Remember the days when people played outside and cooked inside? Well, things have changed over the last decade. Now, enterprising families are moving the kitchen chores outdoors and honoring play time with a room of its own. It's not all that surprising. Since more and more of us are exercising to video games and using big, rolling balls to buff our backsides, it's no wonder we want a wall or two between us and a gawking, chuckling world.
A game room can be fun central for lots of activities if you plan it right, and these ideas will help you elevate your play while (hopefully) improving your form -- whatever your game of choice happens to be.
How often do you use your dining area -- once or twice a year? If you have a room dedicated to Christmas dinner, what are you doing with the space the rest of the time? Using it to store your magazines? Here's a thought: Turn that big, underutilized space into a game room. If you're a billiards enthusiast, it's a marriage made in tabletop heaven. There are kits that can convert that big slate elephant into a dining table and back again. You can cook and serve a big meal on turkey day and still poke some balls around later.
Your game room can be the soapbox you need to announce your affiliations to the world. From hoops to hops (as in your favorite on-tap beverage), if you love it, put up a sign. Buy sports fabrics for the curtains and furnishings. Collect and display hats (pins, pens, posters and memorabilia). Game rooms can look kitschy, retro, masculine, fanciful, kid-friendly or grown-up indulgent depending on your personal style -- or mood. If you've got Texas Hold 'Em on the brain, your game room will look different from the Clue clone your sister is designing to go along with her passion for Agatha Christie. Game room design can be outlandish without being tasteless, and that's pretty freeing.
If the testosterone is pretty thick around your house on the weekends, make your game room into a man cave deserving of a big bowl of pork rinds (or loaded nachos). You may have a pipe rack and humidor sensibility or prefer something a little less "country squire" chic, like a mini-hoop mounted over the wastepaper basket and the biggest flat screen TV you can afford.
Whatever you do design-wise, lose the pastels (along with the beads, brocades and elaborate accents), and don't even think about a matchy-matchy furniture setup. We like natural materials like wood, cork, bamboo, leather and wool. Weathered architectural and metal elements like wrought iron or gently rusted signs look at home in a man cave cum game room, too.
The idea is to capture the essence of casual, masculine ambience. Think tantalizing aftershave, not three-day-old underwear. We also like brass or pewter accents, dark lamp shades and hunter green (or rust red, navy or chocolate). Some of these suggestions may seem like the classic masculine cliché, but they work. If you ever thought a lavender dress shirt would look pretty strange on your guy, you can understand the value of sticking with the classics.
If your home is too small for a dedicated game room, annex part of the garage for fun and some masculine mayhem. Your significant other may spend a lot of time out there anyway. Lots of two-car garages are pretty deep these days, and that extra square footage can do more than store your winter driveway salt supply and snow blower. Instead, stow your seasonal items on a wire ceiling storage rack, and free up some space for a few feet of peel and stick flooring (or concrete paint), some seating, a foosball table and the all-important flat screen on a swivel arm.
After that, the embellishments are up to you. One nice thing about this arrangement is that a guy garage game area (think: craft room with chest hair), doesn't have to be a décor knockout. If your home's electric box is prominent on the back wall, paint some stripes on it like a barber pole, stick a do not disturb sign over it and you're done.
If you're a two-car family on a one-wage budget, become a single-vehicle household. It sounds painful, but being able to use half the garage for something more entertaining than warehousing a gas hog has some merit; don't reject it outright. You'll save on insurance, vehicle maintenance and gasoline (probably), and you'll be forced to rethink the way you use energy.
With the money you save, you can invest in some of those game room toys you've always wanted, like a classic arcade game console or jukebox. If having to carpool -- even with a loved one -- doesn't appeal to you, you might consider putting in a car port and converting your entire garage into a game room. In some temperate states, a garage can be a sad waste of space. If you're just using it to store a few decades worth of family castoffs, what have you got to lose?
Making your family living area a game-friendly spot may be the way to go if you're big on fun but short on square footage. The elements of a game room can work almost anywhere if you're willing to blend functions. It's an effective way to make your home a casual and lighthearted place to hang out, too.
You may be in for some haggling over which activities take precedence, but one big advantage is that consolidating family and gaming activities will at least keep everyone together in the same space. Define furniture groupings for specific functions, and provide room dividers like shelves and screens for better functionality and fewer arguments.
Yes, most classic games originated outdoors: football, baseball, watermelon bowling. Heck, public parks are even popular places to play board games like chess and checkers. Why not build an outdoor game room instead of an open air kitchen or family area? It won't matter if things get rowdy or loud. If someone spills a smoothie or drops a slice of pizza on the floor, the world won't come to an end, either.
Innovative outdoor rooms are big business. What do you really need for a game room, anyway -- electrical service, protection from the elements and a few amenities like comfy chairs. If you've ever visited a ballpark or stadium to enjoy the great American pastime or to watch some serious athletes throw the pigskin around, moving your gaming outdoors will seem like a natural.
If visions of poker tables, billiard tables and wet bars go through your mind when you think about the advantages of a game room, you might want to consider the kids, too. It's true that childhood seems like one big romp -- when you're all grown up, anyway. But the truth is that playing games as a family is a powerful way to touch base with your tweens and teenagers -- and finally start laughing together instead of squabbling about wardrobe, tattoos, piercings, curfews and homework. Electronic games seem to be the order of the day, but old-school board games like Monopoly and Scrabble can be fun, engaging and educational, too. They're also leisurely and tactile, two things that many electronic games lack.
You can have adult games as well as family fare in your game room. Just make sure to keep your décor G-rated, and employ some kid-centric motifs and diversions. If you want an adults-only gaming room, consider having dedicated gaming areas in the kids' bedrooms, too. It's only fair.
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the game room is the place where people congregate -- after they finish eating. It'll become guest central in no time, and having a bathroom nearby will make life easier on all concerned. Adding a wet bar, or at least access to a mini fridge and a microwave, will keep the action centralized and save you from schlepping up and downstairs from the basement (or wherever) to make popcorn and get beverages. Game rooms are fun rooms, and yours will be much more fun for you if it's close to or contains popular amenities and features.
Game rooms with poor lighting or situated on bare concrete floors aren't very welcoming or functional. When you're planning your game room, think: function first and style second. That pool table won't see much action if there's barely enough room around it to swing a pool cue. Some other things to do include:
- Measure the space and make sure your layout has good traffic flow, offers adequate visibility and provides enough room to enjoy the amenities.
- Make sure you have electrical service on all four walls and receptacles at any locations where you'll be placing sound, video or gaming equipment.
- Consider putting in acoustic tiles or sound-dampening wall panels.
- Install lots of flexible task lighting like track lights.
- Don't skimp on the comfortable seating. Modular groups with multiple onboard recliners are nice, but even if you keep a pile of beanbag chairs in a corner, have enough seating for everyone.
- Invest in storage. Game and rec rooms are magnets for clutter. Bookcase units with pull-out shelves for electronics, and drawers to hide games or DVDs can help you control the overflow and keep items like cards, remotes, coasters, notepads and pens under wraps. Invest in wicker bins or baskets to store entertainment magazines and the all-important pile of single, multi and unknown function remote control devices.
- Look for flexible styling. Convertible gaming tables that include a number of popular games in one and folding or collapsible furnishings are examples of accessories that can do double-duty or store easily.
Looking for a quick way to update your room? Check out our article Using Paint to Update a Room now!
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