You’re thinking about renovating an area of your house or you have a room that’s being sorely underutilized. Converting the space into a dedicated home theater might be your first thought, but before you pull out the power tools, think again. A room built for the sole purpose of viewing movies may not be practical given your family’s lifestyle; however, a custom-designed multipurpose media room might be just the ticket. And before you head to the basement, attic, or some other remote area commonly considered prime real estate for media systems, consider the family room or den instead. Placing a media system near a kitchen or other family gathering place will help keep friends and family closer together.
Unlike a dedicated home theater where it may seem obvious as to how to place your seating, screen, speakers, and projector, a multipurpose media room allows for a bit more creativity. Think about how the space will be used most: a family hangout for movie nights, a video gaming area for your teenage kids, a space to listen to your favorite new band, or a place to watch the big game and feel like you’re a part of the action on the field. Perhaps the room will get used as a combination of all kinds of listening and viewing experiences. Regardless, laying out the audio and video components is key.
The ideal layout for any media room is a rectangular shape. Don’t fret, however, if the room you want to use is not perfectly rectangular. You’ll still be able to pull together a high-performance multipurpose media room. First, consider your main focal point of the room. This will be where you should place your large flat-panel television or projection screen. The size of the room and your budget will help determine which option—TV or projection screen—to choose. If the room is small, there is really no reason for a 110-inch projection screen. It will overwhelm the space and may actually cause eye strain. A 65-inch high-definition flat-panel television could work nicely in a smaller room and still give you that real high-quality picture you crave.
Once the main focal point has been determined, consider your seating. When it comes to picking out furniture, your main priority should be comfort. You’ll want seating that flows with the room, not necessarily dedicated theater chairs. A sectional couch might be a great option for an odd-shaped room, multiple love seats will provide extra seating if you expect guests to visit your media room often, and don’t forget a gaming chair if there’s someone in your family who plans to use the system for this purpose.
Perhaps the room you plan to transform has areas that jut out from the rest of the room. You want to make this a fun multipurpose room, so consider filling that space with a card table, a vintage video game station, ping pong table, or an arts and crafts area for smaller children. It will help fill the space but still fit within the theme of the room.
Once the layout has been confirmed, you’ll want to think about the room environment. If the room gets a lot of natural light, window treatments might be necessary. Attaching them to motorized rollers or tracks is a slick option that will serve a multipurpose media room well. If you want to create a theater-like vibe when watching a movie, consider adding a smart light switch or dimmer that can be controlled via an iPhone or iPad, such as a Lutron RadioRA2 system. The lighting and shading systems can be tied together so that with a touch of a button, a preprogrammed Movie scene dims the lights and lowers the motorized window treatments.
Of course, one of the most important parts of any media room is the sound system. Depending on the size of the room, there are a few different surround-sound options: 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos are a few of the most popular. Ideally, you’ll want three speakers in the front of the room to create the left, center, and right channel surround-sound effects. If the room is small and three speakers in the front of the room is overkill, a nice alternative is a high-quality soundbar mounted under the television. Some manufacturers, like Leon Speakers, will create a custom soundbar that seamlessly blends with the size and style of the television you have chosen.
A subwoofer should also be installed in the front of your fun room. Most subwoofers should be located in the corner of a room between two inside walls to allow for the best bass response. Subwoofers can be placed on the floor or recessed into the wall.
How you go about picking your speakers will depend on if you are willing to open up walls to run speaker wire or if you have the wall depth for flush-mounted or invisible speakers. If you don’t have the luxury of being able to open up walls, wireless speaker systems, such as those from Sonos, are a great alternative.
There are so many flush-mounted speaker options available and they range in price to fit every budget. Perhaps you want your multipurpose room to have a clean look and don’t want to clutter the walls with speaker grilles. Invisible speakers that once sounded muffled and were used for secondary listening spaces have now improved so much that they are comparable in sound quality to regular flush- mounted or bookshelf speakers. You will need to hire a contractor to install the invisible speakers. Hiring an audio/video expert to test the speakers’ balance prior to the contractor skim coating the walls is a must. Once the walls have been finished you won’t be able to tweak the sound any further.
If going the invisible speaker route is not an option, you can easily hide your flush-mounted speakers behind specially made art. The art is made out of acoustical fabrics so the sound quality of the speaker is not affected and neither is the decor of the room. Bookshelf speakers, too, can be hidden in a similar way. Custom cabinetry can house your front-channel speakers and that same acoustical fabric can be installed on the doors of the cabinets.
Speakers aren’t the only technology that can be hidden in your multipurpose media room. If you would like a screen in your space, there are a few options. You can choose to have a motorized drop-down screen that lives in a pocket in the ceiling or rolls up into a wall bracket. You can also have motorized artwork that can disappear into the ceiling or separates to reveal a television behind it. A video projector can be tucked into a pocket in the ceiling.
Of course, you’ll also need a variety of audio/video gear, such as a surround-sound processor/receiver, Blu-ray disc player, Apple TV, media server, and more, to give your system that extra edge. Where you will house this equipment will depend on whether you want to display or hide it. If it’s the latter, is there an unused closet space for a small equipment rack? Perhaps you can find room in the custom cabinetry located in the front or side of the room. Whichever option you choose, make sure you are installing it in an easily accessible space that is well ventilated.
By analyzing the room, looking at all of your options, visualizing how the equipment will fit into the allotted space, and deciding whether your objective is to blend the technology into the room design or let it stand out, you can create a multipurpose media room that you’ll use not only on movie nights, but every day. A good place to start your project is by visiting the showroom of a local audio/video specialist. You’ll be able to “test drive” speakers, TVs, and other equipment to see which suits your needs and budget. You’ll also be able to discuss and decide which parts of the project you feel comfortable handling yourself and those that you’d rather leave to the hands of a professional. EH
Gina Romanello is the sales and marketing manager at Innerspace Electronics, of Port Chester, N.Y. She assists in the system design and product specification of new projects and is actively working towards her CEDIA Electronics System Designer Certification. Gina manages her company’s website, social media platforms, events, mailings, and other marketing related projects. She is an active member of the Westchester Business Network and attends numerous Women in CE events throughout the year.