Remodeled A/V Rec Room Serves as Icebreaker

Recent transplants use a 1,200 square-foot rec room to reach out to new neighbors.


Photo by Don Pye

Complete with a home theater, dance floor, bar and pool table, this lower-level rec room might have guests pulling out their wallets to pay a cover charge to get in. But the fun is absolutely free: The homeowners’ main objective was to create a multifunctional space that would be inviting to people of all ages.

“Being new to the area, they wanted a place where they could bring over new friends and that would be a great place for their teenage son and his friends to hang out,” says system designer Chris Pifer of Howell & Associates, the Burlington, ON, firm hired to update the 1,200 square-foot basement.

When the owners moved into the house, the lower level was already finished, but it lacked spark and personality. What it did have was enough wiring for a home theater and a distributed music system. Howell & Associates had roughed in the home theater wiring for the previous owners, but it was the new owners who really took advantage of the prewire. They went full bore, incorporating a 106-inch VuTech screen, an InFocus DLP projector, five built-in Sonance speakers, a Sonance subwoofer, a high-def cable box, a Sony five-disc DVD changer and a Denon receiver. Cabinets were constructed for the viewing area, adding visual pizzazz and a place to store the components. Cabinet doors conceal the gear, so Howell & Associates added a radio frequency base station to the system to ensure that commands issued by the Universal Remote Control URC-200 remote could travel through the wood to the appropriate pieces of equipment. The remote would also have the horsepower to operate the A/V gear from anywhere in the spacious entertainment oasis.

In addition to cabinets for the components, Howell & Associates constructed a unique housing for the video projector. “When we wired the basement for the previous owners, we pulled cabling for the projector to an existing bulkhead on the ceiling,” Pifer recalls. “Unfortunately, the InFocus model we chose for the space was too large to fit inside the bulkhead, so instead we mounted it underneath the bulkhead and built a semiround enclosure for it that matched the millwork of the equipment cabinets.” The enclosure was also made to be easily removed so that Howell & Associates could get to the projector for servicing.

Like most remodeling projects, the addition of the home theater inspired the homeowners to tackle other projects—in this case, updating the remainder of the basement. An existing red couch and multicolored barstools set the course for a redesign that would follow a jazzy retro theme. Howell & Associates theater designer Sheba Kwan joined the project to facilitate plans for a bar and dance floor and additional lighting to brighten up the space. Bold colors and unique shapes and patterns were incorporated into the bar, while the dance floor was fashioned to look like a chessboard. “It was something the homeowners had seen during a vacation,” says Pifer. “They loved it so much, they decided to do something similar in this space.” Speakers that had been mounted into the ceiling for the original homeowners blanket the dance floor with music. The homeowners use a wall-mounted keypad to select an audio source and set the volume.

Based on the command from the keypad, the Sonance whole-house music system sends the tunes to the speakers from the family room CD player, FM radio tuner or cable TV receiver. Or, if they’d rather, they can access audio from the DVD that’s spinning in the theater. The screen at the opposite end of the room is large enough and positioned so that it can be viewed from everywhere in the room. Any way you look at it—whether your passion is dancing, socializing at the bar or immersing yourself in a movie—this retro rec room is pure fun.


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