Evolving Home Entertainment Design

The design of cabinetry or furniture to house home entertainment equipment has been an ever-expanding opportunity for kitchen and bath designers. Whether it's a furniture piece to attractively house the television or a dedicated home theater, home entertainment ambitions continue to provide opportunity and challenge to today's designers.'

With help from designers Terri McBride of my office and John Davis of Davco Custom Sound & Video Contractors, this column will offer some current design trends and product/resource information to help you, as a designer, explore this aspect of residential entertainment space planning.'

Kitchen and bath designers have long been designing attractive entertainment centers, and the need for this cabinetry has grown with the establishment of the "great room" concept. With the kitchen and adjoining living area combined to become a social hub of the home, the blending of aesthetics throughout the space has led to coordinated cabinetry and furniture; a natural fit with the kitchen designer.'

Typically, the entertainment center has been created by enclosing the television, VCR and other components behind recessed sliding or retractable doors, and surrounding them with unique and functional storage for related system equipment, cassettes and discs.'

This cabinetry is not necessarily the focal point in this multi-use room; there may be a fireplace or an antique piece of furniture that provides a backdrop. Often, the design challenge is not just to create functional storage and use areas, but to do so in a way that enhances existing cabinetry and furniture pieces.'

Regardless of the sophistication of equipment, residential entertainment systems are evolving into home theaters, a dedicated area in the home where audio/visual entertainment is the primary activity. With advanced technologies, such as digital satellite and DVD becoming readily available, we're finding it possible to create a home theater experience comparable to conventional movie going.'

In situations where the entire room is focused on the viewing screen, there's a trend toward displaying the screen, rather than hiding it behind cabinetry doors. Storage for system accessories and equipment can be concealed in cabinetry next to the screen, or the system equipment can be installed at the back of the room.'

Traditionally, basic home entertainment systems include a television, VCR and sound system. The following are some new products available to maximize the system:

  • High-definition television (HDTV), high-resolution digital television with either a rear projector or monitor'
  • Flat-screen plasma television
  • Digital Satellite System (DSS)'
  • Digital Versatile Disc (DVD)'
  • Audio/visual receivers, which control the system and distribute sound to as many as six speakers'
  • Dolby Digital, the audio standard for DVD players and HDTVs
  • Touch-screen system controller to eliminate remote controls