Media stand/TV table needed but what should I be looking for?
March 6, 2011 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Interior design for idiots: Looking for a media center but have multiple types/colors of wood going on.

My husband and I have lived in our place for almost five years. We've talked about moving because it's a basement apartment and I would love a dishwasher but between the under-market rent we pay and the fact that we both walk to work, we're staying put for now.

As such, I've been thinking of how to make the place look nicer. When we moved in, we were both making significantly less than we're making now so the apartment still have a college apartment feel to it but we're starting to invest, or at least think about investing in things we really like (like this desk. Which I love. And this chair. Basically, I'm a Crate and Barrel whore. Who knew?)

To that end, I'm thinking our next furniture upgrade will be a media center. We currently have a rickety particle board on wheels TV cart. However, I don't know what I want to replace it. Looking around, it appears that most media centers are black or wood (or particle board that looks like wood). In the room where it will end up, we have several types and colors of wood furniture going on.
- We have the desk I mentioned in a very dark wood and two side tables that I'm partial to that are a little lighter.
- Then we have my husband's desk, two Ikea chairs, a side table and a coffee table that are all more like a light blonde wood color.
- Then there's a bookshelf (a single wall-mounted shelf) and the sliding doors to the closet in this room which are this light color.
- And there are four pictures hanging in the room that are a variety of colors of wood.

I feel like darker woods look nicer and as such, have thought about attempting to replace or stain the items that are lighter but that sounds like a lot of work. I think it looks nice when rooms have furniture that's of the same or similar styles or colors but at the same time I don't want the room to look too matchy-matchy. Should I just get a media center that's black and goes with the TV? Should I just try to find one I really like and deal with it?

Bonus - do you know of a media center that you really like? It's pretty rare that I find furniture where I think, wow, that's really cool, but I'm trying. We had talked about hanging the TV on the wall but my husband doesn't want to do that so we looked at some media centers that have a table and backboard.

Thanks in advance for your help - I feel like this is a dumb question but I've looked around and tried to figure it out and haven't come to any good conclusions on my own.

TL; DR - I want to get a new media center/TV stand but there are lots of colors/types of wood going on in the room where it will reside. What color should I get?
posted by kat518 to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Can you post pics of the room? I think it's perfectly fine these days to have an eclectic look, but it depends on what you're going for. Some questions that would help narrow things down:

How much storage do you need? How much equipment (speakers, receiver, dvd player, xbox, etc, etc) is going to be in the media center? Do you prefer an open look or cabinets?

From my experience, the media center tends to dominate a room, unless you have something else (fireplace, bookshelves, art) that acts as the focal piece. That's especially true with darker wood and a big tv. That can work, but you may need to consider lighting and the other objects in the room to balance it out.

When I was deciding on a media center for a room that didn't get a lot of light and required a lot of storage, I went with a custom-built media center/bookcase that I painted white to match the paneling. In another room that got a ton of natural light, I went with a minimalist wenge wood low entertainment unit from Ikea.
posted by hampanda at 12:50 PM on March 6, 2011

I don't think a multi-colored entertainment center will bring it all together. It will just highlight that the furniture is mismatched. The trick is to pick a style and run with it. Your desk and side tables seem to approximately match and your husbands furniture approximately matches. I think it might be time to pick which of the two styles you want to go with in the future and go.

Personally, I think the blond wood needs to go. Nothing says Ikea quite like blond wood (not that there is anything wrong with Ikea. It is just that, everyone else has lived in an apartment with it at some point, like seeing an ex-lover at a friend's party). I would pick an entertainment center that matches the darker stained wood and as you can afford to replace the lighter furniture.

You live in a basement apartment, which gets zero light, I imagine. Dark furniture can make a dark apartment seem like an abyss. Lots of low-wattage lighting with "daylight" bulbs can make the place look cozy rather than a dungeon.

Hope that helps.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:50 PM on March 6, 2011

There are ways to mix wood that look classy, but, well, what muchingzombie said. The leaning desk as a fumed oak look to it in the pictures, so that or a simulation might be a good choice. (Fumed oak is white oak that has been placed in a sealed room with a plate of ammonia - the ammonia vapor causes a dark brown color that is a change in the color of the wood itself rather than a stain or dye. The longer you let it fume, the deeper the reaction penetrates. It was all the rage in the Arts and Crafts era. There are modern stains that simulate the effect.)

Something like this piece with dark accents in a medium dark wood might help bridge the gap, but for that to work there needs to be some sort of stylistic harmony between the pieces. If you don't have that, it's just going make things more disjointed.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:33 PM on March 6, 2011

If you want to stick to a theme like the desk you linked to, you'll want to look for wenge / venge wood, black ash, or stained mahogany. BTW, if you're looking for more options than what Crate and Barrel have to offer, you may want to try Room and Board, which has some customizable furniture lines. Scandinavian Designs also has some with backboards. I'm personally a fan of Baronet, a Canadian company - they don't have one with a backboard, but this may work well with the desk.
posted by hampanda at 2:53 PM on March 6, 2011

As you start laying down money on real furniture, keep in mind that you're hoping this piece will last longer than your current living room. In your ideal, and in your probable, future home(s), will the desks be in the living room? Is the sofa important or might it be changing, too? Could you imaging reframing your prints, or changing what art goes where? Think about not making your entire living space a cohesive whole, but making a "TV and sofas with art" living room corner and a "desks and chairs and art and bookcases" office corner, and a table and chairs and dishes and dining area... even if all those things currently happen in the same room, that's not always going to be the case. So long as everything at least mostly plays nice with each other, you can really have fun with the design by stylistically separating the activity areas.

So, for the media center, think about the 2-3 things you will always want to have in your living room, and make sure the style goes with that - in terms of color-family, wood grain vs non-wood, and stylistic feel. [For me, this was some wall art (from my brother) matched to a rug (souvenir from Turkey), and my not-awesome but very practical oak futon frame. Together, those 3 things mean that a super-clean-contemporary style won't work, yet a very traditional furniture style would also look silly; I don't have any super-dark woods or black finishes because I'm not so into that anyway, but we also had to switch bookcases with my husband's office to put the pale-pale birch IKEA shelves someplace else, just to keep the whole living room in the medium tones.]

In short, think long-term, what you want to have as well as what's sitting in the room right now, and maybe some of those things on your list will become less important to match to.
posted by aimedwander at 9:29 AM on March 7, 2011

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