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These are the designer duo’s tips for finding a media table with longevity.HANDOUT/Handout

Globe editor Aruna Dutt is ready to upgrade her hand-me-down furniture for purchases that last. In this new shopping series, she asks experts to help her make buying decisions that are worth the investment.

I learned my lesson this year when I expected a $150 cabinet from an online store to solve all of my living room storage problems. Spoiler alert: It didn’t. It looked cheap and broke within a month.

Buyers (like me) often overlook cabinets, media console units or TV stands as a utilitarian item they can spend less on, according to Vancouver interior designers Phyllis Lui and Aleem Kassam of Kalu Interiors. Yet from a design perspective, these items are a central focal piece on par with your sofa, since they’re often one of the largest in the living room.

“It gets left until last, when there’s no budget left, so often its the one element that leaves you with one ugly corner that looks unfinished, which can throw the whole room off,” says Lui.

These are the designer duo’s tips for finding a media table with longevity.

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Aleem Kassam and Phyllis Lui of Kalu Interiors.Jenny Liu Photography/Handout

Sizing: If your space is small, you may need to reconsider the size of your TV, as the media console should be bigger or at least the same size as the TV, says Lui.

The closer your seating is, the lower it should be. “Ideally it should be at eye level or just slightly higher,” says Lui. “There is an industry rule of thumb to multiply the TV size by 1.2 to figure out how many inches away from the TV you should be sitting. For instance, 55-inch TV x 1.2 = 66 inches away from the TV is optimal.”

“Consider what kind of equipment you have,” says Kassam. “Usually its just cable boxes or cable ties, but sometimes there’s way more you need to take into account when sizing, like if you have a receiver for a sound system or you’re a gamer and you have a PS3. Measure the items you’ll be storing and consider the cord will take up another one to two inches.”

Practical design: “We don’t have to restrict ourselves with just sourcing ‘traditional media units.’ Dining credenzas, dressers and other cabinet types can sometimes fit the bill,” says Kassam.

Soft-close doors are a detail to look for, says Lui, since they are quiet and give a high-end feel. If you’re going to be accessing your equipment often, you might want an open shelf or sliding doors instead of hinge doors, Kassam notes.

Aesthetics: “It will depend on the space. We start by looking at the two main overriding finishes, your flooring and millwork, and trying to match with those tones will look more neutral,” says Kassam. “A neutral colour will allow these pieces to move and grow with you and your spaces. If you have a cold space, wood introduces more warmth, but if you live somewhere with a lot of wood tones already, then you might want to offset it with a painted or laminate finish.”

Modify to save: “Second-hand vintage items can be reinvigorated with painting or overlays, which we use often to style up and bring down prices, while wood pieces can be resanded, varnished and stained.”

Wire management: “Some people like the sound bar but my pet peeve is seeing that wire, so think how that will be handled,” advises Lui. If you drill a hole to hide it and you are renting, ensure your rental agreement says its okay to do so.

The Kalu designers’ top picks at three price points

Prices are for standard size, two-door media consoles and do not include shipping

The Budget media console

BESTA, $385, Ikea (

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Ikea Besta sideboard.HANDOUT/Handout

“We like this unit because it is so versatile and is at an entry-level price-point. We would pair it with a three-door overlay available on Etsy, which is easy enough to just take it off or to change if in a few years someone decides that they don’t like the look of it. You can also add legs and handles to change up the look yet again,” says Lui.

Best bang for your buck media console

Candra Black Media Unit, $1,149, Article (

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Candra Black Media Unit.HANDOUT/Handout

“This piece has a retro vibe with an updated twist – a black contrast which adds a modern element. The body is solid ash wood, which is better quality than MDF or particle board. The holes on the woven cane pattern on the doors allow for infrared remote controls to get through which is superconvenient if needed, and the cut-outs in the back of the cabinet allow for easy access to plugs,” says Lui.

The Splurge media console

Athena Sideboard, $2,713, Rove Concepts (

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Athena Sideboard.Handout

This plywood unit is from Canadian company Rove. “They’re incredible. We’ve used them for many projects. This unit is very pretty, the colour is soft and it has soft-closure doors. Made in China, it is an aesthetic-driven selection which is fairly cost-competitive,” says Kassam. A unit with a high design finish like this can cost upward of $5,000 at more luxury retailers, such as France&Son’s Venetta Sideboard.

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