Our DIY Built-in Media Center Reveal (Material List & Cost Included)
Ready to take on building an entertainment center for your family room? It’s not as difficult as you might think. So if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, you can create your own custom built-in for a fraction of what the professionals charge.
Read on to find out how we designed and created this piece in just a week!
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How much does it cost to build a built-in entertainment center?
Initially, we went the route of reaching out to a professional contractor to get a bid on a custom media built-in. I was expecting it to be on the expensive side, but my jaw dropped at the $5,500 price tag.
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.
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.
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.
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 hack was just to use pre-made wall cabinets from Lowe’s.
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 didn’t want to see the indented toe-kick portion where the cabinets meet the floors. 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?
Since we were pretty much winging the build on this project, I didn’t bother capturing step-by-step photos or specific measurements. But I can give you a breakdown of the exact materials we used to construct it, along with a general guideline of how it was assembled.
Materials Used for the DIY Built-in Media Center
- (2) 36″ wide wall cabinets
- (2) 30″ wide wall cabinets
- crown molding
- 5 1/4″ MDF baseboards
- 1/4″ sanded plywood for sides of base cabinets
- 3/4″ sanded plywood for shelving units (upper structure)
- 1×6 boards for platform base
- MDF panel for backing of wall unit
- 1×6′ MDF boards for top trim
- 1×4″ boards to brace the unit to the wall
- 1×2″ MDF boards for shelving unit trim
- Wood Filler
- Benjamin Moore Advance Paint in Satin Finish
- Stix Primer
- Brass door pulls
- Brass wall sconces
Step 1 – Create the base & ATTACH WALL CABINETS
The base was constructed using 1″x6″ boards because I wanted the cabinet bases to be raised 6 inches off the ground. Looking back I probably should have used 1x4s and reduced some of the work, but hey, lesson learned.
Each cabinet platform was constructed separately, and then attached together before being anchored to the wall. This was due to the bump out of the center cabinet console.
After the platform was installed it was topped with three sections of plywood and attached to the base so that you can sit the cabinets on top. Finally you’ll want to secure the cabinets to the platform base and wall once you’ve made sure they’re level.
*A note about securing the cabinets to the wall…
Because I chose to have the middle section bump out a few inches, we couldn’t secure those cabinets directly to the wall. Instead, we used 1×4 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.
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 sanded plywood so that we could achieve a flawless paint finish.
STEP 3 – construct 3 upper sections & secure cabinets to wall
Honestly, this is the part that seemed so darn scary and overwhelming to me. I’ve never attempted to create built-in shelves before, but our new Kreg Jig made this ridiculously easy.
It was as simple as measuring the height of the sides of our bookcases and cutting 2 identical boards for each side. And then 3 boards for the actual shelves to be attached.
Adding an MDF panel to the back of each unit helps to keep it stabilized. But it’s also great for creating a smooth surface to paint.
The only difference in constructing the center unit was the overall width and only needing to cut 2 boards for the top shelf versus 3.
Finally when the upper units are stable and level, you can then secure them to the studs in your wall.
STEP 4 – trim it out
My husband would tell you that adding the trim to this massive unit was easily the longest part of the project.
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.
The exposed, rough sides of the cabinets were all covered in 1/4″ sanded plywood to match the smoother sides of the upper units.
Finally, the entire face frame was trimmed out in 1″x6″ MDF board. This covered the rough areas of the cut plywood shelves and bases. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This is a great tutorial! I’m going to try and do this myself.
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?
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.
Thank you so much! There is a lower lip but the top of the 1×2 is flush with the sanded plywood shelves.
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 😉
Hi Susan! You can certainly start with the base cabinets and build up from there! I recommend a circular saw and miter saw for the cuts.
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?
Thank you! The cabinets are all the same size, we just placed a brace behind the center ones to bump them out a few inches
Great work,think a 85 inch tv would fit this plan?
Thanks in advance Scott
Thank you! Ours is 72″ I believe, so 85 might be a tad too big
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).
Thanks Jackie! They’re collonade grey
Hi! I see you attached the base to the wall, but did you also attach the base cabinets to the wall and if so, how?
Hi Daniel, yes we did! We attached them to the studs using wood screws
This is a great tutorial! I’m going to try and do this myself.
Thank you! Let me know if you have any questions along the way!
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?
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 🙂
Do you have a photo of how the shelves are attached to upper boards.
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.
Is your TV 72″. It’s beautiful I may try this my tv 75.
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?
All of the materials are in the list in the post. We used 3/4″ sanded plywood for the actual shelves.
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!
Thanks so much Amanda! All of the pocket holes were filled sanded and painted 🙂
Hello – How many inches did you bump out the center section? Also thoughts on any mods you would suggest for a 65”.
Thanks in advance!
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.
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?
Thank you Derek! The shelving units are attached to the base units with pocket hold screws and also secured to the studs of the back wall.
I have a question..How did you add the MDF to the back of the shelves…Can’t you see if from the side of the entertainment center?
Hi there! Just with a brad nailer and the sides are covered with plywood and caulked
This is awesome. I want to build this! Once questions, what is the depth of the bottom cabinets? Are they all 12? or do they vary?
They’re all wall cabinets with the same depth
How would you do this but have all the cabinets be flush with each other and the middle not stick out?
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.
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.
Thanks so much Susan! Our entire first floor is open and we haven’t had any issues with visibility from other rooms.
What do you do with all the wires-hook up how do you get access to them? Beautiful work!
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!
I love this!!! I will be using this in my living room. Thank you so much!!
Thanks so much Colleen!
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?
Hi Lori, thank you! My husband used screws to secure everything together.
Can you confirm the baseboard you used? The profile in the picture looks a bit different than the link to the trim you have for the project. Thanks!
Hi Dustin, I just double checked the link and that is the baseboard we used for the built in as well as the rest of the floor trim in our home.
You can use rechargeable bulbs for light fixtures.
Thanks Kate! I was actually considering that too!
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.
How was the finish? Could you see the gain in the plywood and cabinets?
Hi Richard! A pretty flawless finish 🙂 we used sanded plywood and mdf trim pieces/
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 .
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.
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?
Hi Whitney! We cut and removed that section of baseboards at the beginning.
What size TV fits in the space?
Hi Nora! Our TV is 72″
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.
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!
Loveee this! It came out beautiful! What size TV do you have? I want to do this for mine but my tv is a 70”.
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
Thank you so much Ellie!