I am working with two different clients right now who would like to have built-in shelving on the media walls in their living rooms. There is no better way to create a focal point in a room than by creating a spectacular wall of shelving around a fireplace and/or TV. In addition to the fantastic storage it provides, it allows our big modern TV sets to blend better into the room and it draws the eye to the whole wall and not just the big black box.
Custom built-ins, however, are expensive. But with a little creativity and a weekend of getting your hands dirty, you can do it yourself and create a custom look using inexpensive materials.
First, figure out your storage needs, and whether you need room for junk that you want behind closed doors, or if all-open shelving will be ok.
Second, try reusing what you already have. Can you incorporate existing freestanding bookcases, dressers, or sideboards into the design? One of my clients is using an antique dresser/hutch as the centerpiece that the TV sits on, and will build shelving around it.
Third, measure your wall and sketch out what your shelving would look like. Then measure each section and use in-stock cabinetry and shelving units from the hardware store. Often these can work perfectly size-wise.
Finally, use trim to tie all of the pieces together to create a seamless and custom look.
Or, who says they need to be joined together? Freestanding bookshelves on either side can also look amazing.