Our New Custom-Built DIY Entertainment Center

DIY Entertainment Center

DIY Entertainment Center

Entertainment centers aren’t cheap. And in most cases, they aren’t exactly what you want either. They’re either too big or too small, the wrong color, wrong style, or they just don’t fit your TV exactly right. Oh and did I mention, they aren’t cheap? About two years ago we were visiting my brother in Utah and he had this super-nice entertainment center, but he didn’t buy it, his wife built it from scratch. That’s what started the idea brewing in my head. We needed an entertainment center, and one like the one she built would be perfect. I asked her a bunch of questions, and she basically explained exactly how she made it. I checked it out inside and out to see how she made each piece and then started making a plan of my own.

The style we were shooting for is commonly referred to as French Country. It’s a simple style with clean lines, bead board paneling, and has sort of an antique look with its off-white color. The design is made of 3 pieces – a center console for the TV and stereo and then two bookcases that sit on either side. This is also pretty typical of what you find in most stores and catalogs. It’s more of a wall console than just an entertainment center, mainly because of the bookcases which add room for plants, pictures, books, and other non-entertainment related items. That and it takes up pretty much the entire wall. With a design in place, I made a cut sheet plan, to see just how much wood and materials I would need. Here’s the list of items below.

Materials Needed

(5) 4′ x 8′ sheets of 3/4″ MDF
(2) 4′ x 8′ sheets of 3/8″ bead board
(10) 1″ x 3″ Pine by 8′
(2) 1″ x 2″ Pine by 8′
(1) box of 2″ drywall screws
(1) box of 1-3/8″ drywall screws
(1) 16 oz. bottle Titebond wood glue
(1) tube Liquid Nails
(1) gallon Behr paint Linen White in satin finish
(1) satin quart polycrylic
(2) 8′ pieces of rounded base board 2-1/4″ tall (for doors)
(1) 8′ pieces of base board 2-1/4″ tall
(1) 5′ piece of base board 2-1/4″ tall
(1) 8′ piece of crown molding 3-1/4″
(2) 5′ pieces of crown molding 3-1/4″
(2) 1/4″ hardwood MDF panel 2′ x 4′ (for the doors)
Hinges and knobs

This is a basic list of tools I used for this job:

Cordless Drill
Various drill bits (1/8″ – 3/8″)
Countersink bit (or 3/8″ drill bit)
Phillips bit for drill
Circular Saw or table saw with ripping blade
Electric palm/orbital sander
Router and bits
150 grit and 220 grit sand paper
2″ and 4″ Paint brushes
(4) 1/4″ nap paint rollers
4″ foam brush

I followed the cut sheet I had drawn up (with some small changes made on the fly, so if you’re attempting to copy the plans, please make sure you adjust the dimensions accordingly. I apologize this cut sheet was used more as a general starting point for determining how many sheets of MDF I needed and which cuts could be made out of each and not as a direct guide for cutting each piece) and made all the cuts for the sides, tops, bottoms and shelves for the center console and bookcases. With all the pieces cut, I assembled the bookcases by measuring out where each shelf was to go and then screwing each shelf into place on just one side of the bookcase. Then I went through and glued and screwed on the other side. What I had at this point was just a simple 4-sided box with a bunch of shelves evenly spaced tying the sides together. The bottom shelf is mounted 4″ from the bottom, so the actual underside that sits against the floor is mostly open.

The next thing that went was the bead board. This is just measured and cut to fit on the back of the book case. This part is key to making the book case strong and sturdy. Without the bead board backing, the whole book case would most likely break and fall apart the first time you tried to move it. The bead board is just screwed on the back so that it can be removed later if needed (like when I add my sub).

The 1×3 pine is the facing which covers the front of all the MDF pieces and makes for a clean, finished look. It’s basically a frame that is glued and nailed onto the front of each bookcase. I routered the interior and exterior edges just to take off the harsh, sharp edge, and then hand sanded down the rest. The facing frame is cut about 1/4″ wider than the bookshelf itself, which leaves about 1/8″ left that hangs over the outside edges on either side.

