The entertainment center is a relatively new addition to the lexicon of American furniture forms, one that was necessarily developed long after the era of the Arts and Crafts movement. Nevertheless, it’s possible to design an entertainment center reflecting this traditional style by bringing to the piece some of the identifying characteristics common to the Arts and Crafts movement, a style that dominated quality American furniture making at the dawn of the 20th century.
This entertainment center (which I built for my son Andrew) was designed to provide support for a large video gaming monitor as well as the game systems and storage for the game cases. Fortunately, those game cases are the same size as DVDs, so it will store them equally well. To that end, I borrowed and compiled design elements from classic Arts and Crafts examples: rectilinear details, tapering front rails and the repetitive lines of the exposed storage area are a few examples.
Constructing the Front
The case is constructed of three subassemblies: the plinth, which lifts the piece from the floor; a solid-oak front (a modified face frame), which creates the shape of the entertainment center’s silhouette; and a central box that holds the center’s various storage compartments.
I built the front from solid oak, tenoning the various stiles into the bottom front rail, while the top rail sits behind the stiles and is screwed to their back faces. In my original drawings of the entertainment center, the top rail was mortised to receive tenons on the stiles, but — at least to my eye — the presence of that top rail created a visual dead space over the storage slots.
In a bit of an unusual technique, I glued and screwed the back of the bottom rail to a cleat that would catch the lip of a rabbet on the plinth deck.
The most complicated feature of the entertainment center’s construction was the installation of the tapered stiles. In order to open up the spaces above the banks of storage slots, I decided to stop the top rail at the stile on either side of the central compartment. This would have left those tapered stiles unsupported (with no rail connected to them) at the top prior to the installation of the unit’s top. In order to stabilize the tapered rails, I temporarily ran the top rail long, across the top of the storage slot openings, attaching it to the tapered stiles with screws.
Later, I cut the ends free after the front was screwed in place. (Note: these rails are tapered only after they have had the tenons formed on one end and test fitted in the front.)
Making the Plinth
My dad was a cabinetmaker for much of his working life, building custom cabinets for dozens of kitchens and bathrooms, as well as dozens of commercial offices in northern Ohio. The plinth — or base — for each of his cabinets was constructed of 1 x 3 material nailed together into a ladder-like frame to which the cabinet front was attached and on which the cabinet was constructed. This is the approach I used for building the plinth of this entertainment center.
I built a ladder from spruce furring strips ripped to a 2-1⁄ 8″ width that I fastened together with 1-5⁄8″ drywall screws. The ladder was built without a front rail in order to create visual space under the arc at the bottom of the cabinet front.
I then attached two glue blocks on the inside front end of the ladder’s long end pieces. These provided me with my initial attachment points for joining the plinth to the front. This attachment was reinforced as other components of the case were installed, by attaching them to the front and to the plinth.