Entertainment Made Easy

From dedicated home theaters to multi-functional rec rooms, builders are accommodating homeowners who are seeking space for entertainment and in-house fun and games. The going-out-at-home trend essentially means recreating the movie theater experience.

September 01, 2006

From dedicated home theaters to multi-functional rec rooms, builders are accommodating homeowners who are seeking space for entertainment and in-house fun and games.

The going-out-at-home trend essentially means recreating the movie theater experience. "You are bringing the whole theater experience home," says Melissa Galt, an interior designer in Atlanta. "You don't want to give things up like popcorn or the jumbo soda, and you want to know where your children are."

 
Ornate details turn ordinary rooms into extraordinary media rooms.

At the Movies

Inside and out, theater rooms are entertainment rooms that mesh frills and fantasy. Rooms can be decked out with old-fashioned popcorn poppers and kitchenettes replete with a wet bar and built-in microwaves. "Especially on the higher end, many treat the home theater as a fantasy room, from stars that glow in the dark on the ceiling to a mural with a jungle motif," Galt says.

The sky is often the limit. Home theaters range from about $15,000 to $50,000 or more.

"Clients will spend a lot of money for the movie-theater look with cherry paneling, marquees and sophisticated seating," says Jack Smuckler, president of Smuckler Custom Builders in Edina, Minn. He says homeowners often want to mark the space with their own marquee in the vestibule.

"It's more than what's technically happening. More than anything, these rooms are about architectural imagery," says Luis Jauregui, president of Jauregui Architecture, Interiors and Construction in Austin, Texas. "It's whatever psychologically makes you feel that it's all about acoustics and watching a performance to be entertained."

Media room seating can render comfort and fun. Galt notes that graduated levels of seating are popular in larger, deluxe rooms. "People also want to control the whole experience from their chairs with the touch of a button to dim the lights and control sound." Manufacturers such as Coja Leatherline of Canada and Lovan USA offer features from padded matinee-style seats to plush recliners. Berkline is among the manufacturers offering vibrating chairs that respond to the sound elements of a movie.

Where Kids Play

 
Media rooms are no longer just for televisions. The current trend is to increase space for all types of entertainment.

Family rec rooms and even second family rooms typically in basements are becoming more multi-use, Galt says. She notes these casual but well-outfitted rec rooms are often adjacent to home theaters. Such configurations are a nice set-up for adults to congregate, perhaps at a built-in bar complete with plasma TV while the kids watch a movie in the home theater.

Basements are the best location for home theaters because they introduce less light, Smuckler says. In homes without basements, media and home theaters are often near kitchens, in the main living area, says Jauregui. Whenever possible, he places these rooms next to family and game rooms to encourage people to gather.

The Technology Within

"TVs are flat in front and relatively skinny compared to the old big boxes everyone is used to," says Lance Anderson, co-owner of Admit One Home Cinema in Edina, Minn. He notes the high-definition televisions of today with their digital technology provide a great picture that's affordable.

Both Anderson and Jauregui note the sleeker, compact size and design of less intrusive front projectors. "It means ... these things can float in mid air easier and be attractive, whereas before it was difficult to locate them and they were an eyesore," Jauregui says. He also recommends front projectors over LCD and plasma TVs in the home theater setting because of better durability.

Sanyo, Sony and Panasonic are among the manufacturers making lower-cost front projectors now, and Vidikron makes projectors in that space and all the way up to the exotic (ultra high end), Anderson says.

With more affordable technology and advances in designs, custom builders keep busy planning these rooms and referring clients to designers and home integrator specialists like Admit One. Anderson puts it simply: "It's all about mimicking the public theater in the home without the sticky floors."

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