CEDIA 2009. Used with permission.

While a dedicated home theater is a financial stretch for many clients, a media room in which to watch movies, play video games, and listen to music is more likely within reach. But even a media room design needs a strong project team that should include a professional credentialed by CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association).

Multiuse space: A media room is often a multiuse space connected to other parts of the home. The home theater is a separate room with elements such as staggered seating, walls built to control sound, and lighting controls to take the room to complete black. While lighting and sound are also important considerations in a media room, there will obviously be limitations.

The room: A well-designed room can make a midlevel system sound good; high-end technology would be wasted in a space that underserves it. Matt Carter, owner of Lite House Design, in Columbia, S.C., suggests using CEDIA’s finder service to locate an integrator who can help you and your clients make the right technology and design choices.

Find out exactly how your clients intend to use the space. How many people should the space be able to fit at one time? Will they be gaming? Watching sports? Films? Listening to music? If a fireplace exists as a focal point, discuss whether it needs to be moved.

Sound: In a dedicated theater space, you create a decoupled room — build walls within walls to isolate noise and vibration. But in an open media room it’s more difficult to achieve sound isolation, keeping sound inside the room and unwanted noise out.

It takes more time and thought to find the right doors, which should be fairly inert and eliminate air gaps. “Generally, you can’t just go buy an acoustically correct door system for large-cased openings. You may have to modify an archway or get a custom door system manufactured,” Carter says, adding that in a space with large openings, you might “want to put in a soffit and walls to support a sliding or folding door system. Some [of which] have acoustically isolating properties.”

If a media room is next to a bedroom, Paul Zuch, owner of Capital Improvements, in Dallas, decouples the common wall and puts floor mats under the carpeting to isolate and absorb sound.

Lighting: A media room must be flexible. Two people might want to socialize on the sofa while others watch televised sports. Lamplight and natural light might detract from the visual experience.

“Look at the seating [plan] and select and position light fixtures so you can light the seating areas well and not have a lot of light on display devices,” Carter advises. “This improves the contrast ratio and improves a person’s perspective on the display quality.” Motorized blinds and shades help block natural light and also can help control heat gain.

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.