I added the crown molding for the top and base board for the bottom to finish off the look and hide all the edges for a nice, clean, finished look. The bookcases sit back 3″ from the center console and the base board makes one, nearly-seamless line around the entire bottom of each piece. I added four 20W under-cabinet halogen lights from Home Depot and put them on a 3-way touch dimmer. They add just enough light to the top portion of each cabinet and really look quite nice. The lowest dimmer setting can be left on while watching movies. I cut two 8-foot pieces of baseboard into frames for the doors to cover the equipment under the TV and glued it to a 1/4″ piece of MDF hardboard. I installed them with 4 self-closing hinges and finished them off with a pair of matching black knobs. With the equipment hidden from view, the whole entertainment center does a very nice job of framing the TV, stereo and speakers without making it seem like the focal point. Then my wife has been going through and adding decorative elements to each shelf to give it that nice, homey feeling. It’s got a few more nicknacks to go.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I didn’t take near as many pictures as I should have. But the whole time I was building this thing, I kept looking at it and thinking, this thing is never going to work and it just looks like a bunch of wood slapped together! But in the end, I am really happy with how it turned out (not to mention it looks a million time better than what we had before – see the pictures below). I’m sure the way I built it isn’t the way a real furniture builder would do it, but given the tools I had and my limited knowledge of furniture building, I don’t think it turned out half bad. And I can definitely recommend to anyone thinking of getting an big entertainment center/wall console like this, if you even have just an ounce of carpentry in your blood, then you should think about building one yourself. More than anything I just love sitting down to watch a TV show or movie, and know that I built that huge ‘ole thing. Though I certainly wouldn’t want to do it again any time soon.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, in order to get the stereo/DVR/DVD to work with the doors closed, I bought a Xantech 291-KIT/RP Hidden Link IR Kit which works awesome. It sits on top of the center channel and feeds all the IR to each component hidden below. Never again will the doors need to be open all the time to be able to fast forward through all the commercials of my favorite show.

UPDATE: Check out the sweet subwoofer that fits perfectly into the bookcase.

About Dan

For a complete biography, stop by www.danmarx.org and click around for a while.
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24 Responses to Our New Custom-Built DIY Entertainment Center

  1. Wade Decker says:

    That looks awesome! I just want to know how much it ended up costing you and how many hours you spent building it.

  2. Dan says:

    Thanks Wade! I think the total cost was just under $450. I didn’t tally it all up. It took me two Saturdays to build the thing and then 4 weeknights to paint it. Plus another few hours to do the doors on the front and paint those, which I did a week later. It’s a big project, no doubt about it. I probably spent 30 hours total.

  3. Desiree says:

    Wow. This is absolutely amazing and beautiful! Exactly what I had in mind to build myself! Thank you so much for supplying all of the information. Ironically though I found this through a search looking for an example of a hideous old entertainment center I just bought today that I’m planning to revamp. Have you build any other pieces of furniture since this one?

  4. Dan says:

    Thanks Desiree! I haven’t built anything since this, though I have plans to build a large wall console/toy box/storage unit/bench thing for the kids play room sometime in the near future. Thanks for your comments and good luck with revamping your “hideous” entertainment center. =)

  5. Scott says:

    Hi there,

    Where did you use the liquid nails?

    Thank you.

  6. Shaun says:

    Fantastic craftsmanship! Thanks for uploading the materials and plans, my wife really loves the look of this entertainment center. We have been looking for something to put in our living room to fit our DLP HD tv. The only thing I don’t see is the dimensions and materials for the cabinet doors. Could you please let me know how they were built. Thanks for your help and the great design.

  7. Dan says:

    Thanks Shaun! The doors are just slightly larger than the opening. They are 24.5 x 21.75 inches. They are made from a simple baseboard molding and a sheet of 1/4″ MDF paneling. The pieces are just glued together and clamped and allowed to dry. I cut the molding pieces on a 45 and made a basic frame, then put the MDF on the back.

