Pottery Barn Computer Armoire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sleek flat-panel televisions, typically mounted to walls or perched on credenzas, have rendered the bulky but lovely TV armoire piece superfluous. And when people want to get rid of these furniture pieces, so pricey and popular in the 1990s, they aren't finding many takers at garage sales or consignment stores.
"They're the dinosaurs of 2008, " says Debbie Taylor, owner of Revival Home Furnishings, a consignment store in Overland Park, Kan. "We sell them for $50 or $60."
But wait. Before unloading a TV armoire on the cheap or, even worse, setting one on the curb destined for the landfill, think about how it can still be used.
When Carol Whitney of Olathe, Kan., switched to a flat-panel television, she wasn't keen on parting with her TV armoire. After all, she paid a lot for it and still loved the wood finish. Inspiration struck when she was flipping through a Pottery Barn catalog and saw a picture of an office armoire.
"A computer, printer and all the papers that come with it are things I don't want to see out in the open, " Whitney says. "You don't mind seeing a slim television out in the open."
Whitney took the cabinet to Cheep Antiques in North Kansas City. The store used to retool vintage wardrobes into TV armoires, so she figured it could convert her TV cabinet into an office armoire. Store employees removed existing shelves and added shelving and eight cubby holes. The drawer in the middle became a drop-hinge platform for a computer keyboard. Whitney loves the transformed armoire.
"I think we'll be seeing more retrofits like this because more people are interested in being environmentally conscious and in saving money in this economy, " says Judee Porter, owner of Cheep Antiques. "The possibilities are endless with TV armoires."
That's what Bobanne Kalkofen thought too. The interior design professor at Johnson County Community College assigned students to come up with new uses for old armoires.
"Every decade our needs as a society change, " Kalkofen says. "So many people have TV armoires. I knew there had to be ways to rethink and repurpose them."
Student April Welsh, a designer and drafter at Olympic Cabinet Co. in Kansas City, Kan., went gung-ho for the assignment. She brainstormed ideas while she drove home from class and typed up a proposal for half a dozen ideas. She also sent out a college wide e-mail seeking people who weren't using their TV armoires. She received four responses within hours.
"That showed me that repurposing TV armoires is a definite need, " Welsh says.
Instead of merely coming up with plans on paper for the assignment, Welsh decided to actually transform two TV armoires for people who responded to her e-mail.
Matt and Kristin Wantland of Prairie Village, Kan., had an unused one in their garage, a gift from his mother. The French country piece didn't fit with the couple's more modern furnishings.
Welsh interviewed the Wantlands about their needs. She learned they were expecting their first child this summer and didn't have any baby furniture. So Welsh decided to create a diaper-changing station.
From TV to baby
She removed the top and bottom ornate trim pieces, giving the cabinet cleaner lines. She added solid maple backing and reinforced the base so it would be sturdy enough for a baby. She added hooks to the back and cubbies for storage. Welsh sewed a diaper-changing pad herself.
When Kristin Wantland saw the transformed piece, she felt like she was on "Extreme Makeover: Furniture Edition."
"It's awesome, " she says. "The new look is perfect for our house. The ceilings are low, so the lower top will be great. We're really excited."
Welsh's other client, Mary Hedberg of Shawnee, Kan., paid $3, 000 for her three-piece TV armoire in the 1990s. The set eventually sat in the basement and didn't get much use. Welch interviewed Hedberg and discovered she wanted a coffee bar for her master bedroom.
So Welsh lowered the cabinet and added a granite top for a coffee maker, drawers for mugs and coffee, and a waste basket for coffee grounds. She refinished the piece in a darker glaze.
- - -
Armoire no more
Here are some ideas for converting your now-useless TV cabinet into valuable storage:
China hutch: Add lighting, shelves and glass doors for displaying dishes.
Garage cabinetry: Keep the large spaces for storing bulk items. Add hooks and cubbies for tools.
Humidor: Add hole in back for ventilation and cedar liners to keep cigars fresh.
Kitchen pantry: Add hooks for pots and pans and shelves for baking trays. Install a blackboard inside the door for grocery lists.
Linen closet: Add shelves for towels and sheets.
Liquor cabinet: Add racks for hanging glasses from ceiling. Install shelf that pulls out as a cutting board for garnishes and another shelf for cocktail books. Use glass shelves for liquor bottles. Add wine-storage cubbies underneath. Add lighting. Install mirrored back.
Media archive: Add shelves and racks for compact discs and DVDs.
Mudroom lockers: Remove doors and add cubbies, hooks and a mirror.
Outdoor bar and kitchen: Refinish with an outdoor finish such as teak, retrofit pocket doors, add outdoor refrigerator and a granite top.