Are Built-In Cabinets Space-Wasters?

I've been producing some in-depth videos on built-ins. Check it out if you haven't yet.

Anyway, the video series has provoked an important question:

“By creating additional wall features or thickening existing walls in order to create beautiful nooks for built-ins, aren't we wasting a lot of space inside the walls?” (Talking about voids in the wall that were once part of the living space and are — for aesthetic or practical reasons — not able to be captured by the built-in cabinet. So, effectively, that space is lost to the homeowner.)

My first answer is to say that a clever designer will waste only a negligible volume of your house inside those wall cavities.

My second answer is much more intriguing…

Home much of the actual volume of your home do you really use? I'm guessing that if you stored “stuff” in more than about 5% of the volume of your home, it would begin to look waaaay overcrowded and trashy. People would start calling you a packrat.

In giving up a modest volume of your living space to thicken a wall for built ins, you are paving the way for a feature that is both beautiful and…

pure storage!

How can you beat that?

So, no, I don't think built-ins are inefficient. On the contrary, a home with copious built-in storage in every wall would be a lovely and storage-effective place to live.