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Stylish storage that stands the test of time

The trend toward built-ins is growing in popularity, popping up in new homes and renos alike

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Mixing shelving and cupboards blends the best of display and closed storage. PHOTO: DANIELLE GILLIAN PHOTOGRAPHY

Whether you’re looking at permanent shelving, window
seats, or an entertainment centre, there are many ways
to incorporate this long-lasting trend into your home. 

Often when we look for a storage solution we immediately reach for a pre-fab option, says Jessica Skinner, owner
of Lovey Nova Design in Halifax.

“If you are willing to invest a little bit more into the longevity of the piece, its impact on the space is going to be very high,” she says. “It’s also going to add value to the house. It may be better long term to consider something that might take a little bit longer, and has a higher price point, but you will recoup that in the sale of your home.”

When considering any renovation, buy quality materials. Skinner says that’s even more important with built-ins as any contraction or movement can ruin a piece’s look. She suggests only using kiln-
dried wood. 

This Charlottetown home features what the homeowner calls “The Wibary,” a combination wine rack and reading nook, built by Craftsman Construction. PHOTO: STEPHEN HARRIS

Cora Cudmore says built-in storage can set your home up for organization for years to come. The interior/cabinet designer co-owns Refined Cabinets in Cape Traverse, P.E.I., a short drive from the
Confederation Bridge. 

“It’s a great way to create a space that’s functional for you,” says Cudmore. “I know a lot of families have things like board games, TVs, and gaming consoles that they don’t necessarily want just sitting around in the open, collecting dust. It sets you up for the rest of the house. You can help create new habits to stay organized.”

In addition to offering hidden storage through cabinets and drawers, built-in storage can help highlight family heirlooms or art.

When Skinner designs a built-in, she asks the client to pick two or three pieces to display most prominently and build nooks in the shelving specific to them, plus adds lighting for extra pizzaz. She cautions against building the entire piece like this as your taste may change in time, and when it comes to reselling, you want to ensure any built-in elements are as flexible as possible. 

Strive to keep any additions consistent with existing elements of your home. “Incorporate something that works with the rest of what’s going on your house as far as trim goes,” says Cudmore. “If you have a lot of white trim and crown casings around your windows, you can extend on those mouldings.” 

When adding a built-in to a traditional home, Skinner suggests Richelieu Hardware, which has locations in Moncton, N.B. and Dartmouth, N.S., plus a robust website. It offers a wide array of traditionally-styled pulls, knobs, and other hardware that can imbue your piece with design elements that match your home. 

While many homeowners tend to play it safe in high-traffic areas, like the kitchen and family room, think creatively in smaller spaces like bedrooms and home offices. 

“We’ve done a number of glass doors in built ins where the client doesn’t want the piece to be dark and heavy, but they don’t want to be able to see the items in it,” says Skinner. “We’ll add a bunch of glass doors and give the glass a texture to it, like rain drops, and light the interior. The glass is glowing and kind of translucent, but you’re not getting the visual of what’s being stored.”

Using textured glass on closed storage adds eye-catching interest to built ins and hides clutter.  PHOTO: REFINED CABINETS

What’s hot in built-in solutions 

Mudrooms: “When you have children, there are so many things that come into the house but never make it past the mudroom,” says Cudmore. Building storage for sport equipment, backpacks, and outdoor clothing helps keep your entry way tidy and makes items easier to find. 

Breakfast nooks: “If you have a smaller home, having a bench that’s built in takes up a lot less space than if you have a table to put chairs around,” says Cudmore. Plus, you can build hidden storage into the benches to free up closet and cupboard space.

Pantries: “People have a lot more appliances now and love Costco and want a place for all the stuff that they buy in bulk,” says Cudmore. 

A growing trend she sees in new builds is a butler’s pantry, a small room off the kitchen, which can incorporate an extra sink, dishwasher, or a wine fridge. “If you have company over you can just whisk the dirty dishes into the pantry and then everything’s out of sight,” she says. “You don’t have that stress of having all your dishes piled up in front of you and your company and feeling like that needs your attention.”

East Coast Living