On Nov. 19, 2006, home entertainment as we knew it changed. Though the release of the Nintendo Wii gaming console was just 4 years ago, the resulting advent of virtual gaming and fitness happened so quickly, it seems like it’s been ages since video gaming was only popular among couch potatoes. Now, you can work out, compete in sporting events, race, box, canoe and much more—all from the comfort of your home and using many of the same components you use to watch TV and movies, stream Internet videos and listen to music.

Naturally, these changes in home entertainment have changed the way residential media rooms are designed. More multi-purposed than ever, these all-in-one spaces are where families spend most of their free time, which also increases the importance of function in the room’s design.

Storage savvy

The key to functional design is storage—and media rooms epitomize this theory. Today’s virtual-gaming and fitness components are more complicated to store than the simple joysticks and square controllers of yesteryear. From ergonomic controllers to guitars, fishing poles, driving wheels and dance floors, today’s components can be difficult to store in a standard media-center drawer. “We listen to each client’s needs, assess the most convenient space options, then implement a custom design, such as dual-sliding drawers or large in-wall equipment storage systems,” says Doug Van Arsdale, president and CEO of Custom Home Theater LLC. “Some designs include custom cabinetry, where the creativity and special-finish options are endless.”

Another option is to go as wireless as possible. “Each system offers wireless controllers, so we set the systems up with these to keep the equipment out of sight,” says Ron Rimawi, president of Digital Interiors Inc. “We also wire specially for accessories’ hook-ups and plug-ins, so drums, etc., for Wii can be plugged in without having wires all over the floor and creating dangerous trip hazards.”

Home Entertainment Center by California Closets of Lawrenceville

TV’s coming-out party

One of the biggest changes in the way home-entertainment rooms are designed is that televisions are not always stored in cabinets when not in use. As TVs become thinner and their functions and amenities increase, they may become part of the focal point of a room, often hanging over a fireplace. “In many gathering rooms, you will find a fireplace as the focal point,” Van Arsdale says. “Interior designers believe that seating should be adjusted to the focal point of the room, so wouldn’t it make sense to have the TV convenient to the seating position? So long as we can pre-wire for these types of surfaces—sheetrock

marble, etc.—we can mount a flat-panel TV virtually anywhere.” Televisions can also be out in the open and hidden at the same time. “Mirror TVs and cover art (artwork that is customizable and rolls up or slides out of the way) are good options,” Rimawi says.

Many homeowners, however, still prefer the option of keeping the television stowed away. Some are stored in the ceiling and can be lowered mechanically, while others are stored in custom-built cabinetry. “Our most popular option is a custom-built cabinet that conceals the TV within the cabinet,” says Tom Holmberg, president and CEO of Acoustic Innovations LLC in Alpharetta. “The flat panel will lift up out of the cabinet via the motorized mount, which combines the wants of technology with the needs of aesthetics, allowing the unit to be seen only when in use.”

Stimulating hues

Though the real-estate industry tells us otherwise, it is not recommended to have a neutral-colored media room. “Opt for color that motivates, stimulates and hides spots and spills,” says Debbie Wiener, owner of Slobproof!, creators of stain-resistant furniture. “After all, you’re not designing a library,” she adds.

Wiener’s advice is sound—after all, how much fun is a beige room? The media room is one space where you can go all out with your brightest color choice, or a cheerful theme. “Don’t feel like the room has to be blacked out with dark blues, grays or browns,” Holmberg says. “This is your media room, so have fun with it. Choose colors that you enjoy, but keep them flat; light reflects more on a gloss-type surface, even on stained wood.”

An abundance of seating

As the “it” locale for your family’s hangouts, comfort is an important element in the media room. This requires a lot of seating to accommodate not only family members, but friends as well. “Generally, the number of seats is determined by the number of people in the family plus two,” Van Arsdale says. Wiener recommends configurable seating—adding another layer to the multi-purposed functionality of the space. She also offers this rule of thumb: “Seating should be at least 2.5 times the height of the televisions’ screen away from the TV.”

