Our DIY Built-in Media Center Reveal (Material List & Cost Included)

4 Materials
1 Week

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. 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
  • caulk
  • 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.

Top View of Cabinet Platform

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.

Cabinets secured to wall and platform base

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 to cABINETS AND 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”.

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!

Martina at The Lived-in Look
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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 4 questions
  • DAN WALKER DAN WALKER on Jan 29, 2021

    Hi! I really like what you did and may modify your design for my office. I am very good at proofing and most people want to know about ooppss'. At the end of the plans, you show 1 X 2 MDF in the note on the pic for the entire face frame. However, in the paragraph above you wrote 1X6 MDF for the face frame. Are you referencing the same thing? I know it is a little thing, but I would not want to confuse folks if it were my plan.

    Again, thanks. I may check out your other items. I like to build, but cannot draw!

    Dan Walker

  • Gad781 Gad781 on Feb 04, 2021

    This is beautiful and certainly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing. My question is about mounting it to the wall. It looks like you had a baseboard on your wall. What did you do with that? Cut it back or remove it so your cabinet could sit flush against the wall??

  • Carol Martin Carol Martin on Dec 29, 2021

    Did you get new floors after you built it?

Join the conversation
2 of 46 comments
  • Ladyphy2001 Ladyphy2001 on Jan 13, 2024

    You did a fabulous job! Love the clean lines and design. You also provided excellent details on the construction. Great work.

  • Linda Linda on Jan 14, 2024

    Nice job, gives me an idea or two for our space here. Now if we can just sell our beautiful piano that hasn't been used in years.