As a renter, sometimes you're fortunate enough to rent a place with built-in character. But in many cases, you're left with blank, rectangular boxes to fill. If you love the look of built-ins, but don't have the option to actually build in, here are some ideas for simulating the look and feel of these architectural features.
Try to use the whole space. In Amie, Emma, and Francesca's Toronto flat, above, two bookshelves and an upholstered bench create the illusion of a window seat. Even though these pieces are freestanding, they seem more built-in since they take up the whole wall and provide an integrated function.
Create nooks. Designer Michael Garvey flanked his bed with two freestanding, mirrored cabinets from IKEA. Adhering sconces to the sides of the cabinets made them seem even more like permanent architectural features. The mirrors also help obscure the space between the cabinets and the walls.
Use multiples of the same piece. Visual repetition will help separate pieces seem more cohesive. In this example, it also helps that some of the objects on top straddle multiple Billy Bookcases, visually connecting them, even though there are clear seams between them.
Paint them to match. As the IKEA Pax wardrobes in Jenny's bedroom show, furniture will look more integrated if it matches the walls. Cohesive, or at least complementary, colors will help free-standing pieces look like architectural features.
Go all the way to the ceiling (or all the way to the walls). Built-ins are "built-in" precisely because their measurements are custom to the space. The closer that you can get ready-made objects to the ceiling or to the walls (or both), the more they will seem like they were made for the space. Even if your bookcase stops several inches shy of the ceiling, don't feel shy about putting objects on top, which will give the illusion that it goes all the way up.
Get rid of seams. This tutorial from Mini Manor Blog explains how the owners made these 5 IKEA bookcases look like a single piece, simply by creating a new, unifying top. If you aren't handy enough for something like this, another way that you can visually minimize the seams is by hanging a mirror or art across them (as in the Better Homes and Gardens example preceding this one).