Bonus Rooms Make Great Theaters
That unfinished space above the garage can be converted into an intimate home entertainment hideaway.
January 30, 2009 by Lisa Montgomery

Home theaters have the reputation of being dark, cavernous spaces set aside from the rest of the house. While this design is just fine for some people, a cozier, more intimate entertainment area can be created in the bonus room above the garage. The space has many great home theater attributes, so if you don’t mind tucking a screen and speakers into smaller square footage, the bonus room could be your ticket to great home entertainment.

It’s small. Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to home entertainment. In fact, says Michael Dodson of Dallas-based M Audio Video Design Group, it can often be much easier and less expensive to design a home theater system for a smaller room than a larger one. “You won’t need a lot of speakers, an enormous screen, or a beefy sound system to fill the space,” he explains. While a large, dedicated theater in the basement might require two subwoofers and a 120-inch screen, in a smaller bonus room, one sub and a 90-inch screen might suffice. Bottom line: You’ll still get a wonderful entertainment experience, but won’t have to shell out as much money for a huge, powerful audio/video system.

It’s unfinished. An unfinished room, like a bonus room, affords you the opportunity to design the space however you want without worrying about the style or decor clashing with the rest of your home’s interior. Speakers and screens can be recessed into the new walls, and you can have a special closet constructed to house the rest of the audio/video components. In addition to Sheetrock, you’ll need to budget for carpeting, furniture, window coverings and other amenities. However, because bonus rooms are slight on square footage, you’ll likely spend much less to finish out the space than you would have in an unfinished basement. 

The windows in a bonus room are also fairly small, which means you won’t have to spend an arm and leg on shades. You’ll also deal with fewer problems with humidity and ventilation than had you put the theater in the basement, says Michael Bonetti of Home Theater and Beyond in Merrimack, NH. “If you burn popcorn in the basement, good luck trying to get rid of the smell,” he says. In a bonus room, you can air out the space just by opening the windows.

It’s private, yet accessible. Located just above the garage, a bonus room typically shares the second floor with bedrooms. This may not be an area where you’ll feel comfortable having hordes of people milling about, however, it’s a great space for homeowners who desire more of a private, intimate area for entertainment, says Dodson. “Dad can steal away for a few hours to watch the game uninterrupted, and you can close the door and keep the kids away from the R-rated movies.” When you’re ready for a break, the bathroom and bedroom are right down the hall.

It’s oddly shaped. Slanted walls are the bane of most bonus rooms. “They create a problem for both audio and video,” says Dodson. “It’s tough to mount anything on a surface that’s not flat, and slanted walls can also throw off the audio. Dialogue, in particular, can be hard to understand.”

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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