New homes: multi-media rooms

Multi-media rooms have the starring role in new family homes
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Basement cinema room
The Shipman family converted their drab, windowless basement into a luxurious cinema room
Of all the technology finding its way into our homes, the cinema room is perhaps the one that chimes most with modern lifestyles.

The arrival of large, high-definition flat screens, 3D, surround-sound, MP3 docking stations, the Xbox and Sky box, Blu-ray, Wii video game consoles and a host of other audiovisual (AV) gadgets has transformed home entertainment, not just for the iPad generation but for an older, un-techie age group, too.

House-of-the-future clairvoyants of only a decade ago failed to predict the impact of this technology, focusing instead on home-automation and energy efficiency rather than AV creature comforts.

Once a status symbol for the super-rich, "media rooms" are entering the mainstream as the price of the hardware falls. Costs range from about £5,000 to more than £50,000, depending on the equipment and how lavish the fit-out.

About 70 per cent of homes now have a plasma or flat-screen television after 9.4 million HD sets were sold last year, according to the British Video Association. Britons are planning to invest £4.2 billion in home entertainment equipment over the next 12 months, reports market research company YouGov.

"Improved picture quality and simplified operation through a single remote controller is making it easier for owners to justify expenditure," says Costas Constantinou of Olive AV, a specialist installer whose turnover jumped 50 per cent last year.

Niche developers often install home cinemas as part of a new-build project or refurbishment. At Dene Terrace, a row of 14 Georgian-style, five-storey town houses in Chislehurst, buyers can choose between a double-height dining room or a cinema room. The 3,800sq ft properties have generous entertaining space and a splendid master bedroom suite leading to a roof terrace. Underground parking, with direct access to the house, keeps the landscaped external areas uncluttered. Prices from £1.45 million. Call Knight Frank on 01483 564660.

Designers and retailers say more customers want furniture solutions for media rooms: bespoke systems to store CDs and hide cables and equipment. Molteni, an Italian brand, has a flexible modular system - doors and drawers can be added to suit and can slide shut to conceal the screen.

Porada's "mediacenter" has a pole that is attached to the ceiling and the floor and the stand swivels 360 degrees. There is space for boxes, DVDs and non-related accessories.

From basement to luxury cinema

The Shipman family's refurbished Thirties detached house in Highgate, north London, now has a luxurious cinema room that was previously a drab, windowless basement.

"Really it was an afterthought, but it's the best thing we did in the house and it's the room we use the most," said Nicole Shipman, a copywriter who lives there with her three sons - twins Max and Guy, aged 16, and Zak, nine.

"A local estate agent suggested it would be a good idea to convert the space into something special, which would give it a wow factor when it came to resale. The kids are down there most of their free time. If we didn't drag them out on occasion, I fear they wouldn't see daylight. But it's more about interaction than hibernation. What was a dead space is a new social hub in the house: we all watch movies - which with Blu-ray and surround-sound is amazing - and people come over to see The X Factor or the big football matches. We can't wait for the Eurovision Song Contest."

By having this dedicated space, the rest of the house has been liberated for quieter relaxation, Nicole added.

Measuring six metres by five metres, the room has enough height for tiered seating with good sight lines and was big enough for a space in front of the screen for playing Wii. Hardware and installation costs totalled £25,000.

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