According to the U.S. Census Data, the median size of a home dipped in 2008. This is the first decline in 13 years, and home sizes are expected to drop in 2009.
In this economy, it’s not surprising. Although people are opting for less square footage, there’s still plenty of room for electronics.
“You just need to know how to maximize the space,” says Rich Conklin, a custom electronics (CE) professional at Grand Home Automation, Grand Rapids, Mich. “We’ve put $1 million worth of electronics into 3,800-square-foot homes.”
Bottom line: you don’t have to live in a mansion to deck out your residence. Here are a few space-saving techniques the pros use to install electronics:
Racks. Instead of stuffing audio and video components into shelves and cabinets, consider having them installed inside a specialty equipment rack. Engineered specifically for electronic equipment, they can be recessed into walls, tucked underneath stairwells and placed in a utility room.
Distribution systems. A distributed audio and video system takes the signals from all of the equipment in your rack and distributes the music and video to speakers (in-wall, of course) and TVs (flat-panel models, definitely) throughout your home. This means you won’t need to have clutter up every room with a separate stack of components. This one rack—hidden away—is all your home needs.
Flat-panel TVs. A no-brainer, right. But if you’re particularly concerned about saving space, Conklin suggests recessing the unit into the wall. Although the set may have protruded just a couple of inches from the wall had you mounted it directly to the wall surface, “two-inches, is two inches,” says Conklin.
Media management. How many drawers are you currently using to store your CDs and DVDs? You can clear that space completely by storing your media digitally on the hard drive of a music and video management system. Once the content is on the drive, a touchscreen or remote control is all you’ll need to pick and choose what you want to watch or listen to. As for those CD and DVD cases? They make excellent coasters.
Multifunctional furniture. If your style is more traditional and would you’d rather keep your entertainment components (TV included) inside a cabinet, look for something that can double as a bookshelf or place to showcase family photos and artwork. You can find slim cabinets sized perfectly for flat-panel TVs, or simply modify the furniture you already own. Here’s how CE pro Tyler Worthington of Worthington Entertainment Systems, Lancaster, Calif., turned a cabinet that used to house a huge CRT TV into something suitable for a flat-panel TV. “We installed an articulating mount for the TV at the front of the cabinet, and built shelves for the unused back portion for storage,” he explains. “The customer uses the storage area for components and DVDs and CDs.”
Articulating TV mounts. Small rooms often have limited wall space, what with all the windows and artwork, leaving little room for a wall-mounted TV or entertainment cabinet. “An articulating wall mount let’s you put the TV in places you’d never consider,” says Worthington, “like on a wall that’s perpendicular to the viewing area.” The mount allows the TV—no matter where it’s placed—to be towards the bed, the couch or wherever you want to watch it.
Passive subwoofers. Subwoofers are notorious for being huge, floor-hogging units. Those without internal amplifiers, however, are much sleeker, small enough to slide underneath the couch or bed. “We store the amplifiers remotely, like in a closet” Worthington explains, “and run cabling to the subwoofer.”
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.