20 Built-In Ideas to Make Your Living Room Beautiful and Functional

living room built ins

Reena Sotropa

The living room is where you spend the bulk of your time with friends, family, and even alone with a good book or Netflix binge, so it's important it boasts both form and function. If there's one addition that adds drama and visual interest, plus storage and hidden organization, it's a custom built-in.

Ahead are 20 examples of living room built-ins that prove you really can have it all.

01 of 20

Give It Old-World Charm

living room built-ins

Whittney Parkinson Design

While stonework is often requested of exterior designers, it can actually bring an old-world charm inside your home as well. We love how these living room built-ins look framed in a light, warm stone. This simple addition adds tons of charm to any modern setup.

02 of 20

Light It Up

Living Room Built-Ins

Whittney Parkinson Design

When designing your built-ins, it's the tiniest details that separate a nice build from a spectacular one. Installing a simple gallery light above can make an IKEA bookshelf look expensive.

And the best part? You can find battery-operated options that take the guesswork out of installation.

03 of 20

Blend Them In

living room built ins

Whittney Parkinson Design

If you're looking to make your mantel the focal point of your living room, a bold shade of paint is just the way to do it. And why stop with just the mantel? Instead, extend the same shade through your built-ins for a custom look.

04 of 20

Bring Contrast

Living Room Builtins

Rikki Snyder

While we like the idea of blending in a living-room built-in, making it stand out with a high-contrast paint job looks like a million bucks too. We love how this chalky blue shade pops off the white walls and neutral accents.

05 of 20

Add Subtle Dimension

living room builtins

White Sands Design/Build

A subtly contrasted paint job looks sophisticated without feeling boring. This ecru and white color scheme adds tons of dimension (even more than your recessed built-ins boast on their own), while still looking bright and airy.

06 of 20

Break Out the Wallpaper

living room built ins

White Sands Design/Build

Although paint is top of mind when styling living room built-ins, a roll of wallpaper takes any design up another notch. Use a patterned or textured wallpaper on the backs of your shelving units to add tons of personality and design interest.

07 of 20

Combine Shelves And Cabinets

Living Room Builtins

White Sands Design/Build

Living room built-ins either feature open shelving, cabinets and drawers, or, like in this case, a combination of all three. We love the idea of shelves on top and drawers and cabinets below because it gives you space to display your favorite design elements and hide away clutter you can't seem to part with.

08 of 20

Play With Pastel

living room built ins

Rikki Snyder

Think of your built-in paint color as the first hue on your blank canvas. Rows of shelves will act as the backdrop for your favorite books and collectibles, so choose the color accordingly. We love how this pastel green unit makes the neutrals in this room pop.

09 of 20

Don't Make Them the Focal Point

living room built ins

Rikki Snyder

Whether you're working with an existing built-in or you're adding one solely for storage, don't feel pressured to make it the focal point. The painting in this room takes center stage while the built-in on the left acts as a supporting character. It works just fine—and looks so cool.

10 of 20

Keep It Curated

living room built ins

Reena Sotropa

Once you've gotten through the painstaking building, the fun part comes: curating the shelves on your built-in. Dress them with framed art, photographs, fashion books, plants, and textured knick-knacks.

Some overhead spotlights ensure your careful curating doesn't go unnoticed.

11 of 20

Make It Glam

living room builtins

Reena Sotropa

The idea of adding a custom built-in to your living room just sounds expensive. However, with a little improvisation, careful configuration of even the most affordable Ikea shelves can look glam. Look for wood tones and dress them up with luxe additions throughout the room.

12 of 20

Play With Proportion

living room built ins

Reena Sotropa

If you're working with low-vaulted ceilings or windows overhead, you can still enjoy the visual and practical benefits of a living-room built-in. This space is proof you can call the contractor, even if your space is vertically challenged.

13 of 20

Make It Monochromatic

living room built ins

Reena Sotropa

Never underestimate the power a single color can have. This stunning living room utilizes the same shade of deep teal on the walls, built-ins, and ceilings to create a seriously show-stopping look.

14 of 20

Consider Your Needs

living room built ins

Tyler Karu Design

If you're building a unit from scratch, be sure to consider your needs as you design the display-to-storage ratio. If you have a big collection of items to display, use shelves and cubes to show them off. On the other hand, if you're looking to hide more unsightly items, like board games, seasonal décor, or arts and crafts supplies, tuck them away behind cabinet doors and pull-out drawers.

15 of 20

Don't Be Afraid to Get Moody

living room built ins

Tina Ramchandani

A common misconception is that black paint makes a room appear smaller. The truth is, it can actually open up a space and boasts glamorous undertones. This black built-in is proof.

16 of 20

Create a Grid

living room built ins

Tara Kantor Interiors

If you value symmetry, this grid-like built-in design looks clean and beautiful. This is about as close to an art gallery as your living room can get.

17 of 20

Make It Minimal

living room built ins

Sire Design

Just because it's a built-in doesn't mean you need to add rows of shelves and cubes and cabinets and drawers. Sometimes a minimal setup, like this clean cabinet look, is all your living room needs.

18 of 20

Add On to an Alcove

living room built ins

Pure Salt Interiors

If your home comes complete with empty alcoves—extra points if they boast arched tops like these—don't let that empty space go to waste. Add some floating shelves in the empty area to create a custom built-in with minimal effort.

19 of 20

Build Vertically

living room built ins

Pure Salt Interiors

If you have higher ceilings, take advantage of the vertical space and create a built-in that climbs all the way up your walls. We love how this space incorporated a sliding ladder as a point of access for those hard-to-reach areas.

20 of 20

Frame Your TV

living room built ins

Pure Salt Interiors

Generic entertainment centers do a great job at framing your TV, but if you want something that fits your space as well as your electronics, a custom built-in is the way to go. You can still use your TV as the anchor, but at least the rest of your area will be filled in nicely.

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