At Stonyford

Hiding Electronics in an Old Home

We love our technology but we don’t want our old home to look too modern. Here’s how we hide technology, in plain sight.

// March 6, 2017

This post is sponsored by West Elm. If you’d like to see all the posts about our living room makeover design, including adding electronics, check them out here.

As much as we love our electronics, and we do, we don’t necessarily want them out all the time. Good design can be ruined by a gaggle of cords running from TV’s, stereos and the all mighty phone charger. We’ve spent a long time working on the design and aesthetic for our living room, because we probably spend most of our time in that there. The functionality of a room is just as important as the aesthetic, and the electronics are part of the function.

“Hide the obvious in plain sight” is our motto. We want access to all of our electronic goodies so we don’t hide them so far away – it’s unreasonable to use them if they are too hidden.

TV

Let’s talk about the big one, the TV. We recently upgraded from a 32” to a 55” and, wow, is it ever big. It took me (Will) at least three weeks to get used to it, I think Susan would go even bigger if she could. I have to say now that it’s here, I love it. We’re not fans of how much a TV takes over a room, so we didn’t want it to be a focal point in the living room. That being said, we didn’t want to cover it with cabinetry either. When you first walk into the living room you won’t see this 55” TV staring at you. After you have entered the room and start looking around, you realize the TV is mounted on the same wall as the entrance to the room. This way we are hiding it in plain sight, just not your first glance. We chose a TV mount that was as flat as it could be to the wall. And I have to say, you don’t even know it’s there. Our last TV had such a bulky mount, you saw everything behind it. The new mounts today from the manufactures of the TV are so integrated and well designed, it’s almost seamless. I will never forget coming home to our last apartment and seeing the TV dangling off the wall, only being held by the cable cord, ready to hit the floor. That will be the last time I decided to get a discount tv mount – I promise you.

Now that the TV is flush to the wall, we have to deal with the cords. And there are a lot of cords. I was planning to open up the plaster wall, cutting through the lath and inserting electrical boxes. The idea of the mess in construction and hoping the boxes fit right, was enough to give me pause. We just so happened to be at the hardware store (imagine that) and we stumbled upon these amazing kits for running your TV cords through the wall. The kits come with a hole saw, a tool to fish the wire down the wall and outlets that mount tight to the wall with no extra hardware. It was like the universe just presented us with a gift and said, this one doesn’t have to be so hard, here you go.

AUDIO

Next, let’s talk about the stereo. We had a “moment” awhile ago that made us say “why do we have so much cable TV that we don’t watch?”. We decided to drop our cable to the bare minimum and buy a record player. BEST IDEA EVER! But it does come with a warning: you may become an audiophile. We bought this record player hooked directly into a standard speaker and it worked great, but always just sounded a little flat. I went on the search for a vintage receiver (like my dad had) that did the trick, it sounded so much better. So much better, that now we wanted to hear it all over. Visions of speakers started dancing in my head like sugar plum fairies.Then, scratched record, halt! “What about all the cords?” The last thing we wanted was cords running all over the place. The previous owners had cords running around the beautiful door frames. Not again, not us.  We have technology on our side. We had a few speakers that could connect to our iTunes, but they would drop out all the time. Annoying during a party.

We did some digging and that’s when we found Sonos. They had such a great variety of sizes for wireless speakers and their own dedicated wireless connection to each other, hence no drop outs. We decided to go with a Playbar for the TV and a Play 1 and Play 5 for the rest of the room and a Connect for the stereo. This way we could stream out Rolling Stones records loud and proud with amazing sound. The speakers are great on their own, but I also wanted the control of the vintage receiver we have, so we also picked up a Sonos Connect, to work that in. Not only can we listen to our records, we can stream from our digital music collection and other streaming services. The speakers themselves have a nice design – we hid one on the radiator shelf and the other plain as day in the middle of the table, but with accessories around it to integrate it into the design. The vintage stereo receiver and record player we kept together because they have a cool vintage look about them and it added to the design. What piece of furniture to choose for the receiver and record player was a bit tricky. We wanted it to be able to hold all the electronics, but not be a media cabinet or shelf. We searched and searched for buffet side tables, odd cabinets with character, and so on. Then one day we walked right into it, and we knew it was the perfect piece for us. It was a black lacquered Chinese desk with carved dragons on it. Just interesting enough on it’s own and it could also help us hide a few electronic sins. And it has dragons on it!

The breakdown

Here’s the breakdown of the Sonos equipment we got and why. First, as soon as we mounted the TV flush to the wall it muffled the audio and this is where the Playbar comes in. The Playbar acts as a much more enhanced speaker for the TV and also doubles to work with the stereo. That being said, it’s almost like an accent for the stereo, not to be used as a main stereo speaker. Second, this is where the Play 5 comes in. The Play 5 fills the room with that deep luscious sound you’re looking for in a music speaker. And with the complement of the Playbar it helps fill out the room from the other side. If you have to fill a room with sound the Play 5 is the way to go. Third, we have a little nook in the corner tucked behind a wall, that we eat in and work in. Because of the wall you loose the sound quality and this is where the Play 1 comes in. It is great for small spaces or a studio apartment. Also, with the Sonos system there is a phone app that lets you change the volume per speaker. When we are having people over for dinner in the nook area, we can turn down just that section, so we can all hear each other talk, but also still get a nice background music. Now fourth, let’s add a wrench to the whole scenario because I want to listen to our record player. (Someone is going to call me out on the use of  “record player”, saying it’s a “turntable”, I understand, maybe it’s regional?). This really isn’t a big deal for the Sonos systems because they have something called the Sonos Connect. If you already have a record player with an amp built in (such as this one we have here) you can just connect it to Sonos Connect. If you don’t have a record player with an amp built in, you can find an preamp for as cheap as $15 and upwards of $400+, and plug that into the Connect. We had already bought a vintage Marantz 2230 stereo receiver before we had the Sonos system and I loved the velvety tones coming from it, especially when playing records. I wasn’t going to give that up that vintage sound, and with the Connect I didn’t have to. Instead of plugging the record player directly into the Connect, I plugged the stereo in instead. Works like a charm and now I still get the vintage sound of the records that I want without compromise.

The living room to us is a place to gather with friends, relax after work and enjoy the morning sun on Sunday mornings. We watch TV, listen to music and scroll websites, but don’t want electronics to take over our lives, or rooms. If you have or want a home theatre room, that’s perfect for having all theses electronics out. But if not, design it away and hide it in plain sight.

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