Built-in or freestanding: Which to go for in your home?

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From your living room's TV console to your bedroom's wardrobe, there's a choice you will have to make: built-in or freestanding. There are pros and cons to each and there are no rights or wrongs, as much depend on your lifestyle needs. Some instances are better off with a custom built-in, while there are other instances where you can just purchase off the shelves. In general, built-ins are perfect if you're looking to get an exact fit for your space, while freestanding is a good option if you're wanting to create a more flexible and versatile home. In this article, we look at some of these things to help you make a more informed decision during your renovation:

LIVING ROOM

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TV Console: Often, the living room is the area where you will set the tone and theme for the rest of your home, so going for a customised built-in TV console makes sense as you can get it to serve as that visual anchor because it's such a large piece. Plus, you can incorporate all sorts of features within it, helping you free up space in the rest of your living room so it doesn't look overly cluttered. This is essential in a larger zone like the living room, where you will run into a bigger risk of incorporating too many furniture.

Winner: Built-in

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Storage: If you're storing things in your living room, it's likely that the things you're storing won't exactly be of the same category since the living room is such a communal space. As such, going with customised storage is more ideal as you can consider what you'll be storing and build the storage compartments accordingly. For instance, if you're storing shoes, you might want shorter, boxier compartments, but if you're storing housekeeping and cleaning equipment, you might want longer ones to accommodate things like your vacuum cleaner. Full-height closed cupboards keep things out of sight.

Winner: Built-in

KITCHEN

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Kitchen Cabinets: Most homeowners here go for built-ins when it comes to kitchen cabinets as they help to make the most of the cooking space. In Singapore, there are also not very many options for purchasing kitchen cabinets off the rack. Still, freestanding kitchen cabinets are something to consider especially if you're keen to bring your whole kitchen with you in your next home.

Freestanding also means you get to change your kitchen appliances when they break down without having to hack away at your cabinets. If you're feeling brave, consider all sorts of non-kitchen specific storage ideas for your cooking space. A bookshelf can serve as a pantry and a filing cabinet can add an industrial style to your kitchen. With kitchens usually costing the most in your renovation thanks to the numerous built-ins, going the freestanding route might just help you save some cash.

Winner: Freestanding, if you're brave enough

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Kitchen Island: A kitchen island can be for many things. In most households, it serves as a prep station. In some, it's a home bar, and for others, a homework table. Being such a versatile piece in the kitchen, you will want to make it more multipurpose by making it freestanding. We like the idea of incorporating wheels on them so they can be rolled out of the kitchen for other things like a bar cart for serving food when you have guests over or even as a workstation.

Winner: Freestanding

DINING ROOM 

PHOTO: Free Space Intent PHOTO: Story of Us

Dining Set: When it comes to your dining table and chairs, we like the combination of built-in and freestanding. Here's something to consider: go for a built-in dining bench, while keeping the rest freestanding. A built-in bench that is set against a wall accommodates more seating without taking up too much space and it can also provide extra storage room to store dinnertime essentials. Keeping the table and the other chairs freestanding allows you to shift things around when you have more guests or when you want to watch TV while you eat.

Winner: A mix of both

BEDROOM

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Bedroom Bed: Unless you have plenty of space, there’s probably only one good way to place your bed. As such, it’s actually a good idea to go with a built-in bed since it helps to maximise space in your bedroom. A good mattress is also usually a long-term investment (think 10 years) and most of them come in standard sizes so there’s no need to worry about your next mattress not fitting in. Some also like incorporating storage, bedside tables or vanity tables together with the built-in bed, which is a great way to lessen the amount of freestanding furniture in your bedroom.

Winner: Built-in

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Wardrobe: While there are plenty of freestanding (some quite beautiful) wardrobes out there, nothing quite beats a customised built-in closet in terms of aesthetics and space-saving. According to professional organisers we spoke to, the wardrobe is the number one clutter zone in the home so it really helps to keep things organised if you have a closet that is catered to your fashion choices.

For instance, taller hanging space for long dresses or bevelled sloping compartments for shoes. Freestanding options also often leave you with gaps at the top which can accumulate a lot of dust over time. Go full-height and wall-to-wall to maximise wardrobe space. And if you have a small space, this can lend a sense of grandeur while helping to conceal sight lines so the room appears bigger.

Winner: Built-in

BATHROOM

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Vanity Counter: Like kitchen cabinets, there aren't very many standalone bathroom vanity units in the market. Unlike kitchen cabinets, you should probably go with a built-in vanity. Most bathrooms are small, so a built-in can help to ensure that no space gets wasted while making sure you have enough storage space. A bathroom vanity also isn't very big so it won't cost very much in your renovation budget. Most freestanding units will also be attached to the wall because of the piping so you're essentially getting a built-in anyway.

Winner: Built-in

STUDY ROOM

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Study Table: There are lots of reasons why going for a freestanding study table makes more sense compared to a custom one. For most homeowners, a study room isn't quite a necessity and it's usually a good-to-have that's set aside when you have the extra room. As such, going for a freestanding unit gives you that flexibility to move the workstation elsewhere when you need to give up that extra room due to changes in circumstances. Also, a freestanding unit enables you to change things around when you change your job nature and require a different workstation setup.

Winner: Freestanding

This article was first published in Renonation