so many wires, so much time

When last we left off, I started by trying to turn this oppressive black mass of electronics:

Into something more orderly that would allow this pile to look a little less like an overstocked shelf of castoffs from Housing Works, the place where old stereos and pre-flat screen TVs go to die.

My first step, a total failure, was an attempt to move the cable modem to a spot enclosed under the window sill. This would have removed the modem and one heavy cable, a phone line and a plug from behind the console. Several hours later, after discovering some sort of wall-within-a-wall in the corner where I wanted to hide the modem, it became obvious there was no moving the cable, as discussed in an earlier post. (Keep scrolling down to read about my previous effort.

The next week, after buying and returning one kit to mount the TV on the wall, I set out with my partner in crime to elevate the TV, rid ourselves of the black plastic stand it lived on and create a little free space atop my blue lacquer console. The very nice lady here:
said in the four-minute demonstration video that the job would be done in less than 30 minutes. HA!  It took us (me with my big, strong male helper James aka Jim, aka Doc) something in excess of six hours, but we were happy with the result. You can see the results here:


But see that big heap of stereo receiver, DVD player, cable box and modem still piled up? That, my friends, is what this week’s adventure was all about. It all started here,  with a tidy little post about hiding your cable box in a console on my favorite blog,

yhl hide cable

You can use one of these babies:

to do the deed. So long as the cable is compatible with your cable box (which I didn’t realize it had to be until my gal pal CHLOE pointed it out, but I got lucky and ordered the right one on my first try) you can just plug that puppy into your cable box, hide the cable box anywhere you like, run the VERY THIN cord from the box to somewhere near your TV and voila! Point the remote at a little half dome smaller than a walnut and you control the TV from something WAY less obtrusive that that big ugly box. So I ordered the eye ($16 plus shipping) and we were off.  Or so I thought.

From my fine friends at I figured I was looking at something like this, using a 1 1/8 inch paddle bit on my drill:


An engineering friend suggested taping off the area with duct table to prevent the lacquer finish from splintering around the holes, and also going slowly to let the drill warm and soften the lacquer before actually cutting. All fine well and good. Soon we had this:


And the cable box and the modem were in the drawer, and the remote controls worked with the eye and then … WHA, Wha, wah …. The drawer wouldn’t shut. It would ALMOST shut, but not completely. So we took it off the rails and took it out and discovered a bunch of saw dust had accumulated in the bottom of the console inside the back of it and behind the back of the drawer. GREAT! We thought when we saw it. Remove drawer, vacuum up sawdust, reassemble drawer, re-run cords, and … WHa, Wha, wah!!!! The DRAWER, still wouldn’t CLOSE. Harumph! We removed the boxes and the wires. We removed the drawer AGAIN. It seems like it wasn’t quite square in the back and indeed, we discovered this crack that kept the back of the drawer from sitting completely at a square angle:


Now to be fair, this drawer had always given me a bit of trouble. I remembered when I assembled it from CB2 that it was just a hair wonky, and that when I pushed it closed I always had to push from the right side, rather than the middle or the left to make it click into place, but by this time we were nowhere near that. The drawer would stop a good quarter inch before it was flush with the front of the console and even then it wouldn’t stay. It would drift open in an EXCEDINGLY irritating way. We tried loading the drawer with books that use to be stored there, thinking the weight might help. No dice. We tried to plane the drawer down. No dice. We tried removing everything from the drawer. It closed. WTF?!?!?!.

Finally, my partner in crime James figured maybe the seven wires and cords and cables weren’t flowing smoothly in and out of the back of the drawer and the back of the console, but rather were getting kinked up as we closed the drawer and sticking between the back of the drawer and the back of the console and preventing the drawer from fully closing.

Enter my super, Ozzie. We traded six homemade chocolate chip cookies for 15 minutes with Ozzie’s jig saw. I own a lot of tools, but there isn’t room for everything. I’m guessing Ozzie wouldn’t lend tools to just anyone, but he knows I’m pretty handy in with the DIY department, plus I had a big guy here helping me, which always seems to make other big guys more comfortable lending their tools.

