How to Get The Beauty of Built-In Storage on a Renter’s Budget

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: VT Wonen)

Beautiful custom built-ins are unicorns for renters: more myth than fact. If you want to up your storage game, without spending a lot of money, try making freestanding units look like they were born where they currently sit. It’s not hard to pull off, with these simple tricks and ideas.

Paint the Same Color as the Walls

(Image credit: Alvhem)

Because they are painted the same color as the walls, the shelves above from Alvhem look more permanent and cohesive versus tacked on after the fact. Although they do require screws, the whole system is extremely easy to make, and very do-able for a renter to install, then take out, when you move. VT Wonen shares how to make this simple shelving system (lead image above).

Cover the Seams with Trim

(Image credit: Lonny)

Sunset Magazine’s Irene Edwards started with IKEA BILLY bookcases, added a facade with inexpensive trim, then painted the front sections a very dark grey. They are a showpiece in her living room makeover, seen on Lonny.

(Image credit: Submitted by Ariel )

As a military spouse, PMQ For Two knows a few things about rental apartments. In her most recent home, she created a wall of bookshelves for storage and decoration. None of the millwork is actually affixed to the walls —it’s all nailed, glued and screwed to the bookshelves, which are themselves mounted to the wall using the manufacturer’s device. Articulated wall sconces complete the look and add function.

Fit An Existing Space Perfectly

(Image credit: Alvhem)

This hallway reading nook from Alvhem is a great example of how inexpensive IKEA storage units can appear built-in. Here the upper units were surrounded by trim for a sleek finish, and the lower ones topped by a throw and cushions for a modern-yet-warm feel.

(Image credit: Jenna Sue Designs)

Similarly, Jenna Sue remade her master bedroom with his and hers freestanding wardrobes, which are each wedged in perfectly on each side of the room. The custom DIY door fronts make them look even more built-in.

Unify Multiples with One Single Top

(Image credit: Room for Tuesday)

Room for Tuesday combined two upper kitchen cabinets from IKEA to form a padded bench. Place a couple of these units in a kitchen corner and you’ll have some beautiful “built-in” banquette seating (and storage!) until you’re ready to move.

(Image credit: Pretty Nice)

You can see this idea in action over on Pretty Nice, where Lisa just used some basic plywood boxes in a nook, which look polished but aren’t permanent.