Configurable seating can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. “Theater recliners are by far the most popular style of theater seat,” says Gus Cueto, owner of Advanced Premises Systems. “Many customers also prefer recliners to be motorized, so you can place the chair in exactly the recline angle you want.” Sectional couches and lightweight rockers that are designed for video-game use are also popular. Extra seating is great for onlookers who are waiting their turn or cheering on their team. “We offer an option to have high-top tables and chairs for the back of the room for socialization while viewing sports,” Rimawi says. Wiener adds that swivel chairs are also a great addition to media rooms, as they’re perfect for multitasking.

Accoustic (4)

Added amenities

To complete the look and increase the function of your media room, Rimawi, Cueto and Holmberg suggest the following:

  • Room evaluation. Have the room evaluated for correct dimensions so that the shape works best for sound. Also, make sure you leave plenty of space for gaming and fitness.
  • Sound control. The sound that projects not only from your TV and stereo system, but also from those playing games and/or exercising in the room, should be considered when installing flooring and surfaces. Acoustical fabrics or panels help with sound control. Construction, sound-wave-deadening products can contain the sound in the room.
  • Non-slip flooring. Safety is a concern for the media room when active gaming is involved. Be sure to install non-slip flooring with cushioning for those who enjoy sitting on the ground.
  • Ventilation. Activity results in heat and odor. Keep the air moving in the media room with a quality ventilation system—this can be as simple as a ceiling fan and windows.
  • Beverage centers. With activity also comes thirst. Keep your family and friends hydrated with a convenient beverage center. This can include everything from a small, concealed refrigerator to a built-in bar.

The design of contemporary media rooms is all about energy. Accommodate, motivate and foster this energy with a media room built to today’s standards—then enjoy the resulting fun and fitness!


Design Ideas

“When you are designing a media room, the first step is to find out what is most important to you. Decide whether music, movies or gaming is going to be the focus, and once the decision has been made, have fun and brainstorm how you envision the room. For example, if I were designing a room based on gaming, I would have the guitars of the gaming system hanging on the wall on display, like a rock and roll hall of fame theme. A foot chest or coffee table decorated in the theme allows ample storage to hide additional items and gaming accessories.”
—Tom Holmberg, president and CEO, Acoustic Innovations LLC


Squelch the Sweat Smell

With all of the activity that happens in today’s media and fitness rooms, odors can easily permeate the space—and when a room stinks, no amount of stylish design or amenities will make visitors want to spend time there.
Fresh Wave is a new product that eliminates odors in the home by utilizing a proprietary blend of purified water and natural extracts including aniseed, clove, cedarwood, lime and pine. When activated by airflow, the blend attracts, captures and eliminates odor molecules. Unlike products that use fragrances to mask odors, Fresh Wave solutions are nontoxic, recyclable and they don’t contain aerosol, hazardous materials or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Learn more at www.fresh-wave.com.


Wall decor by Blik

Super Mario Walls

Feel like you’re in the game with Nintendo wall decals from Blik. Characters and graphics from Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers are made with Blik’s Re-Stik technology, allowing them to be easily applied, removed and reapplied over and over again.
“You can actually recreate various screen shots from one of these games on your walls,” says Blik co-founder Scott Flora. “So maybe one month, Mario is jumping from a girder onto your book shelf as he treks toward Donkey Kong who’s holding Pauline hostage on top of the closet. The next month, you can switch them up so your walls tell a different story in the saga.”
Find the Nintendo decals online at www.whatisblik.com.


The Anatomy of a Media Center

What makes a good media center? Try to incorporate the following elements, as in this media center by California Closets in Lawrenceville, and you’ll create an attractive, well-organized space.
First, assess the amount of media to be managed. Designate space for movies, music and gaming equipment. Cabinets with doors help to reduce the visual clutter.
Use glass-front or open shelves to contain and provide easy access to components (cable or dish boxes, video-game system, amplifier, receiver, Blu-ray and DVD player, etc.).
Choose media units with back panels to hide and control wires. Grommets should be placed near your TV and where the components are going to be stored.
Cabinets and drawers work well for storing and managing controller clutter. Some controllers have accessories that need to be stored, as well—such as an adapter for rechargeable battery packs.
As fast as technology changes, adjustable shelves are ideal for storing components. When you switch out your system, it will be easy to move the shelves to accommodate instead of purchasing a new media center.