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Thinking about media room ideas means considering so much more than just the tech you'll be putting in the space. In fact, when done well you ought to be able to blend all that wonderful audio visual kit into an aesthetic and beautiful decor. For not to be confused with a dedicated home cinema, a media room is a multi-purpose space that’s designed to be flexible for both day-to-day living and entertainment. With the right gadgets and styling, a media room can be enjoyed by the whole household.
‘When we talk about a home cinema, we refer to a dedicated room with a single purpose,’ says Alex Josling from Seven Integration. ‘A media room is slightly different in that it's designed for a range of possibilities. It can be a place where you enjoy a movie, but also your main living room, dining room or part of an open-plan space.'
There are a number of ways you can kit out your media room so that it’s as flexible, convenient and comfortable as possible - while playing host to one of the best TV brands. To explore the best ways to plan your media room, Livingetc speaks to CEDIA members and home automation experts Alex Josling from Seven Integration and Greg Howarth from Glo. Both have extensive experience kitting out stylish media rooms and here they share their top technical tips.
Media room ideas
1. Start with the lighting
When it comes to watching a screen, lighting is everything. You don't want a room to be too bright, but at the same time, do you really want to sit in total darkness?
'Consider black-out blinds and a projector,' says Alex Josling. 'With the right lighting control and a clever use of material, a media room can become very cinematic indeed.' These additions are so organic that they don't intrude on a living space. 'They are not uncommon in a media room that's part of an open-plan living space,’ Alex agrees.
If motorised window treatments aren't an option and you're finding it hard to get your media room really dark during the day, a projector alone may not be the best option. ‘With video you need to make sure you're aware of the amount light you have coming into the room,’ says Greg Howarth. 'For example, if you have direct sunlight in the space during most of the day then a projection screen will not work for that space.
We also suggest angled wall lights on dimmable switches, to create small pools of a glow so that you can at least see how much popcorn is left in the bowl.
2. Hide your tech as best you can
It’s common for gadgets to be hidden in a media room, and the challenge is to find ways to discreetly blend the tech into your interior. ‘Our clients tend to ask for a perfectly presentable room during the day and you wouldn’t really know that there is an AV system there,’ explains Greg. ‘But in the evening you can reveal a high-performance AV area that’s great for movies and music.'
‘There are several ways to achieve this goal. For example, with audio we use speaker bars, In-wall, RAL paint matched or plastered-in speakers to make the equipment blend into the room. With the video side we can use a large format 85 inch TV, hidden projection screens or hidden TV’s to avoid impacting the interior design.'
Above the television is hidden by panels that look like modern works of art.
3. Plan the audio carefully
There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to sound quality in your media room. ‘The size of the space is key to what kind of speakers you choose,’ says Greg. ‘You will need a lot more audio power to adequately fill a large area, for example.’
Plan where to position your speakers early on in your design. ‘5+ speakers in a room along with a sub-woofer are going to have a huge impact on the aesthetics of a room,’ says Alex. ‘Think about incorporating them into any cabinet work you are having built. In-wall speakers could be hidden behind some artwork that automatically moves out of the way when the speakers are in use. Speakers disguised as artwork are an option or behind plaster speakers that are completely invisible. Or, why not make a feature of the speakers? There are plenty of stylish options.’
A good pair of well-placed stereo speakers might be a much better option than trying to fit a full-fat Dolby Atmos surround sound system into a small space suggests Alex. 'Don’t get too hung up on ticking boxes that you really aren’t necessarily going to benefit from.'
4. Choose a screen that's right for the space
Think carefully about what kind of content you watch - be it movies or news - and plan your screen around this. A home cinema projector is not always necessary in a media room.
'Think about how often will you be watching something. A projector and motorised screen are great, but if you are only going to watch 10 mins of news before work, it could be a bit of a rigmarole to use,' says Alex.
Making sure you have the right lighting is also necessary for a projector, so if your space is very large it may not be the best option. 'As a very attractive alternative, there are plenty of flat screen TV’s that can be disguised as artwork or display photos,' says Alex, which is something we consider whenever talking about living room TV ideas. 'Or they can be mounted on a lift and the TV can disappear entirely at the touch of a button either into some cabinetry, or behind architectural panels.'
5. Think carefully about lighting - again!
While we talked decoratively at the top of the page, the finishing touches are less about what type of light, but what type of bulb. To create a home-cinema like space in which to watch movies in your media room, motorised window treatments and lighting control are key. 'If you're going to have a projector you will need to get the room as dark as possible,' says Alex.
Having automated lighting or opting for a smart light bulb means you can set a lighting 'scene'. 'Being able to control your lighting from your smart device or control panel or even using your voice is convenient when you go to watch a movie. You'll want it to block sunlight from windows and ambient light from other areas of the room.'
A good lighting design will allow suitable scenes for daytime viewing, night time viewing and lighting the room when you aren’t watching anything. 'But for the best of both worlds, I've seen a number of media rooms work well with a motorised hidden projection screen and TV behind,' Greg says. 'The brighter TV will function well during the day and the large format projection screen can be used for that cinema experience in the evenings.'
6. Consider home automation
Creating an automated home whereby all your gadgets, security and lighting are linked together and controlled via one central panel and smart app can be convenient and add style to your interior. Automation can be the ideal way to ensure your interior design blends seamlessly with your gadgets, after all.
'As well as lighting control and automated window treatments, I'd recommend introducing an AV automation systems such as Savant, Control4 and Crestron,' says Greg. 'This means you can have all the equipment hidden away and operated without line of sight - i.e. you don’t have to open the cupboard door to use the equipment.'
What can I watch in my media room?
There’s a wide range of entertainment you can enjoy on your TV or projector from the like Sky Q, Apple TV, Netflix, Disney+, but Alex suggests back up.
‘Nobody will argue that streaming is super convenient, but as screens get larger and we sit closer, you will notice the compression that the likes of Netflix employ to be able to give you movies on demand,’ points out Alex. ‘It seems a bit old-skool, but consider a disk spinner. Blu-Ray ideally.’
What goes in a media room?
The lighting, window treatments, surround sound system and how you plan to watch content and enjoy gaming in your media room - be it on a TV or projector screen - are all key elements to consider.
Combining these factors to create an attractive interior scheme using automated fittings, hiding gadgets behind wall panels and choosing eye-catching fixtures and furnishings will all help achieve an effortlessly stylish media room.
The Livingetc Newsletter
For style leaders and design lovers.
One of the UK's most respected tech and smart homes writers, Emily Peck also covers everything from interiors style to decorating trends. She is a contributor to Wired UK, and has also had a column in House Beautiful. She has written for publications such as Grand Designs, Stylist, Shortlist, Woman&Home, BBC, Ideal Home and House & Garden. She was once the Features Editor of Ideal Home.
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