If you’re looking for inspiration for building a large DIY entertainment center or media center in your home, see how I built the entertainment center of our dreams and how you can do it, too!
Skill level: Advanced-Beginner to Intermediate
When I was designing the basement, which was so fun, I knew that I wanted to fill one of the walls with a massive, 20-foot entertainment center. We still had a lot of boxes still packed from the move and full of things that we wanted to display.
I knew that the basement would be the perfect place for all of it! The sports paraphernalia is fun and colorful and wouldn’t be cohesive upstairs in the more neutral, calm family room.
We had set a budget to finish the basement and we decided that I would be the general contractor for the whole project. We decided that I could do the finish work myself, including building all the storage needed, and you can read more about my dream for the basement.
In my plans to finish the basement I knew I wanted this entertainment center to be built in and to have someone build it for me was going to be $$$. For me, the option of placing a small, basic cabinet for the T.V. wasn’t going to be very impressive on that 20 x 9-foot wall.
And I wanted to get new furniture, etc. so to spend the whole budget on paying someone to build the entertainment center just didn’t make sense.
Oh, and….I am stubborn and tenacious. If I want something, I usually figure out how to get it even if it means that I have to do it myself.
DIY entertainment center plans
Do you want to know the best thing about building an entertainment center (or anything) yourself?
You can build it in whatever dimensions you want!
I thought carefully about what our needs were going to be in this space.
I knew that we would need:
- A space for the T.V. because that would be our movie-watching, football and family hang-out room.
- Cabinets for storage because you just can’t ever have enough of that!
- Shelves. Shelves for days.
- Drawers for our extensive DVD collection.
- Space for all of the electronics.
I always have a project book to keep track of all of the projects I want to do and also keep all the information I need about a project in one place so I can find it easily.
So I measured and drew plans in my project book, looked at inspiration on Pinterest, and came up with an entertainment center plan that I fell in love with.
It was going to be perfect and after doing the math, it would cost me a fraction of what I could hire someone for!
I had the experience of building the craft room so I figured that I could take what I learned there and apply it to the large DIY entertainment center.
So, while the basement was in the process of being finished I just decided to add to the work and began to build it.
I wanted to take advantage of the fact that there was no carpet or anything else in there yet and I wouldn’t have to worry about any paint on anything important (Insert eye roll here because things never go as planned).
A list of supplies to build your own DIY entertainment center
- Sheets of plywood cut down to your dimensions. A sheet is a 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood. You can get different kinds of wood like Birch, Oak, Radiata Pine, etc. I used Birch for this project.
- 2x4s for the base
- Brad Nailer and nails
- Miter saw
- Table saw, circular saw or track saw
- Countersinking screws
- Shelf pin-hole jig
- 1×2 premium pine boards or poplar
- Pocket Hole Jig
- Crown Moulding trim
- Wood Glue
- Palm sander
- Router with Ogee bit (optional)
- Shelf Pins
- Primer paint
- Your favorite color paint. I prefer Sherwin Williams Emerald or Pro Classic
TIP** If you go to the pro desk at Home Depot and tell them you need some sheets of wood ripped down, give them a layout of how you want your wood cut, you can pay for the wood and then give them a detailed drawing of how you want your wood to be cut and they will do it for you all at once. You can leave and come back later to pick it up. They will get the wood, take it to the saw, and then it will be waiting by the door for you!
How to build a DIY entertainment center from scratch:
First, you will want to build a base for your cabinets to sit on. That is what the 2x4s will be used for. Pay attention to the popped-out area in my base. I wanted the center section to be deeper than the sides so that is how I built my base.
You will also want to be sure that you make it the same height that your baseboard will be and 2″ more shallow than your cabinets if you want a toe-kick (for the base to be set back further than the front of the cabinets.
If your cabinets will have a face frame, and you want everything to be flush instead of set back, make accommodations for that in your base dimensions.
I built my base out of leftover maple from the sheets that I ripped down on another project. Ripping down a sheet of plywood means that I took a large 8′ x 4′ sheet of wood and cut it into the sizes that I needed for the shelves and cabinets with my saw.
I also started to put the cabinets together using this jig. You can see that I took advantage of my painter being there and had him spray primer on the wood after I cut it all and before I put it together.
I wanted my shelves to be adjustable so I added shelf pin holes before I primed and sanded, but you could also add them once your cabinets are built OR fix your shelves while you’re buiding (screw them in from the sides so they don’t move).
**TIP: Cut and prime all of your pieces before building it because once you prime you will have to sand with 220 grit sandpaper and a palm sander. It is really difficult to get your sander back into the corners of your build. Trust me on this.) Once the pieces are primed you can sand them and wipe them down. Then once you build your entertainment center all you will have to do is caulk and paint.
You can see the paint all over the floor, but it was going to be covered with carpet so…who cares?!
Once the cabinets were built and screwed into the base and studs on the wall, I added face frames made of Poplar to each of them and then made the countertop. I built the face frames as I went along, one piece at a time. I would measure the front of the cabinets and add pieces of the 1×3″ poplar. I used 1×3″ instead of 1×2 to give them more mass in between each cabinet.
I used 3/4″ Birch for the counter and added a 1×2″ trim piece of Poplar along the front of the whole counter to make it more substantial.
Then I ran my router with an Ogee bit along the edge of the counter to give it a pretty edge and look a little more expensive and custom.
These are the little details that take a project from good to great! I love having a router! I can do so many things with it and it’s not scary at all!!!! Not going to lie, I kind of feel cool when I see what I can do with it. (I also made all of the window sills in the basement with my router.)
When I had the basement framed, I had them install heavy plywood in the area where I knew the T.V. was going to be mounted. That way, no matter where the bracket for the T.V. would go within that space, it would have a good base to screw into. I had the electrician run the wires for the A/V equipment before the drywall and paint. They are tucked into the junction boxes so they don’t get covered with paint.
