huge part of my design business and I absolutely love creating them! When done properly, custom built-ins look fantastic and are amazingly functional. They maximize storage space and help to keep things neat and organized. They can blend in seamlessly with the overall design of the room or make an impactful design statement. I’ve created gorgeous mudroom storage units, multifunctional TV units, book shelves, TV consoles, pretty window seat benches, fireplace mantel and surrounding bookcases, playroom toy storage units, desk and closet units, dining banquettes, not to mention tons of unique bathroom vanities….you name it, I’ve done it! (To see more of my designs, visit my portfolio page on my website). Well designed built-ins will no doubt enhance your life and your spaces, and will also enhance the value of your home. It’s no wonder they’ve become so popular!
What makes it so much fun for me as a designer, is that magic little word “custom”. This is somewhat akin to a blank canvas for a painter….the creative possibilities are almost endless! Ok, I’m getting a little over excited here, but you get the gist of it! With custom items, you can do any style, finish, color, material….basically anything that the imagination can dream up. I like to add unique LED lighting, stunning countertops, contrasting colors, beautiful wallpaper, fabrics, leather, nail heads, inlaid metals, interesting hardware, or any other unique materials to coordinate with client's rooms. The only constrains are the dimensions of your room and your budget.
So, you might be wondering how I come up with the best and most appropriated built-in designs for each individual client? Like most things interior design related, it’s definitely a process! As with all of my processes, a whole lot of thought, communication, and planning go into it. So, I've outlined it here for you in 10 steps:
2Measure! Nothing can be designed until I have accurate measurements of the walls and the floor area that the units will be built into. The drawing of the walls to scale, are called elevations, and the scale drawing of the floor is called the floor plan. I will need the elevations and floor plan to start my built-ins designs.
4Gather the materials & finish samples used in my design as needed. If I’m specifying a certain countertop material, or have some great finishes in mind for the unit, I get the samples of those to show my clients. Sometimes photos will suffice, so I will gather those too for them to review.
5Get feedback and make any tweaks! After designing the built-ins, I review the sketches and samples with my clients for their thoughts, questions, and feedback. Based on their comments, I will make any necessary adjustments to the designs.
6Upon approval of a final design, we are ready to get estimates and make real finish samples. The drawings I create are used to get accurate quotes from my carpenter. If a specific countertop material is needed, the drawings are also used to get quotes for those too. If lighting is incorporated into the built-ins, the electrician can quote from the drawings as well. This will allow us to get a total cost of the unit as well as a time line of how long it will take to build and install. Now you can see how important having accurate drawings are!
7Engage a carpenter and other trades people as needed, approve finish samples, and start building, yay! Depending on the unit size, build times will vary. I love working with my local trades people because they work very quickly and efficiently. I have never waited more then 6 weeks, even for the largest units and on occasion when I need a rush job, they’ve always come through. Also, being local means I can check up on their work easily to make sure all is going to plan, plus I save my clients from hefty long distance delivery fees. Fixes are also much easier and quicker when working with local tradesmen. My local guys not only do a fantastic job, but come back within days to make any necessary fixes….to me, this is a no brainer!
10Coordinate and oversee the delivery and installation of the built-in unit, countertop, lighting, etc., to ensure all goes well and then schedule any necessary fixes or adjustments as needed. Because custom built items are hand made and walls and ceilings are never 100% straight, you can expect that a few minor adjustments will be needed to your built-ins after they're installed. Good, experienced carpenters are used to making these minor adjustments and should resolve them quickly and efficiently. This is why I only deal with absolute professionals in their crafts and who will stand by their work without any hassles.
I hope you enjoyed learning about my process to create awesome custom built-ins! If you're interested in learning more, please contact me or leave a comment in the box below. I'd love to hear from you!