How to Build a Custom built-in Entertainment Center

Ready to take on building an entertainment center for your family room? It’s not as difficult as you might think. In fact, the skills you’ll gain from this plan will carry you through some amazing custom DIY projects for your home. Consider them, the building blocks of DIY!

So if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, this is a great way to create your own custom DIY entertainment center for a fraction of what the professionals charge.

And not to toot my horn, okay, maybe I will. But I receive regular messages and e-mails on how glad my readers are that they found this design and took this project on themselves. 

Read on to find out how we designed and created this piece in just a week!

DIY Built-in Media Center

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How much does it cost to build a wall entertainment center?

We created this built-in over 3 years ago, and it’s held up amazing. For first-timers, the quality is pretty incredible if I do say so myself. In fact, I had the to option to peek at our neighbor’s media center being built by a professional contractor and I was less than impressed in how it turned out. 

We took the extra time to construct ours in a way that looked truly like a piece of furniture. So you won’t see any visible support pieces or cleats going this route, which I highly recommend.

Initially, we did reach out to a professional contractor to get a bid on this custom media built-in. I was expecting it to be on the expensive side, but my jaw dropped at the $5,500 price tag. And thanks to inflation, that price is easily doubled today. 

No way could I justify spending that much on piece of furniture. Especially when we still had so many repairs and upgrades to make in our home. So we put it off for about 2 years until we were more confident in our (errr, my hubby’s) DIY abilities. 

Although I do take full credit for the design plan. Our new custom entertainment center came in at a total cost of around $1,100.

That’s including all building materials, finishing details and paint. Not too shabby compared to the original contractor’s estimate of $5,500 right? It definitely pays to DIY.

Keep in mind with fluctuating lumber costs and availability of products, this price is likely a tad higher today than it was three years ago.

DIY built in entertainment center plans

This was the initial direction we wanted to go in for our entertainment center design. And I’m actually really glad we waited to go through with it. 

DIY Built-in Media Center

I completely changed up the design after getting tired of the all shiplap trend. Don’t hate me, I still love Joanna Gaines, I just don’t want my home to feel like everyone else’s. 

Plus this new design is a bit more modern and clean looking. Which is what I’m really into right now. 

Our main wall in our living room is fairly large and tall so I wanted to make sure the size of our built-in was proportionate to the wall. And boy is it! At over 8 feet tall and around 11 feet wide, this thing is massive.

DIY Built-in Media Center

I highly recommend using painters tape on your walls and floors to visualize the size and layout of the media center in relation to your room. 

Even the most beautiful built-in will look off if the scale isn’t in proportion to your walls. So keep this in mind and adjust the sizing of your shelves and cabinets accordingly for your build. 

One of the biggest decisions of this DIY entertainment center was how to create the built-in media cabinets for the lower portion. And an easy way is to use pre-made wall cabinets from Lowe’s or Home Depot. Which I linked below in the materials list.

We went this route before, with our DIY bathroom stacked countertop cabinets and it looks custom!

Why wall cabinets? Because they’re half the depth of traditional base cabinets, and I wanted a more shallow layout against the wall.

Also, using pre-made cabinets meant one less thing to actually build for this project. 

You can see how we used these same type cabinets in our bathroom vanity makeover here.

How do you build a built in entertainment center?

Oh how I wish I had recorded this entire build from start to finish, but alas, this was a learning project so I’ll do my best to map out exactly how we constructed it for you.

Materials Used for the DIY Built-in Media Center

Tools Used for the DIY Entertainment Center Wall

Step 1 – Create the base & Attach wall cabinets

The base was constructed using 2″x6″ boards because I wanted the cabinet bases to be raised 6 inches off the ground. We also have very tall baseboards and I wanted to carry them around the walls and the built-in seamlessly.

Again, this is one of those personal preferences, so you can always opt to construct your support base out of 2x4s.

Each cabinet platform was constructed separately, and then attached together before being anchored to the studs in the wall. 

Here’s a rough top-down view of what that support base looks like sitting on the floor.

DIY Built-in Media Center
Top View of Cabinet Platform

After the platform was installed it was topped with three sections of 3/4″ plywood that were attached to the base so that you can sit the cabinets on top.

While this step isn’t necessary, I think we were being extra cautious in supporting the weight of this massive build.

DIY Built-in Media Center
Cabinets secured to wall and platform base

If I were to do this again, I would skip the plywood top and simply add in some extra 2×4 supports for the middle cabinets that are bumped out from the wall. 

Finally you’ll want to set the cabinets on the platform base and secure to wall studs with 3 inch wood screws once you’ve made sure they’re level. 

*A note about securing the cabinets to the wall…

Because I chose to have the middle cabinet bump out a few inches, we couldn’t secure those cabinets directly to the wall. 

Instead, we used 2×4 boards to act as a spacer between the wall and cabinets and attached the cabinets directly to those boards once they were anchored to the wall studs.

We did this exact same method when we bumped out our kitchen stove top cabinets.

STEP 2 – Attach tops to the wall cabinets

Next, you’ll want to create 3 separate tops to attach on top of your cabinets to serve as the base for your built-in bookshelves (the top structures). 

