Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Media Center Bridge

Some of you may remember the media center I built for Ana's book, The Handbuilt Home. It's been in our house for about 15 months now and we absolutely love it. Other than the fact that it doesn't photograph well (black finishes are SO hard to shoot!), we think it is perfect.

Almost perfect.

We've got 22' ceilings in the room where the media center sits. The media center, as designed, was around 6' tall. In a normal house with normal proportions, 6' would probably be great. In this house, with ridiculous proportions, 6' was okay. But with curtains next to the media center that are 9' long, the 6' media center was looking a little dwarfed.

So, I emailed Ana to see if she would consider designing a bridge to go across the top of the media center, adding an additional two feet to the top of it. She was willing to do the design (she's posted the plans here!) and I was happy to build it.

Don't be fooled, my friends. This piece is HUGE. Scott and I had a heck of a time maneuvering it through our house and on top of the media towers. But once we got it up there, it was totally worth it.

Here's what we did to install the bridge:
  1. Remove the baseboards behind the media center and push the whole media center up against the wall, as flush as we could get it. Cords seem to get in the way of something like this, so we settled for *almost* flush.
  2. Place the bridge on top of the towers and square the towers underneath. We had to do a little bit of shimmying and shaking to get everything perfectly square.
  3. Using 1 1/4" wood screws, pre-drill and screw from the underside of the top of the media towers into the underside of the bridge. We used three screws in the top of each media tower.
  4. Using L brackets large enough to span the distance from your bridge to your wall, secure the top of the media bridge to studs in your wall. We used 4 L brackets and more 1 1/4" screws (after pre-drilling). It seems really really sturdy (there was a lot of post-installation tugging to test the whole setup), but if we'd had them on hand we would have used 2" or even 2 1/2" screws.
  5. We considered using a few more L brackets on the sides of the media towers in inconspicuous places, but once we got the top ones up, it really felt sturdy so we decided to forgo the side brackets.
  6. Replace the baseboards on either side of the media towers, cutting them so they sit flush up against the towers.
Eventually I think the L brackets will get a coat of paint (grey on the wall side, black on the furniture side) just to camouflage them a bit. I'd also love to have a veritable garden of indoor plants on top, but I'd never water them so they'd die which would be way too sad for me. Scott says he'd like to be responsible for houseplants, though, so maybe. We'll see. I know they are great for filtering pollutants from indoor air, but they won't do us any good if they're dead.

Besides being difficult to maneuver, this piece is also expensive. Just for this 2' x 10' bridge, the materials cost around $300. Just for the wood and one box of pocket hole screws. Because you need long, super straight 1x12 boards for this, you just can't buy cheap lumber. In fact, cheap lumber isn't even available in these lengths. And, don't forget that the $300 bridge is in addition to the $800-ish you'll spend to build the two towers and the console that make up the rest of the media center. But, it's still WAY cheaper than you'd spend buying solid wood furniture this size, and it's customizable, which is my favorite part.

You might notice one special custom touch I added to this piece: the grass cloth backs! Yep, instead of plain black painted plywood in the back, I added grass cloth that I stole from roman shades we were no longer using. The shades were custom made for our french doors, but when we replaced our french doors the shades didn't fit anymore. So I hung onto them for a few years (thank goodness for the under-the-stairs storage in my house, and my husband's willingness to go along with me) and then cut them up to line the bookcases. I love the touch of texture that they add!

My bridge is built out of gorgeous poplar boards. I kind of felt bad painting them, but soothed myself with the reminder that they'd be distressed and some of the grain and a lot of the brown wood would show through. There's more about the finish (plus the plans for the media console and towers!) in Ana's book -- you should get yourself a copy! And get the media bridge plans on Ana's site here.

Psst...for a tutorial on how to hang your flatscreen tv for the cost of a 2x4, a few bolts, and some wood screws, check out how we did it!


  1. Absolutely gorgeous! Kudos to you and your husband for bringing off such an ambitious project!

  2. I absolutely love the black finish! Can you tell me what kind of paint you used?? Also is there stain on the edges or is it just the natural wood showing through?

    1. Yes! Just off-the-shelf flat black paint sealed with dark brown wax. Glad you like it!


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