Putting Away Your Media Toys
Here's how to make your TV and sound system blend with the rest of your home.
ELECTRONIC HEARTH (above and right). This TV/VCR center becomes part of the living room decor when it's not in use. Designer Kim Roscoe took advantage of both the empty wall space over the gas fireplace (there is no heat buildup from the rear-vent model) and the closet behind it when fitting the 36-in. television into the cavity. The rear of the cabinet is fitted with cable and power outlets.
Not so long ago, the trend with home media equipment was to put every high-tech component on display. The more the family room resembled the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, with screens and speakers and electronic boxes splashed across the wall, the better.
But times have changed. It isn't just techno-junkies who buy high-end audiovisual systems. Equipment prices have dropped, and many families now own more than one television, VCR or DVD player, and sound system. Most of us don't want all those blinking boxes in full view, especially when they are not in use. And with the popularity of open floor plans, many of us are looking for ways to unclutter our homes, not add to the jumble by having an entertainment system out in the open.
We have some ideas that will help. Whether you're shopping for a ready-made system or making notes on building a custom unit, keep these items in mind.
The first step is to find the ideal location for the media center. "Too often people treat finding the right spot for entertainment centers as an afterthought," says Doug Austin, manager of advanced design for Merillat Industries, a cabinet manufacturer in Adrian, Michigan. Obviously, you'll want to place the cabinetry in the room where you spend the most time and where you will be comfortable.
The media center itself should be placed where glare won't interfere with daytime viewing. Sometimes window blinds are the best solution to that problem. An alternative is to experiment with a corner location.
The free-form cutouts in the doors of this artistic armoire have been lined with audio-speaker fabric. The speakers inside can be heard but not seen.
Diagonal installations take up more floor space than units that sit straight along a wall, but because their bulk is tucked into a corner they don't appear to be so massive and imposing. Another advantage of corner cabinets is that the sightlines are good from anywhere in the room. If sightlines are a problem and you can't place the unit in a corner, mount the television on a swiveling platform. One way to double-check possible locations is by tacking up sheets of butcher paper that you've trimmed to the size and shape of the TV and its cabinet. Make sure the viewing angle is comfortable and unobstructed.
Unusual locations. You are not limited to the ready-made entertainment centers offered by furniture companies. Using kitchen cabinets offers lots of flexibility, with their varied sizes, door options and adjustable shelves.
"Drawer units give you excellent visual access to discs and tapes," notes Austin. "They are better for organizing small items than cabinets." To lighten the look of the center, he suggests positioning shallow wall cabinets on either side of the television and using glass fronts or open shelves.
Know the dimensions of your equipment to make sure it fits into its designated place, and don't forget to figure in control knobs and wire and cable connections that stick out. Beyond these measurements, make allowances for ventilation and service access. Bob Gatton, home theater manager for Philips Consumer Electronics, says, "All TVs produce heat. If you're going to recess a television into a wall, it will need to be vented somewhere--into another room, or maybe into a closet that backs up to the enclosure."
When it comes to wire management, Gatton points out that audio and video manufacturers are increasingly combining multiple functions into one box, reducing the traditional tangle of wires. As far as coping with older systems is concerned, he recommends buying short
(1/2-meter-long) cables rather than longer lengths. He also emphasizes the importance of having a game plan, saying: "Work on just one component at a time to avoid cross-connections. Drawing up even a simple wiring diagram before you start will help a lot."
Finally, think about the future. Will you be getting any additional equipment, like a DVD player? Are you going to swap your mega-speakers for miniaturized ones? Buy a bigger TV? Will the video-game cartridges be banished to the kids' rooms? Or will you simply be adding to your CD collection?
Anticipating changes like these when planning your entertainment center will help fend off the return of the Mission Control look.
ON A ROLL. Borrowed from the kitchen, pullout trays in cabinets make CDs easy to access. Shallow drawers with full-extension glides work well, too.
Where to Find It:
Auton Motorized Systems,
Valencia, CA 91380;
1007 Grand Blvd.,
Deer Park, NY 11729;
15535 S. State Ave.,
Middlefield, OH 44062;
Lee Valley Tools,
Ogdensburg, NY 13669-6780;
Adrian, MI 49221;
1506 Interstate 35W,
Denton, TX 76207-2402;
Sliding shelves and rack mounts.
NCT Audio Products,
Flat wall-mount speakers and decorative grilles.
502 W. Spruce,
Dept. TH1200, Missoula,
Philips Consumer Electronics,
64 Perimeter Center E,
Atlanta, GA 30346;
Kim Roscoe, Spaces,
31 Harvest Ct.,
Cheshire, CT 06410;