For all of these visible areas, we used a high quality 3/4″ sanded plywood so that we could achieve a flawless paint finish.

The boards were cut down to the exact size of the cabinet top so that they sit flush with the sides and face of each cabinet.

Pilot Holes were drilled into each corner of the top panels and then secured down to the top of the cabinet with wood screws. 

DIY Built-in Media Center

Most of these screws will not be visible once you attach the bookshelf units and those that are visible can easily be filled.

STEP 3 – Construct Upper Shelf Towers

The next step is to construct your shelf towers individually. To do this you’ll need to decide on the height of your towers first. You’ll cut down 4 identical panels for the sides of the outside towers using 3/4″ sanded plywood. And repeat this for the middle section.

The length will be dependent on whatever height you select, but the depth of these panels will be 1 inch shorter than the depth of your cabinet that it will be sitting on. 

Then you’ll want to drill six pocket holes in the bottom of each panel. 2 on the sides and 2 in the back. Set these pieces aside for now.

Next, you’ll cut down your individual shelves using 3/4″ sanded plywood. The depth of these shelves will be the same as the depth of your side panels that you just cut. And the width will equal your Cabinet width minus the width of your two side panels that it will attach inside of.

Trust me when I say, the math and measuring is the hardest part. Measure twice, cut once, and whenever in doubt, dry fit your pieces together before assembling them.

Spacing of your shelves is entirely up to you, but I chose equal distance between them all. 

*Before you attach anything, be sure to scroll down to the photo below to see how I left a small gap at the top of each tower. This was intentional for a couple of reasons.

1) I wanted to add decorative trim and molding later.

2) We attached a hidden cleat to the top of each tower to secure them to the wall.

DIY Built-in Media Center

To attach the shelves to your side panels you’ll want to use a kreg pocket hole drill to drill 6 holes (2 in the sides and 2 in the back) of each shelf.

I recommend applying a small bead of wood glue around the edges of your shelves before then attaching them with pocket hole screws to your side panels.

Finally, the back panel of these towers will be attached using the 1/4″ mdf sheet panel. You’ll screw this in along the sides top and bottom using your wood screws.

While this helps to keep the shelves stabilized, it’s also great for creating a smooth paintable surface.

The only difference in constructing the center tower unit was the overall width and only needing to cut 2 boards for the top shelf versus 3.

DIY Built-in Media Center

Finally when the upper units are stable and level, you can then secure them to the studs in your wall using the hidden cleat up top.

And finally secure the bottom of each tower to the cabinets using pocket hole screws.

DIY Built-in Media Center

My husband would tell you that adding the trim to this massive unit was easily the longest part of the project.

DIY Built-in Media Center

Step 4 – Trim it Out

Baseboards were attached to the bottom of the platform base. And 1″x6″ MDF boards were secured to the top of the base to allow crown molding to be attached to it. A simple nail gun was all that was needed to add the trim work to the unit.

DIY Built-in Media Center

All exposed sides of the cabinets were covered in 1/4″ sanded plywood to match the smoother sides of the upper units. You can apply a bit of construction adhesive and tack them up with your brad nailer in the corners. 

It’s not necessary but provides a smoother surface for painting because most of these cabinets are constructed of grainy oak. 

DIY Built-in Media Center

Finally, the front edge of the entire unit was trimmed out in 1″x2″ MDF boards. This covered the rough areas of the cut plywood shelves and bases to create a face frame look. 

It also wrapped around the side of the unit where the upper built-in bookshelves met the lower cabinet bases to cover the wood seams.

DIY Built-in Media Center

STEP 5 – caulk all seams and fill holes

Everyone’s least favorite step to installing trim, but definitely the most necessary if you want a professionally finished look. You’ll want to caulk all trim seams and fill all screw and nail holes with wood filler.

Personally I’d recommend filling your holes and sanding them down before adding your caulk. This prevents a lot of dust debris from settling in your fresh caulk lines.

STEP 6 – paint and add hardware

We used the same steps to paint the new built-in entertainment center as we did in our bathroom vanity makeover. The only difference was hand rolling everything. It was way too cold outside to use the paint sprayer in the garage for the cabinet doors.

But the great thing about this paint is that it self leveled into most of the grains giving it a nice smooth finish.

This piece took two coats of primer and was finished with three coats of Satin finish Benjamin Moore Advance Paint in the color “Simply White”.

 I highly recommend using Benjamin Moore Advance paint for all cabinet painting projects. You can read my full review of it here.

DIY Built-in Media Center

Turned out pretty good right? Oh and if you’re wondering about those pretty brass sconce lights, they’re strictly decorative. At least until we get around to running the electric for them. But I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Decorating After Christmas

This piece has quickly become the hardest working piece of furniture in our entire home. It’s the perfect place to store extra throw blankets and we use it to hide the kids’ board games, books and more!

The most commonly asked question that I get about this build is “what size is your TV?”. Completely relevant because you don’t want to get this whole thing built only to realize your TV won’t fit inside the center section.

