One of my favorite features in our new house is our media closet. It’s an idea “borrowed” from some friends of ours, Tim and Jennie Morgan. They have similar closet in their house. I thought they were somewhat common at the time, but found out later what an original idea it was, so they definitely deserve a lot of credit. If you do a Google image search for media closet, you really don’t find any other walk-in ones, but it’s totally the way to go. For anyone thinking about building, I highly recommend one.
Why a Media Closet?
We have a fair number of electronic components: Xbox, Wii, Playstation, Mac Mini a receiver and until recently a cable box. We used to store these at the bottom of our TV stand but it looked rather cluttered, and if you ever look behind the TV was a cable nightmare. Jeanette always used to ask me if all those cables were REALLY necessary and sadly they were. Every now and then I’d try to organize them, but it didn’t help a ton and as soon as I wanted to swap out a device, I had to undo and redo everything. So the short answer is to get rid of the clutter. Here are what our TVs look like now.
There is a single HDMI cable running to the tv along with an infrared repeater which is barely visible. The bonus is it also allows me to easily get to everything instead of having to squeeze behind the TV. We also keep our cable modem, router, switches and UPS in the closet so it cleans up our computer room quite a bit. Due to it’s placement we’re also able to run multiple TVs off of it.
The placement of the media close is very important. At a minimum, it needs to be behind or beside the wall you plan on placing your TV. If you don’t place the TV on an external wall, it’s much easier to work it in. In our case, we wanted our bedroom TV to also be hooked up to it, so we have the closet in between our living room and bedroom. As an unplanned bonus, the kids playroom, where their TV is kept, is above our living room, but their is attic space above this media closet. We haven’t done so yet, but we should be able to very easily hook the kids’ TV up to this closet as well.
Single Wire Hookup
Getting everything condensed down to a single HDMI cable running to the TV was a big goal with this. The way I did this was with an HDMI switcher box. The cable box (when we had it) went into one port, our Mac Mini into another and our receiver. The switcher lets us toggle between the three inputs and has a single HDMI cable as the output which runs to the TV. All the game consoles run to our receiver. Even though not all of them use HDMI output (Wii and Xbox), the receiver converts the signal and still sends the video in the HDMI output. The only downside is we have to have the receiver on when playing video games, which is ok. We don’t want to have it on just to watch TV though, which is why the HDMI switcher is necessary and we can’t just run everything through the receiver. The nice thing about our switcher is it automatically detects when a new device powers on and switches to it. When the device powers off, it switches to the next device. Since we’re down to just two devices, turning on and off our receiver acts as a toggle and we never have to manually switch it.
Hooking up Multiple TVs
I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for a separate cable box for the bedroom TV, so I found a way to hook both TVs up to a single cable box (when we had cable). You can do this by just hooking up an HDMI switcher in reverse. So I took the wire coming out of the first HDMI switcher and hooked it up to the *output* slot of a second HDMI switcher. Then I plugged HDMI cables from our two TVs into two of the TV inputs. It actually works hooking it up in reverse like this, so when we’re watching a show, we can pause it in the living room, push the button to switch it, and resume it in the bedroom without missing a beat. Technically we can use all of our devices in the bedroom. We haven’t done it yet, but we can play XBOX back there if we want.
Beaming Infrared Signals Through Walls
This really isn’t that big of a problem. The Xbox, Playstation and Mac Mini don’t need infrared. The Wii has it’s Wii bar, which I had to set up on top of our TV like normal, so that just leaves our receiver which needs IR and the cable box when we had it. There are two great solutions for this. If you have a single remote that takes normal batteries, this IR extender is like magic! You just swap out one of the batteries in the remote and it works. We did this for a while until I bought a fancy remote that didn’t take normal batteries. Now we use this. Basically you just tape one of those connectors onto the hookup on each device and then run a very small pickup line to the living room and it relays the signal. The pickup is tiny and taped to the bottom of our TV. As long as the tape holds, it’s not even noticeable.
1. Have a shelf that opens up into the living room. We don’t have a wall-mounted TV in the living room currently, but plan to eventually. The idea with this shelf was it could be a place to set electronic components if we ever needed line of sight (such as Kinect). If nothing else we can put decorations there. The closet is dark when the light is off so seeing into it isn’t a problem. This provides a nice open space for air to escape.
2. A louvered door. The door to this closet is slotted so air can freely flow in and out.
3. A vent in the closet and an air intake. Every time the A/C or heater kicks in, it blows in fresh air, but since there’s also a return vent in here, it sucks out the old air as well.
Two Other Random Tips
1. Make sure you build the closet big enough. You want enough room to be able to walk in here and work comfortably. Ours is 3.5′ wide and 5′ long. I wouldn’t go any narrower.
2. Put everything on one wall! You need room to walk in here so don’t put shelves on both sides and keep all your power, cable, network, phone, speaker and other hookups on the same wall as your devices or an adjacent one, NOT the other side. You don’t want a spiderweb of cables in here.
It has been a year so far and I’m still very happy with the setup. It keeps everything looking clean, lets me easily hook up all the devices without having to worry about keeping the cables neat, gives me storage space for all the extra cables and computer parts and gives us a nice place to keep our DVDs, while making it super easy to have our TVs hooked up to everything we want. Definitely something to consider when building a house.