See Change

Technology is changing the way we wind down at home By Jennifer Garrett

The kitchen is about convenience. Dining rooms? Ambiance. Basements, lower levels and bonus rooms? These are feet-on-the-coffee-table spaces where it’s all about comfort and entertainment.
Furniture is more casual and upholstery is more durable. Couches need to accommodate movie nights complete with popcorn and pizza. Sectionals are popular, says Woodworks Furniture & Design interior designer Ginny Jenson, because they allow entire families to curl up together to watch Avatar on the flat screen. “The curves or angles are good for TV viewing,” she says, “and sectionals are also good for keeping everyone close for conversation.”


Also, push buttons have replaced the crank handles on recliners, for easier and quieter transitions into relaxation mode. Upholstered ottomans do double-duty as cocktail tables and storage, Jenson says, so a warm throw is never more than arms’ length away during the chilly months. Counter-height tables and chairs lend the feel of a bar and provide better sightlines to wall-mounted television screens.
Because, after all, that is where the attention is. And for good reason. As computer and television technology continue to converge, the at-home viewing experience continues to approximate the theater experience, right down to 3D.
Tom Spinoso, A/V Design Divisional Manager at American TV and Appliance, says 3D capability in television viewing and gaming is growing increasingly popular. Spinoso notes that the price premium is small, so many consumers are interested in 3D even though content is currently limited. Spinoso expects that to change.
“Just look at Avatar,” he says. “Its success shows that there is a market for 3D.”
Indeed, the award-winning film—made in part to showcase 3D technology—was wildly successfully at the box office. Spinoso says it’s just the starting point. Televisions and gaming systems will offer the 3D experience in theater and bonus rooms across the country. With 3D glasses that receive a signal from the television, consumers can experience viewing and gaming at a whole new level.
Sound technology, too, continues to advance. Wireless systems can bring your favorite music to you wherever you are, and the home theater can sound just like the multiplex. The benefits apply to gaming as well. “When you’re playing a racing game, it’s night and day,” Spinoso says. “It’s like being in the cockpit of a car.”
With devices and components proliferating, system storage is a concern for these casual, comfortable living spaces, says California Closets owner Cory Schneider. As homeowners organize their audio-visual equipment, smart storage for DVD players, gaming consoles, iPod docks and more is critical. Otherwise multiple cords could become a tangled mess, and moving from a movie to a Wii Sports Resort matchup could become cumbersome instead of seamless.
Schneider says California Closets will customize storage systems around a homeowner’s components. Even so, consumers shouldn’t worry about working in a new element later. “Everything is adjustable,” Schneider says, “It’s easier to get you what you want if you have all the dimensions first, but you can always add or alter the cabinetry.”
Despite the proliferation of gaming systems and other AV devices, storage furniture is much more compact and streamlined thanks to flat screens. Jenson says profiles are narrower, cabinets are shallower, and fewer screens are hidden behind doors when not in use. Schneider notes that California Closets now offers a pop-up system that allows homeowners to raise and lower their televisions with the push of a button, and he expects the option to become more popular as exposure increases. It’s easy to operate, Schneider says, and it protects the screen when not in use.
General storage for games, other media, blankets and off-season clothing is a factor in bonus rooms, too, which often use space that would otherwise be devoted to attics. Schneider says wall systems and wardrobes provide a place for everything so that living spaces are uncluttered and functional. Even spare beds are being hidden away as sleeper sofas and futons give way to Murphy beds that blend the beauty of cabinetry with the functionality of sleeping accommodations for guests.
“With a futon, all you’ve got is the futon,” Schneider says. “With a Murphy bed built into a larger wall system, you get all that storage, too.”
Alicia Szekeres says ease and durability are also important in lower-level flooring. Her company Nature Stone of Wisconsin sells a stone composite flooring that can withstand flooding, is FDA approved, and gives off no harmful VOCs. It will last forever, is anti-microbial and non-toxic, and comes in dozens of colors. Regular cleaning is all that’s required, and it eliminates the worry of what to do if the gutters overflow or the sewer line backs up. “Our number-one application is basement floors,” Szekeres says.
It’s handy, too, if the popcorn hits the floor, as Nature Stone renders the three-second rule largely irrelevant. Imagine trying that at the multiplex. As if you needed any more reason to stay home.


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