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Built-In Carpentry VS Loose Furniture: Is One Better Than The Other?

July 7, 2022

Exploring the pros and cons to help you make a decision.

When it comes to picking built-ins or loose furniture, you’d think that cost is the main consideration. But in truth, there’s more to it than that, with a bunch of other factors that are just as important.

Built-in vs Furniture
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Image credit: Noble Interior Design (left) and Livspace (right)

While the generic answer often depends on your preferences and lifestyle needs, there are certain scenarios where one option would be better than the other. So, we compared the two across different considerations to give you a clearer idea!

1. Cost

Jalan Ayer by Mr Designer Studio
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Often, the first and most important thing to consider is the cost. Generally speaking, built-ins tend to be pricier when compared to retail furniture pieces – which, if you think about it, makes sense, given the workmanship and materials that go into them.

Of course, there’ll always be exceptions – like standalone antique or designer furniture pieces that will clearly cost you a fortune. But since cases like this are few and far between, it’s safe to assume that loose furniture will be easier on your wallet.

Verdict: Loose furniture

2. Design and Aesthetics

SkyParc @ Dawson by The Local INN.terior 新家室
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The ‘best’ aesthetic for your home is entirely dependent on what you, the homeowner, like.

For instance, if you fancy a minimalist look with little to no clutter, built-ins are your best bet. Plus, as they’re tailored to your needs, you’ll get to customise everything, from the materials down to the fittings used.

Punggol Walk by Livspace
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But unless you’re liaising with a furniture specialist for custom furniture, you won’t have that same creative freedom with loose furniture. What they can offer, though, is the flexibility to experiment with different looks, by mixing and matching different pieces to your heart’s desire.

Verdict: It depends on what you prefer, but generally, built-ins are the better option for a sleek, uncluttered look.

3. Quality and Durability

The quality of your furniture pieces will vary depending on where you buy it from, and how much it is. Those sold from designer shops or furniture specialists will obviously be of a higher quality than those found in fast furniture chains, as they’re often handmade with better materials.

Senja Close by Groove Interior Design
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The same goes with built-ins. Workmanship quality varies across different IDs – which is actually a thing that many homeowners look out for when they’re hunting for an ID. Plus, carpentry works also come with warranty periods and (sometimes) maintenance and upkeep services for your convenience.

Verdict: A tie – but if warranty periods are your top concern, we’d suggest built-ins.

4. Functionality

The beauty of customised built-ins is the sheer number of things you can do with it.

Bukit Batok West by LOME Interior
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Want a study area but afraid that it’ll visually clutter your home? Create a walkway cabinet that can hold a workstation within. Have a dead corner in the kitchen that you don’t know what to do with? Install a pull-out drawer.

Also, this customisable feature doesn’t just give you the freedom to do what you want. It can also help you save space – which brings us to our next point.

Verdict: Built-ins

Explore: 10 Clever Custom Carpentry Ideas for HDB Flats and Condos

5. Space considerations

Generally, homes in Singapore – especially the newer BTO flats – tend to have the standard rectangular/squarish-shaped rooms. However, several of the older HDB flats tend to come with weirdly-shaped layouts – which is unique, sure, but is also a pain to design around.

Bishan Street 24 by DB Studio
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For that reason, it’s clear that built-ins are the way to go. Whether it’s a diagonal wall, circular nook, or slanted ceiling you’re dealing with, a built-in can be designed to perfectly fit into such areas and ensure a seamless look.

That’s not something you can do with loose furniture pieces, though – most of the time, whatever you buy will just end up jutting out awkwardly, thus marring your home’s otherwise-fresh new look.

Verdict: Built-ins

6. Lifestyle

The Raintree by Fuse Concept
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One of the biggest upsides to using loose furniture is the flexibility to change your home’s layout whenever you like. Bored of the layout and need a change? Just shift your things around until you find a layout you like. Need to make way for a crib? Simply shift your other furniture around.

Another benefit for loose furniture: it’s easy to bring them around – which may be a better option for those who see themselves moving to another home in the future.

Tai Keng Gardens by The Orange Cube
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On the other hand, if you plan to use your built-ins for 10 years or more, go for carpentered pieces instead. But do be sure of your future plans, as hacking your built-ins (in addition to the initial heavier carpentry costs) will not come cheap!

Verdict: It depends – use built-ins if you see yourself staying in the same home for a long time. Otherwise, loose furniture may be better – especially if you think you may move within the next few years, or want the flexibility of changing up your home décor every so often.

So, built-in carpentry vs loose furniture – which to use?

Choosing between built-ins and loose furniture will ultimately come down to a homeowner’s preferences and lifestyle needs, but if it were up to us, we’d say built-ins all the way.

While the cost may be steeper than that of loose furniture, you’ll get something that’s not only long-lasting, but also tailored precisely to what you need. It’s worth the investment, if you ask us!

  • Customisable
  • Comes with warranty periods
  • Multifunctional
  • Maximises every inch of the home
  • Can contribute to a sleek, uncluttered look
  • More affordable
  • Flexible; layout can be adjusted anytime
  • Can be moved around anytime
  • Large variety of designs
  • Pricey
  • Fixed position; can't be shifted once built
  • Dimensions and functions cannot be customised

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