Modular furniture is a lifesaver no matter if you live in a one-bedroom (that’s really a studio with wobbly plywood pretending to be a wall) or a sprawling estate with a pool house. Think of it as Build-A-Bear for furniture like sofas, bookshelves, and even bed frames.
As someone who’s had to carry (and pivot) a traditional couch up four flights of cramped stairs and sell a too-big bed frame that wouldn’t fit into her next space, modular furniture is a million times easier to assemble, disassemble, and transport. It’s also something that grows with your space. You can pick up a cozy loveseat now and then add another seat later, or get a media console for your TV now and then tack on a coordinating bookshelf for your souvenirs later.
Here are our favorite modular furniture brands, along with some pieces we’ve got our eyes on:
Burrow’s signature modular couches are perfect for apartment-dwellers and homeowners alike. Choose from a handful of modern yet timeless styles and materials (think tough full-grain leather, plush yet easy-to-clean velvet, and stain-resistant fabric), and you’ve got comfy seating no matter your space or decor. Market editor Jada Wong has the Slope Nomad Leather Sofa in Slate and has recommended it to no less than seven people.
Burrow also has credenzas and coffee tables (though they’re not modular) and customizable bookshelves so you can create a little vignette for your favorite reads or arrange a few together to cover an entire wall.
What to buy: The Slope Nomad Leather Sofa is timeless and durable—Wong’s full-grain leather sofa has lasted more than two and a half years of daily use—and the occasional sugar-high child and dog–without a scratch to be seen.
From couches to closets, Wayfair has a ton of modular furniture that would look at home no matter your space. Due to the site’s ever-changing roster of products, you might not be able to expand your collection as seamlessly in a few years when your needs change, but you will have more brands and prices to choose from, giving you flexibility in terms of style and budget.
What to buy: Try building a closet system with ClosetMaid, a popular brand that’s also sold on The Home Depot and Walmart in case Wayfair’s ever out of stock. Grab a shelf with a hanging rod to maximize a small hallway closet or create your own system with a multi-piece starter kit.
One of the OGs of modular shelves, The Container Store’s custom systems can grow with your space and work in your closet, pantry, entry, and more. There’s nothing more soothing to the soul than a coordinating set of shelves—even if what’s on them is a little… all over the place. Our market editor has a handful of mesh drawers and organizers that she uses to corral her beauty products and repurposes them for her pantry when that gets out of hand.
What to buy: If you’re short on space, a few simple Elfa drawers might be all you need until you decide to invest in a something more substantial be it a pegboard with removable shelves or a custom system.
Dress up a small patio or large deck with modular outdoor furniture from Yardbird. Depending on your space and needs, you can grab a solo lounge chair, add a little side table—or get a large set. Each piece is also made from ocean plastic and when you need to get rid of your Yardbird furniture (which you won’t for years), the company will take it back and help recycle or upcycle it.
What to buy: The Winnie Outdoor Teak Furniture Collection is timeless and small-space-friendly—the slim teak profile is less overwhelming than chunky wicker and equally as comfortable.
Floyd was born in a humble auto garage with a lofty goal “to change the way people buy, consume, keep, and enjoy furniture.” To that end, the Detroit-based company has released modern, millennial-friendly sofas, tables, shelving systems, and other products with transformation in its DNA.
What to buy: Our favorite piece is the modular platform bed, a plywood beauty reminiscent of Modernica’s Case Study bed but designed to morph along with your needs. You can add or remove panels to change between a Twin, Full/Queen, or King mattress. Brilliant!
For chic storage, check out Crate & Barrel. Pieces are pricey but investment-worthy and there are different styles to fit any decor. You can mix and match just the pieces you need as opposed to buying a pre-made set, though the sets are slightly discounted. Our market editor saved $400 with the Knox Media Console with 2 Tall Storage Bookcases set instead of purchasing them separately, and plans to swap the console table for the coordinating writing desk for a real WFH set-up.
What to buy: The Knox Writing Desk is a great foundation for a home office, entryway, or even as part of an entertainment set-up. At $799, it’s not chump change for a desk but it’s made of solid walnut and iron so it’ll last many moves and stairs.
You can’t talk about modular furniture without mentioning IKEA. The Swedish superstore has a ton of pieces like furniture both indoor and outdoor, bookcases, shelves, and more that you can customize to fit your space. Just remember to pick up some basic tools and screws since IKEA is also synonymous with DIY.
What to buy: The Billy is a great foundational piece and there are so many hacks to truly transform the humble bookcase. You can use the slim unit as a standalone shelf or fake a custom built-in and get tons of storage at the same time. It comes in three neutral colors that’d fit any room decor, but it’s also super easy to paint or cover with some contact paper.
In 2019, Parsons professor Jennifer June launched Loose Parts with a collection of DIY furniture kits with a universal assembly system of regional hardwood rails, pre-drilled holes, stainless-steel fasteners, and aluminum panels. Since then, the brand has pivoted to modular pieces like bookcases, shelves, and tables that you can customize by stacking a second unit or adjusting shelf heights. The endlessly flexible pieces are ideal for DIY types. There’s also “something empowering about building your own furniture, designing it to fit how you actually use your space rather than how it’s sold to you,” says June. And in these uncertain times, “expressing a creative impulse feels necessary,” she adds.
What to buy: The Optimo Shelving system is industrial and super customizable—choose between different heights and materials, adjust the shelf heights, and even stack them side-by-side.