The basement is a hideaway for fun and relaxation.
You’d be hard-pressed to discover anybody who would prohibit decorating the home is usually the woman’s domain. Most men are generally more than happy to relinquish that responsibility to their wives, on one condition: they have at least one space of their own. It’s an elaborate home theater, a high-tech game room, a fantasy bar for men. Many men want a place in the home for themselves or a sophisticated smoking room and wine cellar.
“It really is a trend for men to have a place to retreat from their hectic lifestyles,” says Jan Studdard, ASID, principal designer with RLS Construction Inc. “They need to have time with themselves and their friends. Everybody needs that time. Women like to retreat to a luxurious master bath, and men like to retreat to their own room or office.”
The main attraction
Studdard says home theaters are still one of the most popular requests they receive when creating a man’s retreat, and Kirby Wright, of Home Waves in Cumming, agrees.
“Home theaters are definitely the trend. Everyone’s talking about them,” he says.
The reason for the boost in popularity, according to Wright, is that the price of a home theater is getting closer to what the masses can afford. According to Qualified Remodeler magazine, only 2 percent of homes in the United States had home theater or media rooms as recently as ten years ago. In 10 years, that number will jump to 75 percent.
“In the past, it was an extreme luxury, but it’s now more common,” Wright says.
Another reason for home theaters’ popularity boost is due to their flexibility. The size and complexity of the technology vary according to price, and there is something for everyone.
“The best thing about home theaters is you can create them on several levels,” Studdard explains. “The low-end home theater might include a big-screen TV and surround sound, but then he can go gangbusters with the most upper-end theater.”
Home theaters can be fully automated and include projection systems, dedicated theater seating, and acoustical panels on the walls. Many men even opt to have full theater-style snack bars, custom home-theater carpeting, and enough seating for the entire neighborhood.
Home Waves, which installs the lighting, video, and audio controls, distinguishes between two types of rooms where most people put their home theater.
A basement room usually has other things in it, things like living room furniture, a pool table, and windows, is called a media room. In a media room, Home Waves installs a plasma screen because it is very bright. It reduces worry over ambient light coming in through the windows.
A home theater is a room dedicated explicitly to viewing movies and has no windows. In those kinds of places, Home Waves installs a fixed 90 to 110-inch wall screen. Next, they establish a projector, usually mounted to the ceiling, which produces a huge, prominent image.
A home theater also employs surround sound, which comprises a few different speakers; the left, center, and right speakers and a subwoofer, which gives homeowners the thumping bass sound. But don’t worry about unsightly speaker boxes crowding the look of your home theater. “The trend is to install the speakers into the wall, so all you see is the grill,” Wright says. “Another trend is simply to put them into a cabinet; that way, you don’t see anything at all.”
And don’t forget about the walls. Frank Kremer, owner of Acoustic Interiors in Douglasville, installs custom–How to design the Room to Play for kids, custom-built acoustic wall treatments to enhance viewing enjoyment.
“The advantage of the panels is that they absorb sound,” Kremer says. “In traditional construction, you have Sheetrock, which reflects the sound.”
Like the heavy drapes and curtains in movie theaters, the acoustic panels increase the sound clarity and make the movie more enjoyable. Plus, “It’s a luxurious look compared to Sheetrock,” he says.
The ultimate theater-experience rooms can come with a hefty price tag, but that doesn’t mean men with a budget can’t have a great theater. Many men install surround sound to their existing television sets and achieve an effect that suits them just fine.
Of course, no home theater would be complete without a DVD, VCR, and entire movie collection.
Studdard says home theaters also are big draws for families but says theaters are still the man’s domain. “Don’t let men fool you,” she says. “The movies maybe for the family, but the techno-gadgets that come with a home theater are absolutely about the man. They dictate all of that.”
And just as the home theater is a big draw for families, so are video games. But it’s not just the kids that are enjoying them. There are probably as many men fanatical about playing these games as there are kids—mostly when they can play them on large-screen TVs.
Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony PlayStation II, and Nintendo’s GameCube offer an endless amount of games. It keeps any man busy for hours—some of which can even be played online. PlayStation II also has recently begun offering an internal hard disk drive that attaches to the existing units and then online. The new disk drive, which sells for $99, enables players to download “episodic content and episodic experiences.”
Pricing for all three units has gone down dramatically since they were all introduced a few years ago and range from about $149 to $179. Pricing on games also varies but averages about $50 each.
But don’t forget that the men creating these spaces grew up playing pinball machines and classic arcade games. Games such as Pac-Man and Frogger, so it’s not just the games of today that are making their way into the man’s rec room. “A lot of men want to include these vintage arcade games. Especially if they are going for a casual bar-type space,” says Adam Burke, owner of Atlanta Spa & Leisure.
“The guys who grew up on these games are now adults and can afford to buy them,” says David Piha, of Greater Southern Home Recreation. “We also sell a lot of game tables, poker tables, and video games.”
Also popular are the foosball and bumper pool tables, and of course, the air hockey table.
“We tend to sell commercial size air hockey tables to men that want to play serious air hockey,” Burke says. “Usually when they are purchasing for their kids, they just buy a low-end table from a sports store, but when they are buying for themselves, they tend to buy the ones just like those in the arcades.” The only difference is that they aren’t coin-operated.
While high-tech video game consoles and vintage arcade games are standard in some men’s retreats, Burke and Studdard agree. Otherwise, low-tech pool tables and card tables are a must. And not surprisingly, the pool table frequently becomes the centerpiece of a man’s space. “Some might spend anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 depending on the budget,” Burke says. “Nine times out of 10, high-end pool tables and card tables are being bought for a man’s recreation room.”
Burke says they can create custom tables to suit just about any man’s dream. “Many of our customers have wanted their favorite team’s logo on the pool table cloth if they’re going for a sports angle,” he says. “We can really deck them out, however.”
There are, of course, pool tables available for as little as $1,500 for basic, lower-end models. “Parents usually choose the tables that are between $1,500 and $3,000 if they have teenagers,” Burke says. “Parents definitely gravitate toward less expensive tables than homeowners that are using the pool tables as showpieces.”
Pool tables can appeal to both kids and adults. “They are just as great for a family night as they are for adults,” Piha says.
And Burke agrees. “The man of the house can shoot pool with his friends, or the teenagers can shoot pool with mom and dad,” he says. “That is one reason a lot of my customers say they buy pool tables.”
Poker tables, which are increasing in popularity, are also a common choice for men and families. “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in poker tables, poker chips, and ‘Texas hold ’em’ tables,” says Tommy Heard, owner of Legacy Billiards in Suwanee. Heard credits is the growing interest in televised poker games as a factor in increasing sales. “Generally, when they come out with something like that on TV, sales increase.”
Piha agrees. “The overall interest in poker has been greater,” he says.
While Heard has had many families buying poker tables, Piha has seen more men visit his store. “I’ve seen a lot of single men, ages 30 to 50,” he says. “They want to have at home poker nights.”
But perhaps no ultimate man’s retreat would be complete without a bar. Bob Wilson, owner of Classic Bars in Smyrna, has been designing and building bars for nine years and has seen an increase in demand. “My goodness, yes, there’s been an increase in the number of bars I do,” he says.
Not only are more bars being installed, but they’re also becoming more elaborate. “It used to be a sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator,” It says. “Now it’s all of those plus wine storage, a beer keg, and a warming oven.”
Wilson has been around to see the shift from oak bars to now the more popular mahogany bars. John Moore, an owner of Atlanta Trading Group, agrees. He says he sees a demand for sports-themed bars and traditional English pub bars with dark hand-rubbed mahogany finishes. Burke also says many of his clients are going for an Irish pub theme with a bar, stools, and pool table.
But Burke says sports-themed rooms also are standard. “It’s the ideal place to hang jerseys and framed sports posters and display sports memorabilia,” he says. Studdard agrees and says she’s even seen bars designed with a music lover in mind. “It is the perfect space to hang vintage rock posters, classic record albums, and valuable instruments,” she says. “You can create wall units to showcase hundreds of vintage albums that you just don’t see anymore.”
