Picture your Super Bowl party: Broncos-Seahawks. Bright Bronco orange and Seattle blue and green, clashing on a big screen, with all of your favorite people around. And food. Lots of food. It’s a tailgate party in the comfort of your home. Only instead of a cooler you have a bar, perhaps a whole game room with ample seating.
Is this a room of dreams? For some it is. For those building a house or buying a new one, the equipment and installation costs to make a very entertaining home can be rolled into the mortgage. And what an opportunity for upgrades and options.
And not just for the Super Bowl, or the upcoming Olympic Games (which should absolutely pop on a big screen).
Multipurpose rec rooms/game rooms/surround sound entertainment spaces are practical year-round, because you don’t have to devote a room to a dedicated theater space. They’re great spaces for gatherings of family and friends, playing cards or billiards or air hockey. Or just chillin’ at a bar with your spouse or buddies.
In warmer climates these spaces could be outdoor patios (preferably covered) or indoor/outdoor rooms.
4K and OLED
Ultra High-definition (Ultra HD) TV that has four times the resolution of today’s 1080p screens is likely to become the new standard, even though the difference is far more noticeable in large projection-based screens of 90- to 100-inches or more in size. Regardless, people will be eyeing 55- and 65-inch flat-panel LED TVs in stunning “4K.”
If you want to impress your friends with a 55-incher. consider the beauty of ultra-thin OLED screens that are curved as well—though the curve appears more of a cosmetic and marketing benefit than a feature that creates truly immersive experiences. The OLED TVs are gorgeous, ridiculously thin, with bright colors, deep contrast to rival or surpass plasma-based sets, and expensive (think near $10,000 and up, which is actually cheaper than the early plasma sets way back when). LG recently showed 4K OLED TVs in sizes up to 77 inches, including a flexible OLED whose curve can be adjusted by remote.
Real sports nuts can add a wall of flat-panel TVs or have a big screen that can be split into multiple windows via systems like Savant’s SmartView Video Tiling.
Make sure there are easily accessed connectors for Xbox, PlayStation and Wii games, as well as room to play virtual games and gesture control via Microsoft Kinect for Xbox.
For the budget-minded: Large LED TVs, such as 55-inchers, that have fallen in price
Bar and Play Area
Want to add a bar and game area? Add some speakers as well.
There should be one surround-sound audio zone for the main viewing area, with five to seven speakers in a configuration of three in the front, plus two to five surround speakers along the sides and rear—plus speakers for the play/game/or bar area in separately controlled audio zone. If there’s a bar planned for the back of the room, think of add a smaller flat-panel LED TV or two there. The speakers and TVs in the bar/play area should be capable of playing what’s on the big screen, or playing something independently.
Play area amenities include billiards tables, card tables, foosball or hockey games, pinball and arcade games, even bowling alleys. Your choice!
Bar areas can take wine coolers, and other built-in appliances like refrigerator or microwave drawers. You can also have candy and snack racks and antique popcorn machines.
For the budget minded: Prep for small play area to be added later, with plumbing and electrical runs to a potential wet bar or kitchen area.
Have you seen the TV show American Pickers on the History Channel?
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz travel the backroads of America (and sometimes elsewhere) in search of “rusty gold” antiques, car and bike parts, signs, oil and gas artifacts. Some items are “roached” and toasted with weather and decay, but occasionally the guys come across a “honey hole” of long-stored antiques and collectibles that would absolutely pop in a man cave or multipurpose rec room/theater space. This is decor for the guy who likes a little patina on his collectible conversation starters.
The Antique Archaeology partners, based in Iowa and Nashville, have bought and sold everything from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to old and valuable shelf toys, early pinball and game machines, circus rocket-ride cars. And you know what? These pickers are the ultimate greenies, recycling old stuff that’s been taking up space in barns and garages. You can get a lot of cool decor ideas here to suit your taste.
For the budget minded: Shop at yard and barn sales or flea markets.
Light It Up
Make sure you light your collectibles or other decor well with today’s latest and smart LED lighting, preferably tied to some sort of lighting control system. You can layer the lighting to make certain items pop, add preprogrammed moods and scenes of lighting levels for “movie” or “poker” or “romance,” for example. You can include LED rope lighting or tiny spots for any stairs so people can leave a movie without raising the lights or stumbling about.
Lighting control capabilities range from simple, individual dimmers to single-room and whole-house wired and wireless systems, systems that work over a home’s powerline, and plug-in lighting modules that can be operated via smartphones and tablets, possibly as part of a larger “connected home” system.
For the budget minded: Dimmers, occupancy and vacancy sensors
Play Master & Commander
Speaking of smartphones, how are you going to control all of this entertainment bliss? With a smartphone or tablet like an iPad, of course. There are apps for all manner of audio/video and lighting control systems. And it’s a cool way to impress someone. But we also recommend having some sort of remote control in an entertainment space, preferably with tactile “hard buttons” for most-used commands such as volume and channel control, for which you won't want to just use a smartphone. Companies like Pro Control, RTI, Logitech and others have excellent room-control remotes that can operate other home systems as well.
Voice and gesture control are here as well—with more and better systems coming all of the time.
For the budget minded: Look for a good universal remote
Bonus Play: The Two-point Conversion
Make it Green
Home entertainment that saves energy? Why not? Homebuyers who opt for solar power and battery storage can effectively power their A/V systems with green energy collected during sunny days and stored in a bank of batteries. Systems can be costly, like that from RoseWater Energy Group priced at $60,000 or more, but this is doable for those who want to go off the grid at times and enjoy today’s luxuries and conveniences.
For the budget minded: Smart surge strips or power conditioners like those from BlueBolt with IP-addressable outlets to control and monitor via the Internet and remote connectivity.