Custom made furniture … Bri’s Credenza

You all remember Bri and Arian’s apartment, right? Well I tried not to show you the credenza so I could do this post on it, and hopefully you’ve slept in the last three months while waiting for it because here it finally is.

When we started, Bri and Arian had their TV on this bad boy — a mid-century dresser retrofitted to be a media unit. It was so not bad, but it also just wasn’t awesome. It was dark, clunky, and too small for that giant TV. Bri hated it and it totally bummed her out.

small credenza

But the piece itself wasn’t the biggest challenge  — there are a lot of good credenzas out there — it was all the media components that didn’t fit inside the piece that were really hard to design around. Arian is super into high tech media, specifically audio, and NOT having really good sound wasn’t really an option; it was one of his only deal breakers. So he needed really good speakers, left, center, and right – not just one in the middle (which of course I proposed before I, too, became an audio person). More on that later …

So we picked out some new speakers, the JBL Studo 530, and I designed the credenza to do these three things:

1. Lighten the space while still working with the mid-century modern vibe.

2. Be larger and better proportioned to the TV and the room.

3. Hide the media components that could be hidden (with sliding doors as opposed to cupboards that stick out into the room) and yet leave out the audio that needed to be exposed, but make them look more attractive.

So I started drawing, which I don’t do well so thank God for the invention of the ruler.

credenza sketch

The TV is 60 inches wide so I knew that I wanted it to be at least one foot on either side, so the credenza was proportioned to the TV= 84 inches. If it were a massive room, it could’ve even been longer, but the space isn’t huge so 84 inches was about the longest I could go without the piece taking over the room. The depth is relatively standard, but we made sure to measure the components inside and make sure that they would all fit with the doors shut (including the chord things that stick out at the back). The height was more negotiable but I decided that 30 inches would work nicely based on how high they wanted to view their TV. I measured the speakers and left an inch of room just in case, and then I measured the components and made sure there was plenty of space inside the unit itself. There was a lot of measuring, and I, Emily Henderson, am NOT a terribly good measure taker but I got through it.

Next I took it to get some quotes. I know you are asking, “How do you find furniture builders?” and it’s really easy and difficult at the same time. I knew a guy who knew a guy and unfortunately I promised the guy I got the name from that I wouldn’t tell you, BUT you can also do these things:

1. Go on Craigslist and post an ad. Obviously make sure that once they respond that they show you pieces they have built so you know they aren’t just dudes desperate for a gig. These days there are quite a few of them online, at least in LA — good and bad.

2. Ask around. This is way more difficult unless you are in the habit of asking your refinisher to ask their brother who is a furniture delivery dude if he knows anyone that makes furniture. This is what I did, but at the same time I obviously have a bunch of dudes that work in the arena.

Anyway, I found my dude and he’s awesome. The quote was $1,200, which I thought was totally fair for a HUGE piece of furniture that is totally customized, with beautiful joints and beautiful wood veneer on the inside. So after a week, I went to go visit the piece:

custom credenza

It was coming together, indeed. I decided on doing the outside a clean paintable wood because I was going to have it lacquered white. BUT Bri and Arian really still wanted some wood so we decided to do two of the three panels (yes, he suggested adding a panel in between the two sliders) made of pretty stained wood. And then we figured since the components were black, then the inside should be dark so I went for the same stain inside the piece.

  custom credenza

One week later it was even closer to being done. We had to change out the legs from the ones in the drawing because with all the measurements we realized that the legs could be no more than 6 inches tall in order for the piece to not to be too gigantic, so instead we opted for the mid-century style peg legs, and six of them to keep it all sturdy. The piece is right side up in this pic, with the legs on top, but that was just to show me how the feet were going to fit, and how spaced apart they should be, etc.  The piece was coming along …

And then one week later:

mid-century credenza

BOOM. Dunzo. (Photo by the lovely Laure Joliet) We were all VERY happy with the final result, thank god, because with custom you don’t get to return anything obviously so you are taking a bit of a risk. The size was wildly better because it was way more proportioned to the TV, and in fact made the TV less noticeable and smaller. Before when it was on the wood dresser, it dwarfed the media unit, and therefore made the TV look extra giant. Now it just looks like a dope TV, ready for me to watch all my stories. With the whole top dedicated to the JBL speakers in a clean, proportioned way, it drew way less attention to them and made the whole thing look more intentional. Arian got his sound, and Bri got all the rest of the media hidden inside.

