Basement Reno: Custom Media Unit

The media area was the major project and focal point of the basement renovation. We knew we wanted a TV unit of some sort and that we needed to make up for the bookshelves we had gotten rid of and that we would need some closed storage for the kid’s toys and movies etc. Kids have a lot of paraphernalia, even at Nanny’s house.

When you have a nook, like what we had to work with due to the position of the jack post, you have specific dimensions to work within. It can be difficult to find a unit that fits properly and meets all of your objectives. A custom unit makes the space feel much more grand and can be tailored to meet your space, storage, and aesthetic objectives.

Unfortunately, completely custom units can be incredibly expensive and challenging to make yourself. Enter IKEA. To make the media unit we used two IKEA kitchen base cabinets, plywood, tongue and groove pine flooring, left over 2x4s, trim, and an electric fireplace insert.

In my opinion, the keys to making a unit look custom and more expensive than it was, is fitting it tight up against the walls, floor, and ceiling, and making it cohesive by using trim to tie it together. Ways we achieved this was, filling all the gaps with white, pain-table caulking; using quarter round trim to finish the top of the book shelves against the ceiling, continuing the base board across the front of the unit along the floor, matching the paint on the bookshelves with the colour of the cabinets; and continuing the planking from around the fireplace, across the counter top, and up to the ceiling behind the wall mounted TV.

We built the unit in the space so that we could shim and trim as needed to fit everything as tight as possible. First the cabinets were made and put in place. Josh then used the 2x4s to put in supports against the back wall, the sides of the cabinet and make a frame in the front for the pine boards to nail into. The supports and frame sandwiched the units in place while avoiding putting holes everywhere to anchor them into the wall. The fireplace was designed to be able to simply slip into a hole cut to size in any sort of face. To give it additional support and to support the cut edges of the  pine, the opening for the fireplace is supported with a frame of 2x4s as well.



Using tongue and groove planks made it easy to install the counter top plank by plank, cutting each piece to fit snugly against the wall. It was installed as you would hardwood flooring, hiding the nails by putting them through the tongue along the side that then gets hidden by the groove of the next plank.

The backing behind the TV was installed before the bookshelves so that the sides of the shelves could be fit tightly against the cut ends of the boards. Each board for the shelves was then cut to fit against the walls, ceiling, and counter top. We then assembled them and carefully shimmied them in place. The shelves are glued and screwed. I then used wood filler to fill in the screw heads since we were going to paint the shelves out.

After fitting the whole unit together, Josh took white caulking to fill in all the gaps and any finishing nail holes.

Love covers a multitude of sins? White caulking covers a multitude of sins!!

He did this with all the trim and it makes the difference between looking neat and professional or like a hack job. The finishing touch was installing a piece of quarter round against the ceiling like crown molding along the top of each shelving unit. Once painted out in a crisp white to match the cabinets and the rest of the trim in the basement, the unit looks quite professional – if I do say so myself!

I am proud of the design but even more so of Josh’s execution of it. It is easy for me to come up with grand ideas, drawings, and demands for perfect cuts, invisible joinery, and tight fits but it is something else completely to build it. Good thing Josh is a perfectionist himself and went above and beyond and did an awesome job!


3 thoughts on “Basement Reno: Custom Media Unit

  1. This unit looks amazing. More than worthy of any design magazine I have seen for wall units. You and Josh are an excellent team. Moulding makes all the difference in projects like this in terms of professional looking results. (and white paintable caulking :)).

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