Help Sellers With Built-Ins

JWH Custom Cabinetry to maximize critical bedroom storage adds value.

Bookshelves and cabinetry incorporated within a home’s architecture once was equated with grandeur, offering homeowners the opportunity to showcase personal treasures and knickknacks. But over time, the pieces may look dated. Here are updated ideas with pizzazz that buyers may love.

Original article by Barbara Ballinger, Realtor Magazine

Built-in cabinetry, whether part of a home’s initial design or added to organize and display books, artwork, or knickknacks, has long offered a way for homeowners to introduce a distinctive look to their interior. But with the rise of digital media and minimalist decor, buyers these days may have less of a need for the traditional style of storage.

Sellers can usually remove dated built-ins without causing structural problems, but the process of ripping them out, hauling them away, and patching and painting newly exposed walls, floors, and ceilings is expensive, says Chicago designer Mitchell Putlack: “I recommend leaving them unless they’re so outdated. In most cases, they can be remodeled.”

Jennifer Howard, owner of JWH Design & Cabinetry in suburban New York, designs and builds custom cabinetry to add value to a client’s home and lifestyle. But when faced with the challenge of existing built-ins that have seen better days. here are five changes you can suggest to give built-ins a new, hip lifeline.

A quality paint job of existing built-in bookcases to compliment the new JWH Kitchen.
  • Paint or restain. When a house has similar architectural details to the built-ins, simply freshening up the look with an updated paint color or a lighter stain can be an eye-catching, inexpensive solution, says Decorating Den designer Sandy Kozar of Knoxville, Tenn. Try a color that matches the trim in the room for continuity, says Howard. Generally, painting is less expensive than staining, says Putlack. But always go with quality paint in a semigloss or gloss finish that can withstand the wear and tear of books and other storage, says Chicago designer Jessica Lagrange of Jessica Lagrange Interiors.
  • Remove elaborate pilasters and molding that don’t fit the home’s style. Although such millwork was probably lovingly crafted, it may be too fussy for buyers who lean toward simplicity. Removing any over-the-top embellishments and leaving the rest of the built-in requires minimal touch-up work, says Putlack.
  • Change hardware. An easy switch-out is replacing knobs or pulls. However, these trends typically change fast, so make sure you’re up on the latest looks. Satin and Antique Brass has made a come-back, while polished chrome and satin nickel continue to be popular choices. Top Knobs features a wide variety of styles and finishes.
  • Change or remove cabinet and drawer fronts. If doors are overly ornate for the space, Jody Goodman Dinan, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boston, often suggests switching them out for flat or Shaker style panels. Homeowners can also remove fronts entirely and finish the edges, turning closed cabinetry into shelving. Designers at Chicago custom home builder BGD&C find that running shelves high on a wall offers a feeling of grandeur, while keeping the shelves open offers a greater sense of scale. A rolling ladder offers an eye-catching way to access the uppermost reaches.
  • Install lighting. Adding bulbs at the top or sides of shelves can highlight displays and add drama. And by using battery-powered LEDs, homeowners can often avoid hiring an electrician. Select bulbs that work on dimmers to vary light levels and moods, says Lagrange.
A 3-d rendering by the JWH Team includes both open and closed storage, plus a Bar.

When making the changes above are too expensive or challenging for a seller, a 3-d rendering of the newly designed space is another option. “Our full color renderings provide clients with an accurate way to visualize their space before they tackle any project,” adds Jennifer Howard.