If your living room or family room looks more like an electronics display case than a relaxing area for family and friends to gather, you might want to consider planning a built-in entertainment center for your home. With a built-in entertainment center, you can have the best of both worlds- that huge screen TV and a well-integrated decor. Although a built-in entertainment center nearly always involves custom labor, the final price tag is often less expensive than you would think. This is especially true if you are able to incorporate your built-in entertainment center into a feature that already exists in your home.
No matter where you construct your entertainment center, make sure the shelves are study enough to hold whatever equipment you place upon them. Otherwise you risk having the shelves sag, or in a worst case scenario, giving way completely. Reinforcing your shelves or using solid wood or a similarly sturdy material will minimize the risk of overloading your entertainment unit
Closets and alcoves are natural choices for built-in entertainment centers. Placing the unit in these spaces minimizes the footprint required by the cabinet. You also have a large part of the infrastructure built in; you only need to measure the shelves and any cabinets and drawers you wish to add. However, you will need to ensure that there are no electrical wires or plumbing behind the walls that might get in the way.
You will also want to allow space to run electrical cords from your equipment to wall outlets. If you are putting the entertainment unit in a space without wall outlets, you will need to install them, or have an electrician do so. A vertical cable channel built into the back of the entertainment unit keeps electrical cords untangled and out of the way.
If you like, you can plan your entertainment center as a replacement wall, and build out the unit from floor to ceiling and from corner to corner or doorway. However, the upper part of the unit should be reserved for long-term storage and for items that are not too heavy, such as blankets. You can build bookshelves alongside the built-in entertainment center for a sleek, yet homey and comfortable look. A clever variation is to build out an A-frame entertainment center: simply anchor horizontal shelves onto the wall at an appropriate height for your equipment, and then brace the shelves with diagonal wood beams that are also anchored into the wall. This simple configuration is less expensive than cabinet-type entertainment centers, and does not require removing the baseboard along the floor
If your heart is set on a cabinet model entertainment center, purchasing a stock unit and adding custom shelving is one way of saving money while still obtaining the best possible configuration for your equipment. If you want the unit to be the focal point of the room, add splashes of color. Painting the entertainment unit in darker tones, or using darker wood stains will make the unit less conspicuous.