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CABINETRY : Home Entertainment Systems Fit Best in Special Furniture


Styles come and styles go, even with television sets.

Not long ago, smaller was better. Now, with high-resolution technology, TV sets are growing. In fact, the bigger the better. Add extra speakers, and it's almost like being there, whether it's a concert, stadium or movie theater.

But where to put the screen, along with all the requisite audio accouterments? Preferably in custom cabinets in a well-padded, well-appointed room, say designers.

In creating a media room in a beach house in Southampton, N.Y., interior designer Norman Michaeloff cut out most of the sound by lining the the walls above a wooden dado with printed suede over padding. Room-darkening shades in the same printed suede also have a layer of fabric for soundproofing, and the floors are carpeted.

Casters on chairs and occasional tables create flexibility, an advantage when group size ranges from the immediate family to a crowd.

Audio and video components are tucked into a custom-built cabinet that stretches the width of the room and from floor to ceiling. They include a 53-inch rear-projection TV screen, stereo components, four speakers, 100 videodiscs and books. Two additional speakers are mounted on the walls toward the back of the room.

Such large cabinets can overwhelm a room. One solution is to minimize the mass by varying the cabinet depth. In this room, Michaeloff designed five sections, with the center area the deepest. Two bays on either side are slightly stepped back, making the room look larger.

Custom work is preferred, but ready-made units are less expensive and can be set up faster.

Some tips for ready-made home-entertainment cabinets:

* Measure audio and video components before shopping, noting height, width and depth of each. Keep in mind that you will need a few extra inches for ventilation.

In addition, said Bernice Wollman, vice president at Workbench, a retail furniture chain, measure how much space you will need for accessories such as videotapes and game cartridges.

"Most entertainment furniture has some storage space for a modest library, but those with a large collection will need supplementary storage," Wollman said.

* Cabinets designed for a specific format such as CDs or VHS tapes are likely to become obsolete as media formats change. It's better to outfit shelves or drawers with removable racks or boxes.

* Adjustable shelves offer more flexibility than fixed shelving.

* When figuring your shelving needs, plan for expansion. A laser disc player and discs come to mind.

* Open shelves look best in a modern room and for owners who admire high-tech equipment. They're also practical when the equipment is in almost constant use.

* Closed cabinetry works best in traditional rooms, where concealing modern electronics helps maintain the decorative mood. It also helps to hide mismatched or unattractive equipment, protects against dust and reduces temptations for toddlers. You might even consider locks.

* Be sure TV cabinet doors open wide enough so that the screen is visible from every angle. Pocketing doors, those that slide into the cabinet, are best.

* A mobile unit allows easy access to the back of the equipment for servicing, rewiring or moving to another room. However, stationary units offer a wider range of styles and stability.

* On open-backed units, tape wires neatly to the back edge of the shelves to avoid tangled masses. If units have backs, pass wires through cutouts.

* Never assume a wall unit is sturdy enough to hold your equipment. It's best to estimate the combined weight of the components and check this against load-bearing specs available from the retailer, Wollman said.

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