The entertainment center is by far the most entertaining piece of furniture in a home. Sure, when it comes to furniture for entertaining, there are a few top contenders. The bar cart always looks fancy at a party, and a snack station is a welcome addition to any room. (Snacks aren’t just for the dining room!)
But the entertainment center is the ultimate piece for entertaining yourself and guests. It’s about inviting your friends and family to watch the big game or kicking up your feet to spend an hour or two (or 10) with your favorite Hollywood heroes.
It’s about browsing games and movies — whether you do that on your favorite streaming service or you’re going old school with your DVD or (gasp) VHS collection. It’s about popping popcorn, kicking your feet up on a comfy sectional, and settling in for a night of entertainment.
Whatever the occasion, we’ll help get you set up for the home entertainment experience you deserve. Discover the difference between a traditional wall entertainment center and other media storage options, then take a look at our favorite designs, and learn how to measure to find the right unit for your space.
When to choose a traditional wall entertainment center
The traditional design for a wall entertainment center is one large unit that looks like a bookcase with a TV in the middle. When it’s put together, a wall entertainment center appears to be one piece of furniture, but it’s actually made up of four individual pieces: a TV stand, two media towers, and a media bridge.
This setup is ideal for homes with a flat screen TV that you would prefer to place on a piece of furniture instead of hang on the wall. While there is space in the middle of an entertainment center where you could feasibly hang the TV on the wall, we don’t recommend it.
Because the wall unit will stick out around all sides of the TV, the furniture can cast a shadow on your TV screen if the screen is too far back — which it will be if it’s attached to the wall.
For the best viewing experience, choose a free-standing TV mount and place your TV directly on top of the piece of furniture. This will ensure the screen is far enough forward to avoid those pesky shadows.
The open shelves on your TV wall unit are ideal for small to medium-size speakers. Look for a unit with adjustable shelves to ensure it can accommodate the height of your speakers. If you have very tall speakers, you’ll need to place them on the floor beside the media console — or somewhere else in your home theater room — instead of on the shelves.
When to skip a wall unit and create your own set up
There is a downside to an entertainment center wall unit: You need a TV, and usually one of a certain size.
If you have a projector, a wall unit will be in the way. And while you can find wall units in a variety of sizes, they will all state that they can accommodate TVs up to a specific size — some may accommodate a 55-inch TV others may fit a 75-inch TV. Very large televisions may not fit, while very small TVs will look dwarfed in the middle of a large home entertainment center.
Wall units are also a more traditional piece of living room furniture. They’re available in a variety of styles from transitional to mid-century modern, but if you pride yourself on your Scandi or organic modern home decor, you may not be able to find a media center that fits your aesthetic.
But for all our home decorators who run into these problems, you can put together your own entertainment center with a little imagination. Try using a credenza, hutch, or TV console to add storage space below your TV or projector. Then, pair it with a storage cabinet or a curio cabinet with glass doors to display your movie collection or other keepsakes.
If you’re ready to commit to a traditional entertainment center, we’ve rounded up our favorite wall units, so you can find a home theater setup that’s ready for action (or rom coms).
The 3 best wall entertainment centers
From glam to modern, here are our three favorite entertainment centers to add to your living room.
1. 4-Piece Entertainment Center in Cappuccino
Neither too old-fashioned nor too modern, this transitional-style wood entertainment center offers the look of solid wood for less. Made of durable MDF with a laminate finish, it will stand up to everyday use.
It fits TVs up to 60 inches and is made up of a 2-door TV stand with three storage drawers, and six adjustable shelves behind tempered glass cabinet doors. Plus, it has a two 2-drawer media towers with four shelves each, and a bridge with 2 encased storage compartments.
2. 4-Piece Entertainment Center in Black, Titanium, and Silver
This glamorous, four-piece TV room set is brimming with Hollywood Regency elegance — perfect for watching Old Hollywood movies.
It’s made up of a 2-door TV console that can support a TV of up to 60 inches, plus two 3-drawer media towers, and a 3-compartment bridge. With a total of two cabinet doors, 10 open shelves, and three compartments, this unit offers plenty of storage space.
3. 4-Piece Entertainment Center in Matte Black
This modern entertainment center features steel construction with black, tempered-glass shelves, black and silver accents, and a sleek, curved silhouette. The open shelves offer easy control of all your electronics, and the TV stand can support TVs up to 60 inches.
It’s made up of a 2-shelf TV console, two 5-tier media towers, and a bridge to connect the media towers across the top. It’s an ideal setup for entertaining when you want to enjoy watching sports with guests or on your own.
How to measure for your wall unit or TV stand
The first step to measuring for a wall unit or TV cabinet is to choose the wall where you want the unit to live. Because you’ll be plugging in a lot of electronics along that wall, it helps if there’s a good outlet. If there isn’t, you can have an electrician add one or use an extension cord. Make sure you add a surge protector before plugging in any expensive electronics.
Ideally, choose a wall that doesn’t have any windows along it, and if your home shares any walls with the neighbor’s units, try not to place your entertainment center on a shared wall. This will help you avoid noise complaints from the neighbors.
Measure the width of the wall where you want to put the entertainment center. You can measure from wall to wall, or only measure the portion of the wall where the furniture will go.
For example, if there are windows on the wall that you don’t want to block, you’ll only measure the space in between the windows. Or, if a door opens along the wall, you’ll want to open the door all the way before you measure so that you’re allowing room for the furniture without blocking the door.
Once you have the width, measure the height of the room from floor to ceiling to make sure your wall unit won’t be too tall. If you’re buying fully assembled furniture, you’ll also want to measure the width and height of any doors you need to pass through to make sure you can get the furniture into your house.
Next, measure the size of your TV screen. You’ll need to measure diagonally across the screen from the top corner to the bottom. Make sure you choose a unit that can accommodate your screen size.
With your measurements in hand, you’re ready to go furniture shopping. Find a local furniture store where you can size things up in person.
Find your center
The right entertainment center can transform your living room into a home theater — and keep it looking stylish and well designed.
Make sure to measure your space and then head out to look at media centers in person. When you shop at a local store, you can make sure the color, quality, and size are exactly what you had in mind.
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