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Wall Unit Wisdom

Because we’re in the fireplace business, we spend a lot of time thinking about, and helping clients to create, feature walls. Often, this includes a wall unit. Usually, they are centered on a fireplace (of course!), and frequently there is a TV. We’ve learned lots of ‘tricks of the trade’ to make a wall unit as functional as possible, in addition to looking good. Below, we share our Wall Unit Wisdom.

Wall Unit Wisdom – TV’s, etc.

Perhaps the most frequent driver of a wall unit is the desire for a TV above the fireplace. Of course, TV’s don’t operate on their own – they need to be attached to PVR’s and DVD players, or sound equipment.  In this case, our objective is to house the auxiliary components in a way that allows them to be hidden, even when they are in use.  We hide speakers behind doors with fabric panels; we hide PVR’s and DVD players behind glass panels, or painted Plexiglas, so that their remotes will find them even with the doors closed. Closed cabinets also allow all the cables and wires to travel behind the scenes, from TV to cabinet and within the wall unit.

This wall unit incorporates tons of storage for electronic components. The doors have fabric panels, to allow sound and vibrations to escape from hidden speakers. Two of the ‘drawers’ are actually flip-down doors with Plexiglas, to allow remotes to work with the components inside.

Wall unit with speaker door and glass flip-down panel closed and open.



Wall Unit Wisdom — Display space

Most of our clients want a bit of storage space in their wall unit, but not all want display space. We always ask whether clients have a collection that they want to show off. If not, there’s no need for stacks of glass shelves that need to be filled. The only thing more stressful than having too much clutter is the pressure of having to find things to fill empty shelves!   In this case, we like to suggest a few floating shelves, or go without shelves and highlight a few pieces of wall art. No matter what, we like to incorporate LED puck lighting on either side of a wall unit, to bring light to the wall.  If display space is desired, we suggest glass shelves so that light can filter through all the layers from top to bottom. We may also add glass doors to a custom cabinet, to protect more delicate items from frequent dusting.

This condo wall unit not only has practical storage for electronics, it also has display space with glass doors, to show off collectibles.


For clients with an Inuit art collection, glass shelves and LED lighting provide a showcase.
This wall unit features a few floating shelves to highlight family treasures without feeling cluttered.


Wall Unit Wisdom – Obstacles

Regardless of your desire for a wall unit, your chosen wall may not be ideally constructed as a backdrop for cabinetry. But, as the saying goes, when your building hands you lemons, make lemonade!  When confronted with bulkheads in awkward places, we build the cabinet around it. This is most effectively hidden when the wall unit is painted the same colour as the wall. Our biggest challenge has been the HVAC closet found in many condo units, where a swinging door has to be accessible for twice-yearly maintenance. In this case, the only option is to design a cabinet that can be moved, but looks permanent. By placing hidden casters under the lower cabinet, and installing the floating shelves on hardware that allows for their removal, we are able to accommodate the opening of the closet door.

For this wall unit next to an HVAC closet, we made the lower cabinet movable, with hidden casters. The floating shelves are also removable when the HVAC closet door needs to open.
To balance an awkward bulkhead on the right side, we added an extra panel at the top of the left tower. We also made the end towers the same width as the ceiling bulkhead, so that most of the wall unit is ceiling height, and is not limited by the height of the bulkhead on the right side.


Wall Unit Wisdom – Off the Rack

Occasionally, we come across an opportunity to create the look of a built-in wall unit, without actually doing custom work. By carefully measuring and planning, and taking stock of all the things that need to be stored and displayed, we can piece together a series of ready-made pieces to create a feature wall. It helps if the pieces are made for butting together, without overhanging countertops. It is also a requirement that there be enough different sizes and shapes to create something that fits the wall. Generally, this will result in maximum impact for minimal budget, with the added bonus of being movable.

This wall unit is actually composed of stock furniture pieces, arranged symmetrically around the center TV cabinet.



Stylish Fireplaces & Interiors specializes in electric fireplaces and custom designs. In their Toronto-area showroom, they feature over 40 fireplaces in 20 display walls, plus all the finishing materials needed to complete the project. They can also help with the entire fireplace design and construction, as well as complete interior design services.

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