Speakers In The Mantle

Incorporating Into The Room With Style


So often clients are happy to focus on design details in a dedicated media room but tend to let things slide in the living room. This is unfortunate since the majority of their entertainment time is spent there. Compromise starts with the typical TV over the fireplace, a conspicuous mount and visible components. Then there are compromises in sound by using a sound bar, that although better than built-in TV speakers due to it’s limited size, does not have the ideal speaker separation needed for better stereo and surround sound. This client moved into this house with a clean slate and a desire to skip all those mistakes.

First, we cut into the wall so that we could recess the TV and have it finish clean and flush to the wall. We designed a custom steel frame to give it a much more finished look, with only the glass showing.

We ran wires to the original firewood storage box to the left of the fireplace and converted it to equipment storage for the surround sound and the rest of the house-wide audio system. A rack on wheels made it easy to service the gear and there was still space for the subwoofer to be hidden.


Doors were added and covered with speaker cloth for the subwoofer. Next, we needed to address sound without a sound bar. Since the mantle was not very impressive, there was no harm in making a new one that could house better speakers. We chose Totem Kin in wall speakers – they have great performance for their size (which was perfect mantle height) and their built-in sealed back box assured no loss in quality or unnecessary vibration resonance like backless speakers.

But, most importantly, we were able to separate the left and right speakers to the correct locations for optimal sound. We skinned the mantle face in black steel matching the custom TV frame, adding elegant strength to the room. Several patterns were designed for the client to choose from but all had openings in the right spots so as to not diminish sound quality.


The grey cloth, black steel and gray stone matched the other elements in the house as well as the mission style cut outs. A better approach to sound quality, no obvious equipment, and a giant upgrade in style, made for a clean, inexpensive, no compromise solution for their living room.