midcentury credenza

Customizing that bad boy was VERY satisfying. I know that it’s not really a very accessible tip: “Hey if you have an extra $1,200, know a REALLY good furniture maker, can draw, and have lots of extra time on your hands and/or an interior designer on staff, go ahead and customize your furniture …” but I will say it was WAY easier than I thought it would be and turned out far better than I expected. We got something that would cost at least $3,500 at most stores, that fit the needs of my clients EXACTLY, was one of a kind, AND was designed and delivered within three weeks — all for $1,200.

custom credenza

And just because it’s so satisfying, here we are again, BEFORE:

small credenza

And now, AFTER:

mid-century credenza

Check this post for all other shopping resources in Bri’s house. Meanwhile, what do you think? Are you slightly LESS intimidated to customize something? The design of this was inspired by some Paul McCobb pieces (that I love) from the ’60s and has also inspired the credenzas from Organic Modernism, so if you want something similar but don’t want to customize it yourself, check out their site. 

Come back tomorrow for a video staring me and my/the new credenza. We’ll talk about how to mix masculine and feminine styles in the same space … and then we make out.

**This post was in partnership with JBL, but all ideas, designs, words, and opinions are totally mine. 


  1. tasha

    Emily… That is a killer credenza and you can’t beat that price! Knowing a great, reliable craftsman is one of the greatest well kept secrets, like having a good upholster! :) Love Bri’s living room :)

  2. That is my kind of custom! That is a really amazing piece for such a biga$$ TV! Beautiful job and the whole room is amazeballs! I have an old stereo that was given to me by grandmother that I am thinking of doing something similar, adding some white will really tone it down and bring it up to date. Thanks for the inspiration always! Huge fan:)

  3. sparkelgem

    Fantastic job on the custom credenza! Would you be willing to share your cabinet maker? I have designed some built ins to match existing pieces in our MCM house and have also drawn up a credenza, but the quote I got from our contractor’s guy was off the charts.

  4. Michelle

    The condo I purchased had built ins along one window wall, and the other one was bare. The TV has been sitting in the empty space, well last week had a guy out to build a DVD cabinet (in a sliver of wall) and a TV/component along that wall, it is pretty costly, but I think since they are going to match the color and style of the built-ins that are already there, it will give the whole unit more cohesion, it will totally be worth it, and since I moved in I wanted to “finish” that seemly unfinished project. They install in 2 weeks or so, and I am super excited to make this huge jump in my home design. Next step, save up $$ to get my couch and club chair recovered.

  5. Mimi

    I!! Are you still hosting Secrets of a Stylists?

  6. Wow!! I love it. The price sounds cheap to me! Amazing!!

  7. hillary

    Freaking amazing. The finished piece is insane.

    I love Bri’s living room…so inspirational with regard to color, light, and PLANTS.

  8. Simply fantastic!!! Great proportions :))

  9. Cindy

    Beautiful work!

    I have two questions:
    #1: What did you do with the mass of cords in the back? Are they off the ground? Are they behind a panel? Can you see them from the side?

    #2: When finding a woodworker through Craigslist, how do you know that the pictures they show you are really theirs and not images from the internet? I need a woodworker (and an upholsterer too), but I’m leery.

    • Emily

      AH, i forgot to say. We drilled a hole in the back of all the cupboards so the chords are wrangled inside and then just go straight to the wall!

      #2. Man, I don’t know. References maybe? And NEVER pay for anything til you get your product. Unless they can show you a beautiful portfolio then make sure that you aren’t giving them any money til you get your product….

      • Carolyn | Two Rubies

        #2. For images you get from Craigslist, you can also do a quick google image search (drag the image file into google image search) to verify it’s not snatched from a website :).

  10. Emily – it looks amazing. Wish you could spill the beans about your source! I love the wood/white combo, and it has the mcm look without it being too overpowering (i feel like sometimes its easy to go overboard). does measuring get any easier/more fun? i can’t stand it!

  11. Awesome job on incorporating so many different specifics. The piece is a real gem and completely functional to Bri & Arian’s preferences. Like Cindy mentioned, sometimes you feel like you’re going into Craigslist with a bandana on, not knowing if the source is credible. offers a platform for Buyers with big inspiration to connect with Makers across America for unique creations. Projects can be tailored to every little need and you actually get several Makers to bid on it – letting you decide the best option. It’s a great source for custom goods!