**TIP** We have 6 HDMI cords running through the wall. I labeled each end of each HDMI cord in the wall with a coordinating number so that I would know which device it was plugged into at the bottom and at the top.
Example: The HDMI cord for the speakers is #1. So I labeled both ends of the same HDMI cord #1 so that when I plugged #1 into the TV, then I knew which cord was #1 at the bottom of the wall. The HDMI cord for the Playstation is #2, etc. I labeled the top and bottom of the wires using my label maker and wrapping it around the wire, but you can use tape, too!
Adding a bookcase
Time to move on to the upper shelving/bookcases. As I was building them I did run into issues that were beyond my control. For instance, one of the sides of one of the bookcases was warped. I didn’t notice it until I had cut, primed, drilled all of the shelf pin holes (which felt like 1 million) and screwed it all together. I couldn’t get the box to be square no matter what I did.
So, I had to start all over and cut a new piece and then go from there. It is frustrating, but these are the things that are out of your control when you are using natural elements like wood. You can see what happened in the craft room I built.
I used another jig to add the shelf pin holes so that my shelves could be adjustable. It was time-consuming but I am so glad that I did that because now I have so much flexibility with the decor.
Once they were all built I put them on top of the cabinets and I spaced apart the bookcases with a scrap 2×4 between the unit and the wall and then each other so that I could add a 1×3 face frame that was large enough to add some interest and it would appear to be more massive in size.
I took into consideration how big I wanted my crown molding and added a piece of MDF to the top of each bookcase to fill in the gap between the ceiling and the top of the bookcase. I mitered the corners to make it look well-finished, but you could butt the ends together if you want.
I added a shelf for the A/V equipment and gaming systems in the center cabinet. I cut the shelf and then used my pocket hole jig again to make pocket holes on the underside of the shelf to attach the shelf to the inside of the center cabinet.
In hindsight, I would have painted the interior of the opening and the shelf separately. Remember my tip above about painting it all first? I don’t know what I was thinking on this one.
It was REALLY a pain to paint the area with the shelf already installed.
How to make shiplap out of regular plywood
Behind the TV I decided to add shiplap for interest, but didn’t want to spend the money on real shiplap boards.
I purchased a sheet of 3/8 ” plywood and ripped it down into strips for my shiplap. I just wanted the effect of it and our T.V. was going to be hung over it so I didn’t need it to be too substantial. It was inexpensive and added a lot of texture and interest to the space.
Once the unit was built I hand-painted the entire thing! This was before I owned my favorite and inexpensive paint sprayer. It’s under $80 and worth every penny.
I used my favorite Emerald paint from Sherwin Williams. It is made for cabinets and trim and looks beautiful in the end! And, it is self-leveling – that means that it will fill in any small brush marks or roller marks by itself (as long as they are not too substantial) and hardens over time as it cures.
How to make doors for an entertainment center built-in
There are lots of tutorials on making doors out there and I have made them before. But it was the dead of Winter so the simple answer is that I didn’t make them.
The doors and drawer fronts are the jewelry. Everyone sees them and notices them. For this project, and all of my other projects, I order the doors. Nice doors are what make your project go from nice to amazing!
I don’t have a planer, or a real workshop, and they are cut with precision at the factory.
The company I use is so fast and they are great to work with so it is just easier to order them and my time is better spent in other areas of my life. They aren’t too expensive and, since I don’t have a planer (to run the doors through to make them all the exact same thickness) they were able to make them faster and better than me….perfect!
I ordered them in unfinished maple. The painting I CAN DO so I always have them sent to me unfinished instead of paying them to do it and then I finish them.
It is very cost-effective so if you are refinishing cabinets and just want to replace the doors, you might keep that in mind for your cabinets!
You can get them at my favorite place!
How to make drawers for a DIY built-in cabinet
This leads me to tell you about my drawers! I needed 6 drawers for all of our DVDs and any other media.
In my craft room, I made all of my drawers. It was summertime for that project and it was fun to be outside. During this project it was the dead of Winter in the Midwest and it is NOT fun to be outside!
Drawers aren’t hard and are actually rewarding to build so if this was a summertime build, I would do it again.
This time I ordered them, too. They came quickly and are perfect!
The drawer pulls were on clearance at Williams-Sonoma and I got them for $1.00/pull!
Adding hardware to a DIY built-in
I knew that I wanted the entertainment center hardware to tie into the aged brass sconces in the bar. I looked and looked but couldn’t find any that were what I wanted or the color for a reasonable amount of money.
So, I bought the drawer pulls on clearance and the door handles from a local hardware store (both in satin nickel) and took my favorite spray paint to create what I wanted for a fraction of the cost.
8 handles + 6 drawer pulls + 1 can a spray paint = $56 for everything!
DIY entertainment center reveal
I am so incredibly proud of this entertainment center that I built all by myself. What an accomplishment! I go downstairs sometimes just to look at it and I am secretly surprised at myself.
And I told you I am tenacious.
Don’t have your basement even finished yet? Need to know where to start when you finish a basement?
Click the photo to get all of my BEST tips! PLUS you can download a checklist of all the steps to take when finishing a basement in order!
The cost to build a 20′ entertainment center from scratch
The entire project cost around $1100 to build. Do you know what a carpenter would have charged me?? Thousands more!
I can’t tell you how long it took me because I honestly don’t know! I made the mistake of starting three HUGE projects at the same time and doing them myself, so they all took a really long time. Apologies to my family and thanks for their patience as the house was topsy-turvy for a while!
You have no idea the power you possess. While you may look at this and think that I am crazy, I still hope that you are inspired to do something amazing! It doesn’t matter how large or small. Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re probably right!