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Electronics and Wire Management in an Old House: How We Fixed It for $65

oldhousenewtechWhen we finally bought a flat screen television in November, we decided to stop using an entertainment center that used floor space. We have a lovely fireplace and mantle, and the TV fit perfectly up there (and there is an outlet in the wall) so it was perfect. Our cable box fit the mantle as well, and the modem sat on the floor below. It was a bit messy, but not terrible.

Then we switch carriers (to save cash and get faster internet) and the new cable box was WAY too big for the mantle. Plus around Christmas we got an XBox 360, and that was now also sitting on the floor, and now there was a big powerstrip… you guessed it, we had a hot mess.

Most folks are able to just hide the cables and wires in the walls, but not us; the walls in our nearly a hundred-year-old house are solid plaster over wooden lathe. No way to drop cables through a hollow spot because there IS no hollow spot.

So what did we do? Yes, we could have called an electrician to fix it but we didn’t really feel that was smart money spent. Plus I really like doing things myself. We managed to make it look pretty for only $65. Here’s how.


  • A (literal) hot mess. 1 of 9
    A (literal) hot mess.
    As you can see, we have all our lovely and expensive and critical devices RIGHT NEXT TO THE FIRE PLACE. I know, right? We're idiots. that's our XBox 360 and wifi modem sitting there on the ground. This could not stand. Also, please note the cable box on the mantle hanging half off. In our defense, our previous cable box fit the mantle just fine, but when we switched providers a box that small was no longer an option.
  • Non-Disney Version Of Tangled 2 of 9
    Non-Disney Version Of Tangled
    So, you can see our additional issue here is the fact that some of the cords aren't even long enough to allow the power strip to be on the floor. We tried mounting the strip on the wall, but the couch is light and moves easily and kept knocking it off. Not good.
  • Solution? 3 of 9
    Solution?
    So, we went to Ikea and got this floating shadowbox to store the electronics in up off the floor.
  • Enlisting the Kid 4 of 9
    Enlisting the Kid
    It's never too early to begin teaching your child about the nightmare of putting together Ikea stuff, right? She loved helping and was able to tighten all the bolts nearly all the way.
  • How It Looks 5 of 9
    How It Looks
    So, the cable box was too big to go inside the box, sadly, but looks just fine on top. We also stuck the Kinect tuner there as well, because when it was on the mantle the cords were dangling below the mantle and looked ugly. Works just fine where it is, too.
  • Installed! 6 of 9
    Installed!
    So now the box is mounted. This was NOT an easy task. Our 90 year old house has walls made up of plaster over wooden lathe. Trying to put screws into these walls usually just ends up causing huge holes. We managed to install two anchors and then screwed into those, but to back up we used improvised brackets underneath that were attached to the wooden (and very well installed) chair rail that runs the length of the room. We also drilled a few holes into the box to allow the wires to pass through. Do you know what is between the particle board on this thing? CARDBOARD. Cardboard, for the record, doesn't respond well to a drill. That was a fun half hour.
  • Cord Management 7 of 9
    Cord Management
    Some wires had to go around the box, some under it. We used these little guys to just keep the wires hidden and neat.
  • Wall Fix 8 of 9
    Wall Fix
    Again, we ran into the issue of being unable to put screws into the wall, which eliminated most wire covers (also called runways). We ended up buying this one, but instead of screwing it into the wall we bought really strong double sided tape to make it adhere to the wall.

    As you can see, we ended up solving the too-short cord issue by simply buying a short white extension cord.
  • DONE! 9 of 9
    DONE!
    So there you have it! We managed to put the power strip on the floor behind the couch and guided the cable wires to also be hidden behind the couch. That last black wire on top is actually now plugged in the wall right behind the TV (we have an outlet there) but I snapped the pic too soon.

    It's MUCH better, yes?

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