Cost-Saving Built-In Storage Ideas

From the most affordable, durable materials to clever repurposing and finishing ideas, learn 12 ways to get the most bang for your buck from custom built-ins.
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Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Stylish, Low-Cost Storage Nook

A small alcove previously considered dead space is now a storage-packed focal point, thanks to a clever use of ready-made wooden cabinets, floating shelves and integrated LED lighting. Follow these tips to create your own budget-friendly built-in storage area.

Save Cash With Ready-Made Cabinets

Unfinished, ready-made wooden cabinets are an excellent choice for low-budget built-in storage solutions. Readily available in standard sizes, they can be customized with paint or stain and dressed up with hardware. To ensure a smooth finish, lightly sand the wood prior to priming or painting. For a seamless look, use the same shade of paint found on any existing trim, cabinet doors or drawer fronts.

Add Attractive Floating Shelves

Floating shelves installed directly above painted ready-made cabinets can instantly turn dead space into a streamlined architectural focal point. Available in a range of lengths and thicknesses, floating shelves are attached directly to the wall with cleats fastened into the studs. Once the cleats are sturdy, a three-sided box is slid onto them, then secured in place with screws drilled up through fascia and into the cleat.

Style Your Shelves

When styling floating shelves, don’t be afraid to mix shapes, heights, textures and materials to turn disparate objects into a well-curated collection.

Add Flair With Hardware

Add personality to your ready-made cabinets with decorative hardware. Although many home improvement stores offer popular styles and finishes, interior designers suggest shopping for artisanal, one-of-a-kind pulls and knobs at specialty stores. Here, the porcelain nautilus knobs were a splurge that add coastal style to the home. To make hardware installation simple, pick up a hardware jib from your local home improvement store. Jibs have adjustable settings, which ensure a consistent placement of screw holes.

Paint Inside and Out

While floating shelves are excellent for displaying favorite objects, cabinets are ideal for concealing clutter. To add a clean, consistent look to ready-made cabinets, paint the interior with the same color as the exterior. This creates a streamlined effect when the doors are open.

Highlight Your Built-Ins

Integrated LED lighting transforms typical built-ins into display areas. To keep the wiring hidden from view, a hole was cut into the back panel of the ready-made cabinet for easy yet discreet access to the wall outlet. Additionally, the switch for the lighting is concealed from view, tucked inside the interior of the cabinet.

Choose Soft-Close Hinges

Using the proper hinges on built-ins can make a huge difference in their everyday use. Whenever possible, consider soft-close hinges, which close on a timed release, making them safe for use by kids.

Protect Your Shelves

When heavy objects are frequently taken in and out of wooden cabinets, scrapes and scratches on the surface of the shelves are bound to happen. To protect them, consider adding adhesive liner. In addition to shielding the surface, this also offers a chance to experiment with color and pattern, adding more personality to your built-in.

Get a Store-Quality Finish

For a factory-fresh finish, consider spraying ready-made cabinetry, floating shelves or plywood built-ins with semigloss or high-gloss paint. Available for rent at many home improvement stores, HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) sprayers average about $90 per day and work with latex and oil paint. Keep in mind that oil-based paint will require at least one full day of drying time between coats, whereas latex paint only requires three to four hours, resulting in much quicker project completion.

Pick the Best Paint Brush

For built-ins with detailed trim, you’ll get the best result by painting them with a high-quality angled brush. Slightly higher in price than standard brushes, the angled detail provides better coverage in crevices or uneven surfaces, and also ensures a more even, straight line.

Don't Overlook the Details

Elevate basic plywood built-ins to new heights with molding. To seamlessly blend with the traditional architecture of this Atlanta house, the front of its window seat is accented with the same style of molding used around the windows and atop the walls.