Those of us of a certain age will remember the console TVs of the 1970s. A 25” TV with that huge cathode ray tube (CRT) was considered large and it was encased inside a cabinet that held the TV alone or had extensions on either side with a stereo system and a turntable to play vinyl LP albums. They were huge and bulky but were very popular in that era.
Today’s HDTVs are larger with a 50+ inch screen a common sight in living rooms and bedrooms everywhere. The console has been replaced by TV stands and complete entertainment (media) centers that make an attractive alternative to those old consoles.
How do I go about choosing a TV stand?
A TV stand is essentially a small entertainment center. The difference is that the TV stand acts primarily as a base on which the TV sits while the entertainment center will have additional shelves and cabinetry that can go above and extend around the central area.
The first obvious step is to match the TV stand to the size of your TV. New HDTVs are usually sold with brackets for wall mounting and with support legs or a platform. The platform is often a rectangular or oval base that will easily sit on any size of the TV stand. The main concern is to choose a stand that is close to the width of the TV.
A smaller TV on a larger stand is acceptable with additional items like a vase or framed picture to balance the look. For a larger TV with support legs, make sure the legs will sit a few inches in from the edges to provide the needed support. The legs are usually attached to the TV about four inches from the sides and will splay out an additional inch.
A wider TV on a smaller stand will look top-heavy and more prone to toppling so this is not advised. The TV’s weight is usually not a concern if the stand itself is sturdy enough to support it. The one exception is for those who can’t part with their 37” CRT TV from the 1990s. It may still work well but the 100 lb. weight could overstress some TV stands designed for the weight of today’s TVs.
How do I go about choosing an entertainment center?
Entertainment or media centers are generally larger than TV stands and will occupy a larger space along the wall. If you want something that will fit cozily in a corner go with a smaller TV stand.
Many entertainment centers will have a central rectangular or square-shaped enclosure, called a hutch, that will hold your TV. Be sure that your TV fits inside the hutch with a few inches to spare on each side, the top, and behind for ample ventilation. This is important to disperse any heat generated by the TV and make it easier to remove the TV for cleaning and to check the cords and connectors.
Before you buy, be sure that there are holes or ports to run electric cords and wires to electrical outlets and other peripheral items like speakers, video players, karaoke systems and such. Owners of that 37” CRT TV will need to make sure that the hutch doors close completely as many entertainment centers have sliding or hinged doors to hide the TV when not in use.
What are the best entertainment centers and TV stands made of?
For college students in a dorm room, cement blocks with wood planks or plastic milk crates stacked creatively make a fine place to put a TV. Those looking for something a bit more refined will choose either wood and metal or a combination of both.
- Wood will yield a more traditional “rustic” look and the choice of woods include cherry and maple as mid-price wood selections with oak and mahogany for higher price wood options.
- The metal used in many entertainment centers and TV stands is steel or aluminum tubing with powder coating or chrome plating. Metals fit better with modern homes.
- Those looking for cheap plastic or synthetic items are advised to follow the famous words of advice: “You usually get what you pay for”.
What are the most common types of TV stands and entertainment centers?
There are three common types of TV stands and media centers available in many styles and designs. It depends on the function and how the unit will be used.
The first type for those needing storage and who have an available wall is a stand-alone media center or TV stand. It can be as simple as a dresser. The TV will sit atop the dresser or on a wall mount above. Speakers and other audio/visual components can also sit on the dresser. With a wide nine-drawer unit this is perfect for the bedroom and to store clothing, but keep one drawer reserved for keys, loose change, and other bric-a-brac.
For entertainment centers, take that same stand-alone style and add a TV enclosure to it and you have the hutch style suited for living rooms or your “human cave”. Remember the guidelines for hutches given above when selecting this type of entertainment center.
TV stands offer an additional style, the corner unit with a triangular or a three or five-sided design that allows it to fit snugly into a corner. This has the benefit of being a space saver and it can become an instant home office. The corner unit will be located away from the center of the room, a perfect place to place a laptop that you can use with noise-canceling headphones while your kids sing and dance to Baby Shark videos on YouTube.
How do I choose from the many styles of entertainment centers and TV stands?
Do you lack aesthetic abilities? Consider getting help from a friend who has those skills. If the entertainment center is part of a remodel, then ask your interior designer to include it in the new design even as a recessed media center that will add usable space to the room.
Other than that, and with an almost infinite number of style choices available, it is better to discuss what not to do. Here are the “don’ts”:
Don’t try to fit a huge entertainment center into a small space. Aside from the logistics of moving it, the unit will project into the room by as much as 24 inches or 20% of a 10-foot-wide room.
Don’t put a modern design in an old-fashioned room. The contrast of a futuristic wall unit in a living room with a traditional or vintage design will likely look at bit odd.
Don’t do the opposite and put an old-fashioned entertainment system in a modern room.
Don’t forget to measure all the other items that will sit in or on the entertainment center. This includes speakers, CD players, amplifiers, soundbars, oversized books, and pictures.
Don’t forget the line of sight from your viewing seat to the TV screen. A common mistake with wall-mounted TVs is to mount them too high making people crane their necks from your sofa. Viewers normally prefer the middle of the TV screen at about a 40-inch to 50-inch height, but this is largely a personal matter as are the aesthetic qualities of the TV stand that you choose.
What are other features to look for in a TV stand or entertainment center?
Glass doors and glass tops are a beautiful feature of TV stands and entertainment centers. The smoked glass color goes well with the normally black TV chassis and the tinted glass will conceal items on shelves behind the glass. Glass will also allow the signal from your remote control to reach a concealed DVD player.
If you have an 8-year-old who enjoys throwing small projectiles, then glass may be a poor choice. Be sure that any glass door or top is made of tempered glass for added strength.
You may not yet know what will sit on your entertainment center, so consider adjustable shelves that you can adapt as needed. Check that the moveable support pegs are not broken or damaged and be sure they are all on the same level before placing the shelves on them.
The choice of wood for a TV stand or entertainment center limits your choice of colors to a few shades of brown. Metal will usually be the silver/grey color of steel or chrome. For other colors, composite materials with laminate veneers are an option.
Bluetooth and wireless technology have helped but people will still have to deal with a tangle of cords and wires from the power plug to the various inputs and outputs of your media system. When shopping for your TV stand, check if there is any kind of cord organizing system on it.
Another thing to consider is your plans to stay put in your present dwelling or moving to the proverbial greener pastures. Your choice between buying a large heavy wall unit or a small portable TV stand before or after you move will depend on your willingness to tote the former to your new dwelling and its availability.
Final word: remember that your cat may find one of the drawers or a shelf of your new entertainment center the perfect place to take a warm cozy nap. That’s the first place to look if “Princess” goes missing.