Our TV is 70″ which I consider to be pretty big, so if you need to adjust your center section you can always go wider or narrower depending on your needs.

Got a question? Drop me a line below. And don’t forget to sign up at the bottom of this post to be added to my exclusive DIY community!

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  1. Love this, I notice the center cabinets are deeper than the outside cabinets. Wall cabinets are usually 12″ deep. Where did you find deeper wall cabinets? If you used 12″ cabinets, how did you get them to work?

  2. I love this build. You did an amazing job! I did have a question about your built in book shelves. It shows you used 3/4 inch sanded ply for the book shelf, but you faced the front with 1×2 (actual dimensions .75×1.5). Does this mean that there is a lip inside the book self from the trim pieces? The pictures all look like the inside of the shelves are smooth with no lip.

  3. Love love this.
    Do you have a list of tools. I don’t even know where to start. I have a good drill and that’s it.
    Could I start by just getting the base cabinets first and adding from there? I’m on a tight budget. I was just going to get base cabinets anyhow, but like your whole entertainment center better.

    This would be my first DIY build. But I’ve watched a bunch of UTube videos 😉
    Thank you.

  4. Hello, nice build. I notice that the base units are not all the same depth. normal wall cabinet boxes are 12″ deep. What did you use for the center boxes?

  5. Hi! What color are your walls? We’re looking at doing an entertainment center like this and I love the contrast with your walls (our walls are currently white).

  6. Hi! This looks amazing and I am tempted to build one. My only question is, how could I go about doing this to where I could eventually move it easily? Would we just not attach it to the wall? We are military and move every so many years to a new house. What’s the best way to build it to take it apart without removing every single screw/piece? Or is this more of a permanent fixture?

    1. Hi Amy, thank you so much! This is a more permanent piece unfortunately. But if I were trying to build one so that I could move it and reassemble, I would probably make it into 4 separate units. Each side piece could be its own separate tower, so build the book case on top of the cabinet. And then your center base would be fairly easy just securing the cabinets together, and the final separate piece would be that center hutch that sits on top. Totally doable, but I’m not a furniture building expert. This was a first 🙂

    1. Hi Bonnie! I’m so sorry, I don’t. This was really a trial run project that ended up turning out wonderful. I can tell you that we drilled pocket holes on the undersides of the shelves and attached to the sides of the bookcases before they were installed on top of the unit. The we filled the holes, sanded and painted 🙂 Let me know if you have any other questions.

  7. How thick was the wood that you used for the actual shelves in the built in? Are they 1 inch or 3/4? And what material was used to make those shelves?

  8. I love this built in entertainment center! I am looking to do something very similar in our upstairs bonus/playroom. One question.. How do you hide or cover/conceal the pocket holes you made when attaching the top shelves to the base units? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kyle! I think we bumped it out about 4 inches and placed a wood support brace behind it to anchor it to the wall. Honestly I think 65″ could still look pretty nice in this setup. I sometimes wish I had a bit more of the backdrop showing so I could do a fun pattern wallpaper or even faux white brick behind it.

  9. I have a couple question on this beautiful build. How did you attach the shelving to the base cabinets? Do they just sit on the base cabinets? Also, how did you attach the shelving to the wall?

    1. Hi Sadie! We put an insert behind the middle section base cabinets to have it stick out more so I would just simply line all of the cabinets up and attach them to the wall and base.

  10. I love what you have built! I’m curious if it’s ever difficult to see the TV with it being set back in the cabinet. We also have a two story wall in our family room and would love to do something similar.

    1. Hi Ellen, thanks so much! my husband added an extra outlet behind the tv so no wires are visible. We use this one for streaming so there aren’t any other wired devices and we use external bluetooth speakers. I hope that helps!

  11. This is gorgeous! I’m getting ready to build something similar myself. Can you share what you used to secure the cabinets to each other and the studs? Did you use nails or screws?

    Thank you!!

  12. I love your built in; such a beautiful design. How did you manage the TV cables behind the TV? We have so many I have no idea how to keep them from showing.

  13. Looks great! Please answer a curious specification question for me, are the sides to the upper shelving unit cut to a depth of 12″ or less? I can’t quite tell from the pictures but it does look like the trim pieces are not flush which I like but I wanted to make sure when I build. Thank you .

    1. Thanks Jason! I think the shelf depth might be slightly larger than 12″, it should be the same depth as the actual cabinets we used underneath.

  14. Adding the base at the beginning did that keep you from having to cut your baseboards? Or did you guys cut and remove that section of baseboards?

  15. Hi! I love your built in wall unit you made. Do you have about how many of each item you purchased? As far as the ply wood sheets, crown molding? any help is appreciated.

    1. Hi Jessica! Thanks so much! This was more of a trial build so I didn’t keep track of the exact amount of supplies we purchased, but I did provide the measurements for the pieces. I hope that’s helpful!

  16. Fantastic job!! I did something similar in my basement remodel (peoniesandpowertools.com). I love your blog as well. So well designed! I am still learning and love to admire other’s work. I’ll keep watching! Ellie

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