Before we start any project, Chris and I sit down and go through all the details and, I guess you could say, negotiate back and forth until we both feel comfortable with the plan; That it’s something that fits into our style, budget, our family-friendly vision for our home, and that it’s something we can actually execute ourselves. The entertainment center for the family room took a lot of careful planning sessions, but Chris totally nailed the execution of this and we’re so excited to share it with you today.
Sidenote: We’ve decided to stop calling it “the playroom.” It used to be a playroom. It was 100% for the kids – we’d send them down there to play and didn’t really worry about what was going on down there too much. But, with the addition of a “theater” area and big sectional, this space now has something for every member of the family. So, we’re calling it the family room now and we’ll start tagging photos on social media with #cljfamilyroom to reflect that.
Back to the built-ins. We are constantly inspired when doing our projects, but very rarely do we want an exact replica in our home. We’ll tweak it and make it our own. But, goodness!, when I stumbled across these built-ins from Studio McGee, I just wanted to cut and paste them right into our basement.
There are a lot of things to consider with something like this, but the first is sound. If you’re setting up a theater area in a room, how will the sound from movies and such carry into surrounding spaces? Here’s where we wanted to build ours:
On that far wall to the right. On the other side of that wall? Greta’s room. Womp. Wommppp. Chris had his heart set on a “sick surround sound system” but, what’s the fun in that if you just have to keep it turned down all the way because your 6 year old is in bed? We looked into some sound proofing techniques and figured out a couple things we could do to lessen the transfer of sound through the wall. First, and the top recommendation we read was to build a wall that sits out from the original wall.
Even with the extra wall, Chris still wanted to do something else for the noise and landed on Mass Loaded Vinyl, or “MLV”. It’s essentially a roll of super thick vinyl that doesn’t capture sound waves, but lessens its ability to pass through a wall when applied to the outside of it.
We’re under no delusion this will make it completely quiet in Greta’s room, but after some initial tests there was a noticeable difference in the amount of sound that transferred between the spaces. So we’re calling that a win. Then Chris took over the building plans. Take it away, Chris!:
It took me about an hour to nail down the plans. First, a sketch of the structure, along with where we wanted each receptacle:
This sketch is part of my process. It’s not even as good as the original inspiration picture, but just the act of mentally visualizing something and transferring it onto paper helps me think through what it would take to build it, and then I can create a better plan with measurements:
The built-in is essentially 3 sections: 2 equal-sized book shelves flanking 1 large, recessed center area with cabinets and an area for a TV. We planned to use our fauxdenza cabinetry for the center area (we’ll show that in a future post), so we knew that section had to be 90 inches, the length of the credenza. We made it 90 1/4 inches, to ensure it wasn’t too tight a squeeze once we put them in. The total width of the wall is 155 1/4, so we subtracted 90.25 from 155.25, which gave us 65 inches of space remaining. Divide by two, that makes the ending width of each of the shelf sections 32.5 inches.
Now, with these plans, it was time to make a shopping list. Our project sponsor, Lowe’s, had everything we needed including:
12 sheets 1/4″ plywood
3 8 ft lengths of crown molding
Brad Nailer – srsly, I love this little nail gun
1 1/2″ brad nails
Wagner Flexio 590 Paint Sprayer
2.5 in Screws
I also had to keep in mind that we were going to be paneling the outside with 1/4″ plywood planks, which would add 1/2″ to each wall. So if the center part needs to be 90.25 inches when all is said and done, that means the frame I build needs to leave 91.25″ of space in the center. The 1/2 inch of paneling, once added to each side, would bring it down to the perfect 90.25″.
So, plans in hand, MLV in place, I built the back wall in two sections (boards I had weren’t long enough for the space), set them up, leveled and secured them. I secured them into the concrete using a Ramset (essentially a 22 pistol that shoots nails, but instead of a trigger mine has a button on the end you hit with a hammer – thinking about getting one for each of the girls as stocking stuffers next Christmas because of how safe it sounds when I describe it) and screwed them into the floor joists that were in the ceiling directly above. From there, I built four 16 inch walls to act as the frames for the book shelves, secured them in place similarly, and screwed everything together. Solid as a rock.
Oh, also, electrical. There were two power outlets on this wall already, and we’re making it so there are 4. So before doing any of this, I prepped the outlets so that I could tie directly into them, with the wires still housed inside an outlet box so we don’t just have bare wires kicking around inside a wall. Safety first.
Next, I framed out the top and bottoms of the shelf sections, and added junction boxes where they’d need to go. I built this whole frame very strategically, knowing that I would later be putting paneling on here. Everywhere there would be an edge to a piece of paneling, there needed to be a board to nail into.
You’ll notice with the junction boxes, some of them I added extra 2x4s in between. The reason for this is to avoid the possibility of electrical interference with the data lines. Data lines in this instance include speaker wire, HDMI cables, coaxial cable, and ethernet. All of which were run through this wall. Keeping those data lines at a distance from electrical junction boxes, as well as making sure data lines only run perpendicular and not parallel to electrical lines, lessens the possibility of interference. You also want to make sure your wires are secured to your frame with cable clips, so they don’t sit against the MLV and rattle on the wall. And try to secure them far enough back so that when you are nailing in the paneling, you don’t accidentally shoot a nail into a cable.
With all that done, time to cover. We first put down a layer of 1/4 inch plywood, with 3/4 inch MDF on the bottoms and tops of the shelf sections:
After caulking all of the seams (they would still end up being visible through the paneling), we then cut 6, 4×8 sheets of higher grade, 1/4 plywood (really smooth stuff) into 4 5/8″ strips using the table saw. These are our “shiplap” pieces. I took a day off of work, thinking I’d get the paneling on in the morning and paint it all in the afternoon. Ha. HA! It ended up taking around 11 hours to do all that paneling. Because of slight bends in the 2x4s, I had to measure every individual piece and miter the edges to fit exactly in the space that the piece was going into. Using 1/8″ tile spacers we got them all evenly spaced for a clean, modern look and secured them into place with a brad nailer. And although the paneling took a bit longer to miter, it was time well spent. Mitered edges made all the difference in the end product – straight, smooth edges that fit together seamlessly. It was a long day, but it turned out awesome:
It never ceases to amaze me how Chris can figure almost anything out. The built-ins of my dreams! The last step was more caulking and patching all the holes from the finish nailer and sanding. Then we rolled on a coat of primer (I like the Zero-VOC Zinsser) and finally paint. We opted to use our paint sprayer (the Wagner Flexio 590) for the smoothest finish.
We color-matched Benjamin Moore’s Simply White to Lowe’s Valspar Reserve paint and primer in one–our favorite paint of all time. It’s the perfect thickness with amazing coverage. It only took one coat! We’re smitten with the results and are anxious to get the credenza pieces and shelves in place. We’ll have a post about that really soon! We also got word our carpet should arrive in our store by the end of the week, which means this room is about to take shape quick. (And those baseboards have to be done, like yesterday.)
Although shiplap is kind of everywhere right now, I love this modern, clean-lined adaption of it. Almost like pin-stripes! I don’t think it will ever go out of style.
Special thanks to Lowe’s for providing the materials and tools necessary to complete this project and execute our vision. Thanks for supporting our sponsors who allow us to make this house our own.