A Thought on Home Media Storage

When it comes to home theater design and setup, rarely do we see much thought given to the best methods for storing our software media. By this, I mean being able to show off your movie library while still keeping to the design of your space in a way that’s both appealing and inviting to your guests. After spending a great deal of time buying the right equipment and creating the desired look for your entertainment area (which may or may not include the seating arrangement), the last thing you should have is a disorganized, confused mess in your DVD and Blu-ray collection. Ideally, you want to be able to find a disc in matter of a few seconds without requiring an archeological dig in order to have a relaxing movie night.

Of course, the simplest and most obvious solution is purchasing a media cabinet in the color that best suits the rest of the room. Many companies (such as Leslie Dame, Prepac, Venture Horizon, Southern Enterprises and Atlantic, to name a few) specialize in providing this sort of item for movie collectors and home theater enthusiasts. All you have to do is alphabetize your library, either by name or by genre, however you choose. I’ve even seen some folks be so bold as to group by studio production, which honestly doesn’t make much sense to me, but to each his own. To top it all off, I also recommend some type of DVD organizing software for easy, quick reference, especially for fairly large collections. Something like DVD Profiler (arguably the best, and the one I use), DVD Aficionado, DVD Corral or Collectorz are all good databases.

So, that’s all well and good. Problem solved, right? Well, not quite. My next concern is what to do when a collection ends up exceeding and sometimes overwhelming its allotted space. To put it another way, what do you do with a collection so large that the space cannot accommodate it? You could keep tacking on more furniture, but that could eventually ruin the room’s aesthetic and ultimately look tacky. Sorry, but covering an entire wall with keepcases in the same room where I watch my movies is just not my style. I’m more of a minimalist – simplicity is always better. Do we go through the library and start removing or selling the movies we no longer watch or have no desire to watch again? Again, sorry, but as a collector and HT hobbyist, that’s not as easy as it sounds. I always end up convincing myself to keep something because I never know when a guest might actually want to watch ‘Transformers 2’.

It can be such a headache to maintain an HT look that’s pleasing to the eye, yet there’s hardly anyone talking about the same issue on the ‘net. Am I the only one stuck in such a pickle? The thought crossed my mind while working on my latest HT project, one which I believe is the best solution to my dilemma. There’s plenty of great reading material out there for constructing a home theater haven, but unless you have a house with a dedicated room that accommodates an extensive collection, there are few online publications which help to consider various options for tackling this impasse.

Personally, I’ve decided to separate collector’s items (i.e. box sets or true special editions), from titles that have yet to be watched or those I’ve watched and will keep. Titles out for display sit in a standard, black media cabinet, the kind that sort of looks like a bookshelf but comes from Best Buy relatively cheaply. That piece of furniture is in the far back of the room, behind the seating area, where it can be ignored while enjoying a movie. Believe me, it’s already full, as I have a lot of catching up to do. For the already-watched movies, I bought a rather nice-looking cabinet from Atlantic which neatly organizes each disc with its respective cover art inside clear envelopes. (Click on the picture for a larger size.) One cabinet can hold up to 600 titles. Sadly, it too is growing quite full. I’ve already sold a number of my movies, including DVDs and all my HD DVDs, so what’s the best remedy in a limited space and with a desire to maintain a certain aesthetic?

After a while, I finally decided to try something new, an approach that ideally would allow me to keep more of my movies in the same space without having to buy more furniture. The project also incorporates the same organization methods as alphabetizing on a shelf or separating according to genre. Best of all, I can continue using a DVD database software, which I very much I like, that allows me to see my entire collection and figure out what I’m in the mood for. I’ve made the jump and am building my own HTPC (home theater personal computer) with an efficient and very user-friendly media server. It’s been about five years since the last time I built a computer. A great deal has changed in that time, so I have to be certain not only of the parts I purchase, but also that I keep to the room’s aesthetic. Thankfully, I have found tons of information online and an extraordinarily helpful guide at AVSForum written by forum member “assassin.”

Next time, I’ll show the early stages of my build, and continue with other blog posts until I reveal the end product – along with the permanent, ear-to-ear smile on face.


  1. August Lehe

    My solution has been to use BABE black plastic storage cases (each slotted case holds about 12 DVDs) and I adjust bookcase shelves at and just below eye level, so that each BABE unit just fits. Available space steadily shrinks as I add units, of course. They can also be mounted on a vertical surface such as a wall, but would have to be dusted regularly.

  2. Jane Morgan

    I look forward to your future posts on this topic, Mr. Duarte.

    My papa is a professional woodworker. He builds all my HT furniture, based on designs I give him. Of a higher quality than money can buy, all in black-stained wood.

    To solve the overflow issue, the walk-in closet in our den is filled with bookcases and equipment racks. It’s like an early-adopter museum.

    Netflix has helped increase our renting and reduce our media storage growth. We won’t have to build a bigger house for at least three years.

    I’m guessing the collector’s burden is an issue my kids will never have.

  3. Luke Hickman

    I know in this digital day and age, a lot of folks are going to tell you to stop buying Blu-rays and go the digital route. But – like you – I’m a collector and if I can’t physically hold and show off a copy, I don’t want it.

