Since moving into my first apartment in 1990, I’ve had this rickety hand-me-down stereo cabinet that my friend gave me. It was one of those things that I appreciated (since I had no furniture whatsoever) but over time, and numerous types of stereo components & televisions sets, I grew dissatisfied with it but Ray and I are kind of utilitarian when it comes to functional furniture. It served its purpose. Why replace it?

Over the years, I just ignored the ugly entertainment center. It was that 80’s cheap black lacquer with fake gold piping that just screamed to have a Nagel print hung over it.  One day, it really began to bother me.  That’s when Ray and I got a 42 inch plasma television. It was way too big to fit in the unit so we sat it on top. All you could see behind it was wires!

This past year, I ditched most of my components for a Mac Mini — basically turning the TV into a computer/media center. We ditched cable/satellite when we left Chicago. We recently got rid of XM/Sirius and started using Pandora and all the free iTunes streaming stations. I also ripped our entire CD collection into iTunes which is stored on an external 1 terabyte drive (actually, I’m still in the process of that task).

It’s so funny, I used to want to show off my stereo system. I had amps, tuners, turntables, reel-to-reel and cassette decks, CD & DVD players, VHS and S-VHS as well as other assorted components. I also had ginormous speakers. It was all about the components.

On New Year’s Day, Ray and I made a stop at Ikea after seeing our friends Chuck and Jeff’s new stereo cabinet. The series is called BESTÅ/FRAMSTÅ. It’s a bunch of modular pieces that you choose to make a custom entertainment center. All in all, we spent less than $300 for a total overhaul of our entertainment system. Now we just have a cabinet, TV and a wireless keyboard & mouse. All the “guts” are hidden behind the cabinet doors. Funny, we did keep the turntable. Even though we have tons of CDs, we still have a lot of albums that get spun now and again.

Now it’s like having a kick-ass jukebox. Just open a web browser and watch Netflix, YouTube or Hulu (in full screen). Pop in a DVD and the Mac Mini will play it. The mini has an optical Dobly 5.1 surround sound ouput. Switch from the media room speakers to the house speakers and play a CD from the library or listen to Pandora or ITunes radio. Play a record if you want to! There’s also a Wii system! Suddenly (and cheaply), the TV room just got a whole lot cooler.

Here are some photos (presented in order) of our media center project. Kudos to Ray for adding the cabinet door handles. We’re going to buy one more panel for the top and raise the TV a little bit.

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