The demand for built-in items like bench seats, cabinets, and even built-in dog bowls is a hot trend in today’s home market. Homeowners are creatively integrating features to maximize their space and meet new needs while continuing to work from home.
Karina Vega-Gonzalez, tax accountant, and Raul Gonzalez, computer engineer, incorporated several built-in features into the Lexington Homes Parkside single-family home in Glenview they moved into in November. Vega-Gonzalez had the built-in pantry redesigned. Instead of basic white shelving, she added quartz cabinets, shelves, backsplashes and countertops. The pantry units are made of the same materials and color as the kitchen.
“I wanted it to be part of the kitchen, to be aesthetically pleasing and functional,” Vega-Gonzalez said.
In the kitchen island, she added extra storage space and replaced cabinets with drawers for easier access to items. The bathroom includes storage towers near the double vanities. The laundry room includes floor-to-ceiling cabinets.
Vega-Gonzalez is not alone in her quest for additional storage space. Many of the clients that Evanston-based Morgante Wilson Architects work with are looking for built-ins that incorporate shelving and storage, said junior partner Bob Zuber. The firm designed a Christmas tree storage cabinet for one client and a 14-foot curved banquette for another.
“We’ve made TVs that pop out of cabinets, even floor and ceiling,” he said.
“Built-in banquettes — puffy benches that are padded and look great” are also popular, Zuber said. Banquettes are built into living rooms, playrooms, bedrooms, home bars and even underused areas such as alcoves under the stairs, he said.
A built-in sideboard option is available in Lexington Homes’ new Timberleaf townhouse development in Roselle. The buffet spans the entire width of the room.
One of the designs in the Belgravia Group’s new 72-unit luxury condominium development, Triangle Square Condos in East Bucktown, features a recessed banquette bench that minimizes the footprint taken up by a dining table set. It is surrounded by custom cabinetry.
Clients want more versatile spaces, said Lauren Amt, architect at Chicago-based Searl Lamaster Howe Architects.
“They clean up the space, change the environment,” and they want object storage to be simple and composed, she said.
To prevent children from throwing backpacks, sports equipment and shoes on the floor, built-in storage devices in the mudroom are called for, said Nicole Semple, principal and architect at Semple + Rappe Architects in Chicago. And customers are asking for multiple laundry locations, including an area near the locker room where they can quickly throw dirty items right at the main back door, she said.
In the kitchen, customers add coffee and beverage stations, and microwaves are hidden in cabinets and drawers. Built-in kitchen appliances with panels that match the rest of the kitchen cabinets are also popular. Homebuyers want a smooth, flowing flow, Semple said.
Meanwhile, animal lovers are choosing to better accommodate their dogs. Instead of dog bowls and crates, dog owners are choosing kennels built into cabinets and built-in dog bowls, Semple said.
Integrated pricing runs the gamut.
“We had a carpenter build a shelf for a client out of standard lumber, and it cost $1,000,” Semple said.
It had room for a TV and books and was designed to maximize family room space.
On the other end of the spectrum, buying a sub-zero fridge with built-in panels could be a $12,000 business in a $100,000 kitchen, she noted.
TV shows emphasizing home organization systems are helping to drive today’s integrated trends. The fact that people have been spending more time working remotely and looking at their living spaces in recent years has also prompted many to think about what works and doesn’t work, what they do and don’t like. , and to make changes, Zuber and Sample said.
This was the case for Brent DeMar and Khristina Weaver. The couple expect to move into their new six-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom custom home that was built in Bronzeville last year. They incorporate several built-in elements into the home, said their builder Pat Cardoni, CEO of Cardoni Custom Homes and president of the Chicago chapter of the Building Industry Association of Greater Chicago.. The benefit of built-ins is that customers can get exactly what they want, Cardoni said.
Around the fireplace, the couple requested built-in cabinets at the bottom with outlets to accommodate electronics, books and games. Open shelving flanking either side of the fireplace will provide space for photos and artwork. They have also included a changing room with a small bench area, where one can sit and remove snow boots or wet clothes, and there are lockers for storage.
The house includes two designed offices with plenty of built-in storage space – an office for DeMar, who works in technology and engineering; and one for Weaver, an oil industry sales manager. Weaver’s desk is designed to include a built-in built-in desk and space for a separate stand-alone desk, DeMar said. The couple often work from home.
“We’ve installed built-in lights in the offices to showcase the artwork that we’ll be placing on the back wall of these built-ins,” DeMar said. “With work-from-home scenarios, we want a sanctuary where we can be efficient at work but also feel like we’re at home.”
Francine Knowles is a freelance writer.
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