So our neat holes for wires and ventilation when from this:


To this:


And it worked. Mostly. The drawer once again closes if you tap it shut from the right. The cable box and modem are hidden, and the electronic eye receives the signal from the remote perfectly. Of course I was so darned wound up after this 6 or 7 hour debacle (that involved getting beer at about hour 4, or I would really have lost it) that I couldn’t possibly sleep. I put the living room back together. I vacuumed. I dusted. I reran transparent speaker wire to replace black wire. I even grabbed a white conduit for the speaker wire to run it from the shelves down the corner unobtrusively.

So here’s the before and after:



And then I went to bed. Still couldn’t sleep, so I got up and re-arranged some knick-knacks. But that’s a tale for another post.

wires from hell, continued …

Stay tuned later this week for another leg of my journey to rid myself of ugly electronics. We’ve now progressed from this to this:


Honestly, it’s taken three Sundays and a total of about 20 hours so far. Not kidding. Details of the many, MANY pitfalls to come. Just as soon as I recover from the trauma!

let the chaos ensue

Ladies and Gents, the battlefield:



And the war zone:



Media cords are the bane of my existence and a total nightmare for a technophobe such as myself. (Yes, I have an iPhone, but only because my carrier finally texted me to say if I didn’t give up my old cell it would stop working.) The idea of wireless speakers is terrifying. I haven’t even put my CDs on iTunes. (That’s definitely on the to-do list.)

This seemingly lovely corner actually looks like this every time I turn from the living room down the seven-foot hallway to the bath or bedroom:


So I have a battle plan. Put the TV on the wall. Move the cable box into a drawer in the blue lacquer console (by drilling a hole in the back for the cords to enter in phase 2.5). Buy some cordless speakers so I can ditch the tuner and stream NPR from my laptop, which is the only radio station I ever listen to. So here we go.

Step One was actually a week ago. I THOUGHT I would move the cable modem from the top of the console to the built-in cabinet under the window sill. A couple of hours later I realized some unholy alliance had been conceived between my cable company and the contractor who enclosed the area under my windowsill. Basically, when I tried to pull the cable cord from the wall behind the lacquer console to the area underneath the windows I found it to be impossible. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the walls there’s a second wall. And multiple metal studs. And I think maybe the cord is wrapped one of those studs. In any case, the cable is utterly intractable. So that was Week One. On to Week Two: hanging the TV on the wall. Here are my weapons:



I started by cutting out a cardboard template the size of the TV and marking holes in the spots where the TV would connect to the bracket on the wall.


Next stop was putting the template on the wall, marking the corners with painter’s tape and (scary!) drilling the GIANT round holes in the wall. Extra fear was added by the fact that wallpaper covers my wall, not paint that could be easily patched and taped up in the event of a – gulp – mistake.

But I plunged ahead. Template. Check. Tape, check. Measurement. Check. Top hole (where the TV cables feed into the wall). Check.


Bottom hole (where the TV cables emerge from the wall) OOPS! Yes, folks, major issue. See this:


See that little metal edge at the top of the hole? That, my friends, is the inexplicably placed HORIZONTAL metal stud. It’s inconvenient location at the top edge of the four-inch hole meant that the giant contraption that needed to sit IN the four-inch hole couldn’t be seated flush with the drywall. Did I mention, “gulp?”  So the choice was this: cheat the hole by redrilling just a half inch or so down, meaning the circle hole would become an oval; or redrilling the hole entirely six inches or so south. I opted for the former. Luckily, the plastic flange that fitted around the hole covered the extra space created by the circular hole-turned-oval hole.
And then … voila! Before:




So, a little blue console space cleared of heavy black electronics. Next week, drill into the back of the console to stash the cable box and modem. (The trick will be buying and installing an half egg-shaped electronic “eye” that will sit on the console and transmit remote-control signals from the remote to the cable box. More news to come when the full wire-free landscape is in place.

Thanks for reading!