    Do you guy get that argument too?

    • M. Enois Duarte

      Yes, actually, I’ve been told that once, and oddly enough, it came from one of my very young students. And he was actually referring to BitTorrents, though I’m pretty sure he did not know that at the time.

      It just goes to show how accustomed kids growing with the computer.

      My wife and I were at f.y.e. looking for a few CDs a couple months ago, and I kid you not, we overheard two 16-year-olds girls complaining that they hate such “old” technology and who buys them anyways. We were stunned!

      This really is the age of downloading your media.

    • Jane Morgan

      Blu-ray might be the last true love of our generation.

      I’ve been reading ‘Conversations With Scorsese’ by Richard Schickel, which is a fantastic collection of transcripts. Scorsese said, try as he might, he just can’t fall in love with any movie made after the ’60s.

      The classic style of old Hollywood, in his formative years, which set his life in motion, is his one true love. The last forty years he has admired various films on intellectual and technical levels, but when it comes to seeking pleasure, he always goes back to the classics.

      The old shun the new. The young shun the archaic.

      I wonder if our generation, the physical media generation, which evolved our furniture and lifestyle, will ever be able to fully embrace streaming technology.

      Will we always feel the bitstream experience to be slightly hollow?

    • JeremyR

      I cannot get into digital distribution, I need to feel the sense of ownership that comes with the physical media I buy. At least I can do what I please with it and not have it restricted to a certain device. Quality is also a major turn off with digital distribution, until I can buy lossless music and blu-ray quality movies I will stick with physical media.

  4. JeremyR

    My solution has been to rip all my blu-rays to iso format for playback on my HTPCs scattered throughout the house. I only have around 200 blu-rays (got rid of my DVD collection) so physical space is not too much of an issue for me anyway. I invested in a good NAS with 5 x 3TB drives (expandable to 15 drives) and I can store about 300 blu-rays on it in current form. Then I use XBMC in conjunction with TMT for playback.

    • M. Enois Duarte

      That’s basically where I’ve gravitated towards. Like I’ll explain in future post, I absolutely love it and feel like it’s the best choice for storage. But I’ll save all that for later.

      For now, however, what are you using for NAS because funny enough, I’ll be close to maxing out the internal storage space, so I’m already looking. I’m thinking the 8-bay Rosewill RSV-S8, but I’d love to hear other suggestions.

      • JeremyR

        I went the stand alone NAS route with the Synology DS1511+ 5-bay which is expandable to 15 through a maximum of 2 expansion units. It is a lot more expensive then the Rosewill you listed, however, the DS1511+ has a computer built in so it does not rely on another PC to operate. It runs a custom version of linux and there is a fairly large community creating software for it.

        • M. Enois Duarte

          I read about Synology and they seem like great products, very easy install and flexible for home networking. I also like their look.

  5. Drew


    I really like those black cabinets that you purchased from Atlantic. I would love to buy some of my own. Do you happen to have a link for me to look at them online? Or did you actually buy them in a store?

  6. August Lehe

    FORGOT to mention I just space out the black plastic slotted BABE storage cases I get via Amazon for those jumbo Blu Ray sets. Still, all Blu Rays and DVD’s are stored vertically.

  7. Jason

    In a guest bedroom that is adjacent to my home theater I have my collection in dressers that I pick up from Ikea( http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70053924/#/90090195/ ) I reinforce the drawer bottoms with quarter inch wood strips so they don’t bow under the weight of the movies. On top of the dressers I have 3-shelf bookcases of the same color that I use to display box sets and collector sets. I use DVDProfiler to keep my collection organized. This combination keeps the room and the collection very clean. So far I have 2 dressers and am about to add a third. Ultimately I will line three walls with this dresser/bookshelf combination to store all of my movies, CDs, books and collectibles. My own multimedia library. My wife is in the process of finishing a custom painting of Scrooge McDuck diving into his money vault that will hang in the room. She always jokes that we’ll never be homeless because we could literally build a house out of my collection. a really really small house mind you.

  8. I ending up going the same route for my DVDs and Blurays as I did for my CDs years ago. I take all the discs out of their boxes, store those away in boxes in the garage and put the discs in disc carry cases that hold 250 or more discs. Takes virtually no space on the shelf.

    Unlike LPs I have never been attached to my CD or DVD cases. They are cheap and crappy in general.

    I also have a media server and so the CDs and DVDs are never opened, just the Blurays. That probably means I am getting close to moving those out completely and just have a couple of cases of Blurays. Then when storage get cheaper they will end up going too.

  9. Andre

    I have 1600+ DVD’s, 600+ BD, 170 HD DVD, 120 LD and 1000+ VHS. I made a walkin closet with custom built shelves. The shelves are 8′ long and and there are 9 shelves on each side. The left side is all DVDs, the right is DVD’s at the top, normal VHS in the middle and the bottom is all of the Disney and other clamshell VHS tapes for the kids. At the far end I have my LD’s on top and all of BD and HD DVD’s on 8 shelves.