Music lovers are the types of Home Waves targets when they install LCD flatscreens in the bar area. “We integrate audio into the basement by allowing homeowners to digitally download music and having thousands of hours of music right at their fingertips,” Wright says. This type of audio equipment virtually eliminates the pause between tracks or the changing of CDs.
Wilson says many people want to place the bar so that when guests come into the basement, the bar gets the “wow.” “A nice bar really is the focal point and sets the pace of the entire basement,” he says. A custom-built bar can fit into almost any budget at a price tag of anywhere between $6,000 and $35,000.
And to make the bars more family-friendly, Moore says his clients have locks put on the cabinetry. “We also have a keg and wine coolers that lock so kids do not get into the spirits,” he says.
And while bars are still prevalent in recreation rooms, both Studdard and Burke agrees. Many homeowners are getting away from making a traditional liquor bar the room’s focal point. “Many of our clients want something more like a kitchenette than a bar,” Studdard says.
“We put in lots of refrigerators and microwaves,” says David VandenBosch, president of Georgia Basements. “For every Your Dream Kitchen or Bath we install we put in about 30 wet bars.” Convenience is the primary factor behind the kitchenettes.
Space for sophistication
While many men are definitely into a casual recreation room with home theater, video games, and pool tables, still others demand rooms that exude style and sophistication. “Many men, even those that don’t smoke, want a ‘smoking room’ with humidors and sophisticated ventilation systems,” Studdard says.
Wood-paneled walls, leather chairs, walk-in humidors, and even cigar-store wooden Indians make up the crème de la crème of the smoking room. Still, it’s the ventilation systems that make the rooms feasible, especially in a household of non-smokers. These advanced home-ventilation systems can clean air quickly enough.
Even sensitive nonsmokers can go in a place right after four men have smoked cigars, and they wouldn’t know it. Such systems, which circulate air separately from the rest of the house, cost about $5,000 for a room 8 feet by 8 feet.
These smoking rooms, Studdard says, are often adjacent to wine cellars and even small wine tasting rooms. “Wine collecting has become kind of a craze recently,” she says. “If you go to a wine-tasting class, most of the people there are men, so it’s not a surprise that they want a sophisticated space in their own home that reflects their passion.”
While wine cellars, tasting rooms, and smoking rooms are perhaps the least standard rooms requested, they certainly can’t be ignored. Many of the same manufacturers creating commercial wine display racks for wine stores are now making these products for custom home wine cellars.
“A genuine wine cellar is a significant investment,” VandenBosch says. “Most people who spend that kind of money are generally pretty serious about wine.”
Rooms with style
Creating an excellent home recreation area doesn’t just involve TVs, pool tables, and games; it also takes just the right style and decor to make the space shine. It also usually takes a professional’s expertise to turn the basement into a room a man will love. “It’s more common now for us to see people who attempt to do things themselves,” VandenBosch says. Once they get into it and begin to have problems, that’s when VandenBosch receives a call. “Once something has been done incorrectly, it’s a bit more expensive to correct.” VandenBosch encourages homeowners to do their homework and make sure they employ someone who knows what they’re doing.
And when it comes to decorating a man’s retreat, masculinity reigns supreme. “Rich woods, exposed bricks, and dark tones generally dominate these spaces,” Studdard says. “Many men also display gun safes and hunting trophies in these spaces, so they tend to be extremely masculine with rarely anything feminine.”
But for those men who want to give the space a little extra oomph, custom bars, bar stools, and game tables can create a unique style. “A lot of what we do is totally custom,” Burke says. “We can match the bar, bar stools, and all of the game tables with the same wood and finish. We can do whatever a man wants to tie into the room’s decor.”
And when it comes to the actual space for a recreation room, most men prefer to use the basement, if they are lucky enough to have one. Still, others use bonus rooms over garages for their recreation room, or even a large sunroom will suffice. “It’s more and more common for a man to have a specific space in the house that is just his room,” Studdard says. “Whether it’s in the basement or in an office that can double as that retreat, it’s just nice for them to have a place for themselves.”