    I think I changed some of the dimensions as I was making this , so they differ from the plans. I wouldn’t cut anything straight off my sheet without checking. IT was just a plan to see how many sheets of MDF I’d need. So make sure all the dimensions are what you want to fit your TV. Have fun, and good luck with it, I hope it turns out great.

  8. Dawn says:

    Dan- Did you ever complete the project for the kids playroom. If so I would love to see a picture. My husband and I have plans to do the same thing for our daughters playroom. Thanks!

  9. angie b says:

    thanks so much! i’m working from your plans…the only thing is my flat screen is on the wall, so i’m working around that. Great great great instructions.
    i just started woodworking, got a kreg for my bday, after i found this site, knockoffwood.com. anna white, there are sooo many projects on there ko pottery barn stuff. ]
    thanks again, angie b, southern ca

  10. haj says:

    Hi,

    I think this is amazing what you’ve created. I have an nook in my living room for an entertainment center and I’d like to have something custom built to fit within that nook. Any chance I can hire you as a private contractor? Gosh, I don’t even know where you’re located. I’m in CA btw. Please email me directly.

    Thanks and once again, you’ve done a fantastic job!

  11. Cor says:

    I have a full shop, everything from a cabinet saw to top of the line finish equipment. I build units like Dan has described in my Custom shop for many years, I average about 65 to 120 man hours to build from scratch to finish. Don’t kid your self, have it made by a CABINET MAKER.

  12. Rick says:

    My wife and I had a couple cabinet makers quote us on 2 built-ins similar to the center unit and we choked at the prices. I took the plans, made one roughly the same as the center and another the same size but all shelves.

    The big box lumber stores cut plywood for next to nothing, I took the cut list along and had all the uprights and shelves cut at the store. Not moving full sheets of plywood is huge.

    I did all the work with a ryobi table saw, chop saw, sander and drill/driver. I also have a pneumatic finish nailer that made it much easier. I agree with Cor above, I have a HUGE amount of hours in the project but most of the $3500 is still in my pocket and I’ve been asked if I hired someone to install them.

    Thanks for posting your work, it was the push I needed start a couple large DIY projects.

  13. Nicole says:

    WOW… I love it . It’s amazing and beautiful all at the same time… Great job. I love all the dealt..

  14. Lisa says:

    AWESOME!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. Frances Granger says:

    I want to duplicate. Your entertainment center is great! Can you tell me the overall dimensions of the finished product?

  16. Adam says:

    This is great. I will likely give a modified version of this a try. How are the three pieces held together? I’d like to keep them separate long enough to be able to move them from the garage to the house a piece at a time and do final assembly inside.

  17. Allen says:

    Thanks for the cut sheet and all the design work for this, it’s amazing! Would you mind sharing the dimensions of your TV?

  18. Ken says:

    I have been so frustrated looking for entertainment centers. Too fancy looking or too cheap looking. your design is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thanks for the time spent on all the details.

  19. Suzee says:

    Thank you, thank you! I think I’ve been to every DIY website looking for detailed plans for an entertainment center, but couldn’t find quite what I wanted or the instructions were terrible or no pictures of work in progress. I’m going to build this in my new sunroom & it’ll look amazing. Thanks for putting so much time into your post, with pics & details, I really appreciate it!

  20. jan says:

    I ditto what people have been saying – exactly what I want. Can anyone tell me approx how much this would cost to build. I know it would depend on dimentions, but this looks pretty average. Would really apprciate a ball park figure.

  21. So much detail ! This is such a great post. Thank you for all the specs and images . The unit looks fantastic.

  22. marcus smith says:

    Great job!!!! but how did you do the doors?

  23. Carlos Soto says:

    Love what you did on this project! I plan to take your design as is, but add two additional side units, a bit recessed. Hope it will not be over kill. Thanks for your posting and I will keep an eye out to see what other clever ideas you come with.

  24. Terri says:

    LOVE it! I plan to use this for a built-in when we remodel our bedroom!

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