    This closet is opposite my theatre rack and concealed by a door.

    I love it but it is 95% full and good luck telling the wife we need more room for movies…

  10. Man I really need to condense space and I was pumped when I saw those library shelves and then I was really bummed when I read that they have been discontinued, those were exactly what I was looking for and nothing seems to compare to those from my searching around, the Leslie Dame look nice but they arent really designed for movie collecting, I really wish I could find something very similar to those Atlantic shelves, guess I’ll have to keep looking 🙁

  11. We redid our house a few years back and at that time I only had dvds. My collection was at about a 1000+. Our carpenter had some huge wooden cabinets he had built for someone and they didn’t want them. Since they didn’t have doors on them they made perfect shelves. They are in my huge master closet and since then I have acquired probably a 100 more dvds and now about a 100 or more Blu-Rays.When I first started to buy dvds I started to arrange them in alphabetical order. I kept this up as my collection grew and when I went to Bd I started them off the same way. It is very easy for me to find a movie and I know every single movie I have, so if I have company and they want to know if I have a particular movie they just have to ask me. I even know where I bought each one and what I paid for it. My collections are separated and kept on the top so they don’t take up shelf space. The only two I keep out on my entertainment unit are the Lord Of The Rings EE Bd set and the new Star Wars The Complete Saga Bd set. I must say I purchased both by selling my dvd sets and got the Star Wars set completely free by doing that. I am just starting to replace my fav dvds with Blu-rays when I can get a great price. I would say alphabetical is the way to go when it comes to organization. I tried genre once but that got to be too difficult and I went back to my way. I am glad to see others put so much thought into how their collection is organized since I have gotten teased about it for years.

  12. My collection is not as large as some. I have about 350 Blu-Rays, about 30 HD-DVDs, about 150 DVDs (still, many were sold or given away), about 40 laserdiscs (I got my first laserdisc player just 4 years ago), and about 100 VHS (half are home movies that need to be transfered – my mom was big on buying Poloarid tapes for a while, and the stuff recorded on them are almost unwatchable).

    I have a couple of Atlantic shelves in the living room that house all the Blu-Rays and HD-DVDs, and a small selection of DVDs. I have two shelves right now, and will probably add a third next year. I like them because I can get different sized shelves, but the styles are the same, so it doesn’t look like stuff has just been thrown together.

    The DVDs and laserdiscs are on a bookshelf in the bedroom. I need to get them added into the database. Right now, they are just kind of setting, collecting dust. I honestly cannot tell you what movies I have on Laserdisc – they were all bought on a whim, usually more of me being a collector than with any real drive to watch them. Its been months since I fired up the laserdisc player – I need to get another one – my previous roommate’s cat chewed up my rca-video connector on the thing (yes, the CONNECTOR), so now I can only hook it up through COAX.

    My VHS are stored mostly in boxes in the closet.

    This is better than my uncle. His master bedroom is filled, floor to ceiling, with LPs and CDs. His living room is filled floor to ceiling with DVDs and now Blu-Rays. He has an ENTIRE spare bedroom piled floor to ceiling with boxes of DVDs and VHS. We are wanting to find the old home movies, but they are embaressed for anyone to go into that spare bedroom, and they are not in good enough health to go throug it themselves. We also need to find the slides and the Super8 films.

    I do have a HTPC, but I use this mainly for watching stuff that cannot be bought on physical media (think TV shows that do not air in the USA). The thought of using a PC so that I can watch a movie without waiting for all the crap to load up on a Blu-Ray is tempting (it takes Terminator 2 Skynet Edition 10 minutes to get to the movie), but I just REALLY like the physical media. I like going to my shelves and browsing the spines, and pullign something out, admiring the cover art and disc art, feeling the disc in my hand and actually sticking it in the player. I will then go into the kitchen while the disc is loading up and get my snacks.

    That being said, I understand the digital drive. I have only bought a handful of discs in teh past 10 years, and that was because it was cheaper to buy the discs than it was to download the disc. However, the first thing I do is usually rip the disc to the PC, and then put the disc away. Part of the reason for this is probably because I just am not a big music person. I’m okay with throwing songs on my iPod for use at work or a long car trip. I’m a movie buff, not a music buff.

    Going back to the amount of movies I have, my buying has greatly slowed down. Most of the movies I wanted on Blu-Ray have now been released. I am no longer buying 5-10 movies a month like I was last year. I may be a collector, but I usually only purchase stuff that I plan to watch more than once. I already own more movies than I could watch in a year (my ADHD is pretty bad, so I can rarely watch a movie in a single setting, and it is VERY unusual if I watch more than one movie in a day), so I really don’t see a need for some extreame storage method. The shelves work just fine for me, and DVD Profiler is really used more for me to keep track of what has been lent out and to do an occasional lookup rather than for me to go through and try to decide what movie I want to watch.

    Well, that was long and drawn out, wasn’t it?

  13. I have a WALL designated to media storage. Split in half and many shelves high. Looks totally professional, all alphabetized. One side is unopened movies, the other is watched/opened. Capacity is probably close to 2000+ titles?