Our New Custom-Built 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.
(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 panel 2′ x 4′
Hinges and knobs
This is a basic list of tools I used for this job:
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 measure twice and cut once. This cut sheet was used as a general starting point for determining how many sheets of MDF I needed and which cuts could be made out of each. So just be aware of that) 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 is cut about 1/4″ wider than the bookshelf itself, which leaves about 1/8″ left that hangs over the outside edges.
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 antique look and feel. 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, and makes the 3LCD HDTV appear to have just a little bit more contrast and some better-looking black detail. 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.