Home cinemas look deceptively simple. Big screen, carpet and a few plush chairs. What is there to get wrong? In fact, there’s a fine art to designing the perfect media room. Comfort is paramount, but nothing is more effective at dampening the sound of your expensive surround sound system than soft furnishings. And how do you blend those harshlooking speaker towers with the rest of the room? Then there’s lighting: dimmers are useful for achieving an authentic cinema experience, and real aficionados will install lights in dotted lines along the ceiling or floor. Will bars and snack stations add to the fun, or are they an unnecessary, kitsch addition?
When the flashier residents of Kensington and Chelsea began digging down into the foundations of their houses a few years ago, they discovered that underground swimming pools presented many complications. But media rooms – and wine cellars – were much simpler (not to mention planning permission-friendly) so they proliferated as a must-have extravagance.
“As soon as basement explorations started, these rooms started to become more popular. It’s a room that doesn’t need a lot of natural light, so it works well underground,” says Mark Pollack, co-director of prime London residential agency Aston Chase.
While screening rooms may have started out as the preserve of the extremely affluent, that’s no longer the case. With unpredictable working hours and business travel, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gather the family round the dining table every night. This, coupled with the current fashion for open-plan, space-saving entertaining areas that amalgamate the living room and kitchen, has led to the demise of the traditional dining room. Some say the media room fills the gap. With the rise of on-demand streaming services, families can gather round the big screen or projector at their own convenience, making the media room a contender for the modern family bonding space.
“Historically, you’d find them in super prime residential homes, but they’re far more widespread these days,” says Pollack. “We seem to have a voracious appetite for bigger and bigger screens, so the way we watch TV, and the way TV is made, has become more cinematic. Many people are starting to view the media room as a key room in the house.”