  12. Haley

    LOVE this! Pretty impressive that this piece shines in an already unbelievable room.

    Where do you have a piece lacquered (in general, I’m far from LA)? Inquiring minds want/need to know.

    • Emily

      Lacquering is done by a refinisher and its normally fairly expensive – like $300, and even like $100 for a very small piece because the materials are expensive and you need a studio to do it in…. So look for refinishers and that might help!

      • Haley

        Great info, seems reasonable for custom. Thanks Emily!

  13. Max

    The cabinet looks great, but you still suffer from the 2 major HT issues that most of these suffer from. The speakers will not sound good enclosed like that and in that position, and you can’t operate the components with the remote while the doors are closed! I built a Besta set from Ikea to house my stuff, but stuck with their white since the wood grains are so terrible looking. My speakers are floor standers so they are not in the cabinet. The adjustable shelves made it easy to put the components in without too much extra space and I could hide things that don’t use remotes behind drawer fronts while leaving the others open. The center speaker was almost an exact fit width and height wise and is totally flush with the drawers (when you aren’t custom some luck has to be involved :P ). It’s not as nice as yours, but was a great option on the cheap!

    • Marcie

      We have a similar media cabinet and hid our cable box, dvd player, etc. behind closed doors. We installed one of those “magic eye” devices that transmits the signal from your remote to the electronic components. It’s hard to describe (I am so not a tech person) but we just have a small, unobtrusive hole in our wall just below the tv, for the receiver. We can use our remote controls exactly as we have always done.

    • tata

      There is a guy in LA that makes custom wood panels specifically for Ikea furniture (and yes, BESTA is one of them). So instead of Ikea ugly wood grains, you can select from their many beautiful options of teak, walnut, etc. Price was a little high but I thought it was a cool option to use white ikea Besta and transform it into something pretty.

  14. emily

    the proportions make me so happy! what a difference the right sized furniture makes. thanks for all the tips!

  15. Suemi

    Wow… perfection. I say you deserve that groovy feeling of satisfaction.
    Almost makes me want to live in LA.

  16. I also have those speakers and I love them. The sound is so pure. The cabinet is beautiful and it goes perfectly in the leaving room. Well done !

  17. Kimberly

    Wow! It’s amazing what a difference size/proportions make Seeing the Before/After really illustrates how important it is to have a credenza that is the right size for the TV on top. The custom piece is so beautiful, what great work that is!

  18. Kami

    I am drooling over every inch of this room…well the whole house in fact! That credenza is perfection! Nicely done! I want to live in this house!!!!
    Where did you get that awesome metal cage light that is laying by the tv? Such a simple element but I neeeeeeed it! :)

  19. Hilary

    Wow, it looks amazing. First credenza was pretty sweet but second is phenom. I wanted to leave you a quick comment to note that I cannot believe that only cost you 1200. I work with millworkers on a regular basis in Vancouver and that would be easy at least 2,500, so you def scored yourself a good millworker! Keep in his good graces ;)

  20. Megan

    Wow, I love the end result of the credenza. You mentioned scale and proportion… do you have any general tips when shopping for a new credenza for your space?

    I would love to see a post designated to media storage and styling. Rarely do you see interior designers and stylists highlight the TV/media unit, and I think we could all benefit from your wisdom!!

  21. Joseph

    Wow that truly is a beautiful piece! That third panel was a good idea. What stain did you use?

  22. Elisha Johnson

    Emily….Are you going to give up the guy or company that made the credenza so we can give him some business or what!?!? Reveal that secret, stylist. :) I guess a little research and effort on our end to find someone wont hurt. Either way, thanks for inspiring the possibility of custom made Mid Century Furniture at an affordable price.
    Good Weekend!!!

  23. patty blaettler

    Arggghhhhhh!!!!!!!! in a good way.

  24. Karli

    This is of course AMAZEBALLZ!! I love detail and am in love with the handles? Did you add those or did your maker make them?

  25. Brandy

    Turned out beautifully. I am definitely inspired. I am shopping for a Tv Credenza right now, and the proportion formula is very helpful. I have also been seeing some furniture makers posting their stuff on CL in my area, so definitely going to keep this in mind if I end up needing to make something completely custom.

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