Great Rooms With Great Viewing
See how to enjoy your TV, sound systems and video games in one stylish, multifunctional room
The advent of the great room has done much to change the way we live. These multifunctional rooms can bring families together, up the "fun" factor and make for some lively evenings at home. But they can also make things a bit too lively, especially when they include TVs, sound systems and video games packed into one room. As much as I love the idea of all this togetherness, I don't always want to hear or see what my partner or kids are watching. Fortunately, there are options that will let you be together when you want and have some separation at other times.
More: Where to Put the TV
More: Where to Put the TV
Great rooms let us do most of our living in one giant, though often partially cordoned off, space. It's exactly what I want when it comes to monitoring what the kids are doing and how much screen time they're getting. And it's nice to be able to cook a meal without missing part of a program.
It can also be great to be able to putter around in the kitchen or have a snack at the counter and still catch something on TV. If that's your pleasure, make sure the screen is visible from the kitchen. Keep sofa backs low and lamps or other decorative elements to the sides so sight lines aren't impaired.
Sometimes having a TV visible from the kitchen isn't wanted or even possible, given the layout. If this is the case, you might still want to put the TV where you can listen to a program or maybe catch a glimpse of it here and there when making a meal. In this kitchen, the screen is visible to anyone seated at the counter. It's not a direct view, but it'll do in a pinch.
Sound travels, so all this open space can create audio issues. Add in a lot of windows, high ceilings and hard surfaces such as glass, steel and granite, and sound just bounces around. The more the volume gets turned up, the more noise you hear and the less clear the sound. Dialogue becomes difficult to understand, and music loses its fidelity.
Carpeting, upholstery and window and wall coverings all help absorb sound. The tray ceiling and wood trim here act like acoustic tiles, providing more nooks, crannies and surfaces for sound to wrap around. This creates both better audio quality and less din for those in other parts of the great room who might be bothered by the noise or be doing something else, like talking, reading or working on homework.
Adding pillows to a room with wood or tile floors, granite surfaces and high ceilings will also help absorb ambient sound. There are even "acoustic" versions of pillows, wallcoverings, rug underlays and window treatments available in a variety of styles. They're made from a special material, the kind found in acoustic ceiling tiles in office spaces or recording studios, but are far more fashionable.
Headphones can be a sanity saver, especially in homes where video games are played. They also allow multiple devices to be used simultaneously. Anyone not plugged in gets to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Ideabook published on Oct. 18, 2011.
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