Televisions, audiovisual receivers, DVD players, surround-sound speakers, compact disc collections -- where does it all go? Fortunately, wall system manufacturers are becoming attentive to this problem, and there's an entire new generation of media cabinets and organizers out there. We'll outline your options below. Need help planning for electronics?

When shopping for media cabinets, some general questions to ask include: Can the unit handle the size and weight of all your components? Is there room for expansion? How will wires enter and exit? What about ventilation and air circulation? Do you need protection from dust?

TV solutions

They're big, they're wide, and they're bulky. Large-screen televisions are posing new challenges for both wall systems and stand-alone storage units.

Television stands come in solid pine, metal, melamine, and laminate; with or without wheels; and with or without a swiveling top. Many have drawers and DVD compartments behind glass doors. Some electronics companies make integral bases that echo the design of their television sets. These bare-bones, mundane-looking platforms sit on the floor, with the TV perching on top.

You'll also discover a growing number of pullouts and turntables for TVs (some products include both), and even lifts that raise the television up from a wall cabinet below. Order these from a wall-system dealer or buy the hardware and fit it to your own cabinetry.

Rack 'em up

The now-traditional solution for audio components, so-called "racks," allows you to stack components vertically and access them from either the front or back. Most racks resemble vertical shelving units, with frames and shelves built from laminate or metal. For dust protection, most have fronts (and sometimes tops) of hinged glass or acrylic. Some units have backs as well. Many racks roll on wheels, a handy feature unless you have plush carpeting.

Make sure your components will fit side to side and front to back. (Remember that you don't simply need room for the components, you need extra depth -- at least 2 inches -- for the wire connections behind them.)

There's also a trend toward low-lying, horizontal A/V units, featuring side-by-side dividers or a series of stackable, modular cubbyholes. Some TV stands include lower compartments for these units.

Thinking low-tech? Simple solutions include open shelves and shelving -- just be sure they're deep enough for the task at hand.

Shop for racks at mass-market electronics stores or see audio specialists. Or check out home-furnishing and storage catalogs.

Moving up to home theater

Some home theater setups are basically a large-screen TV and a DVD player. Others include an A/V receiver, six or more speakers, the audio components discussed above, and more. If all of these components are grouped together, the big systems obviously call for different setups than we've talked about so far.

Small-scale media cabinets, capable of housing television and audio gear and related items, are available as preassembled furniture or knockdown, ready-to-assemble kits. Materials range from solid pine, oak, and alder to veneered particleboard and MDF panels.

Entertainment armoires are also available in a number of styles and finishes. Look for retractable "flipper" doors or those that fold back on double hinges. Be sure TV pullouts or turntables can handle the weight of your equipment. Drawers are a must for organizing the small stuff.

On a slightly larger scale, say enough room for a large TV, A/V receiver, and three front surround-sound speakers, look to furniture stores, mass-market electronics stores, or wall system specialists. Or assemble stock base and wall cabinets under a countertop.

For full-blown media centers, your best bets are furniture ensembles, large modular wall systems, or custom cabinetry from a cabinetmaker or fabricator who works with audiovisual consultants. Materials for custom units typically are hardwood plywood, solid hardwood, or MDF.

As to price, the sky's the limit.

Combating chaos

Compact discs, DVDs, vintage vinyl, and other media collections get out of hand quickly, but there's help available. Prefabricated cubes, towers, and wall units are one solution. Or buy grooved CD inserts, shown at right, and use them to line a bookcase or drawer. Snarls of electrical wires and cables are another form of creeping chaos.


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