GRAND FORKS, N.D. — On a Friday, Kathy and Leon Osborne head to the basement of their Grand Forks, N.D., home for date night. They grab a large bucket and fill it with buttery popcorn from the large popper on the counter. Kathy sneaks a box of Mike and Ikes, her favorite movie-time treat, and they head into the room with the metal Cinema sign hanging next to it.
They’ve titled the room Starlight Cinema; it’s their home theater equipped with a large projector, three rows of seating and more than 700 pounds of speakers, which helps to give the room its impeccable audio.
Under an imitated night sky, they take a seat in the middle of the second row and get comfortable, using the buttons on the right inside of the seats to recline, extend their foot rests and adjust their head rests. Then, they grab their iPad and select one of the 300 movies programmed on their movie server. They have everything from “Space Odyssey” to “Chicago,” to “Shrek.”
“We love movies, but we don’t go to the theater, so this is my dinner and a movie,” Kathy said.
“Or, popcorn and a movie,” Leon added.
The Osbornes are just one of many families who have chosen to add a specialty room to their home. Others have added exercise rooms, art studios and game rooms. These rooms are specifically designed with one purpose in mind. But, while the purpose of the Osbornes’ home theater is obvious, the space is much more than a place to watch movies.
The Osborne’s goal was to replicate a real theater experience, but at the same time make a home theater that was very comfortable.
“We wanted the experience-plus,” Leon said. “We wanted the comfort; we wanted chairs that reclined. We wanted a space where we could be a recluse, retire, get away from it all.”
Inside the purple theater, the dark ceiling is lit with little LED lights that appear to twinkle like a night sky. There are two rows of comfortable reclining chairs, with a bar and four bar stools behind.
Dimmed wall sconces, step lights and cup holders help to give the Osbornes a real theater experience.
But, there’s more to the space than looks.
“One of the things we wanted was a room that was about as acoustically well-designed as possible,” Leon said.
They worked with Rod Shafer’s team at Arctic Audio in Fargo, N.D. to create a space that would get the best audio response.
“The room is 50 percent of how a system is going to sound,” Shafer said. “You could throw the best speakers in the world in there, and if the room is wrong, it will sound horrible.”
To achieve a near-perfect acoustically flat room, they used acoustic absorption material hidden behind decorative panels, double sheets of sheet rock with acoustic glue in-between and acoustic traps behind the screen.
“Besides having a home theater, I wanted the best space possible for high-end audio, so this is a space where we don’t have to be watching a movie,” Leon said. “We can come in here and listen to all forms of music.”
On another night, Leon might be found sitting front and center with his eyes closed as one of his favorite artists plays through the speakers. He said he has memories from concerts and the outstanding audio in his home theater allows him to relive those experiences. The theater is also great for watching sports games.
Kathy said she felt like she was sitting court side as they watched basketball games during March Madness, which was the first showing in the brand-new space.
The same audio system is throughout the Osborne’s entire house, which they can control with a software program called Remote Technologies Incorporated from their iPad, phone or a dedicated remote control.
From the same program, they can control all of the televisions in their home and play any of the nearly 300 movies they’ve uploaded to their database.
“Anything I can play here, I can also play anywhere in the house from one control interface,” Leon said.
But, when they need to clear their minds, they go to the home theater in the basement.
“This is the getaway,” Leon said, adding that no computers, phones or business is allowed.
While the Osbornes’ specialty room is made for relaxing, Ron and Cyndi Reiger, Grand Forks, have a specialty room that’s made for play.
Their game room in the basement of their large ranch style home was designed 15 years ago as the couple’s three children were growing into young adults.
“It was a portion of our basement we hadn’t finished, and it’s a huge area. We thought (creating a game room) would be kind of fun to do,” Cyndi said.
Dark green carpet fills the large room with a big cream UND logo printed in the center. A pool table sets in the center of one end of the room, with pool cues on a stand in the corner. Several small drink shelves also stick out of the walls with stools below creating a bar-like atmosphere. An old-school pin ball machine fills another corner and an air hockey table lines the opposite wall with framed hockey newspaper clippings hanging above.
Cyndi said it took a while to decide what they wanted to include in the space, but they eventually settled on the gaming equipment.
And, now that her children are all adults, her grandchildren ages 20, 15, 10, 6 and 2, are all able to enjoy the room.
“If they want to play games, that’s where they go,” she said.
And, while the kids’ favorite part of the space is probably the games, Cyndi’s favorite is the decorations, which pay tribute to the family’s favorite university sports teams.
Allie Comstock, owner of AllisoNicole’s suggests using an unusual space in the home such as a crawl space under the stairs or a large walk-in closet to create a hide out for kids.
Chalk board paint can be used on the walls to create a drawing space for kids. Book shelves can be used to create a nook or organization. Piles of large pillows can create comfortable reading or nap spots. And, curtains can be draped over beds or in the corner of a room to create a little tent or hideaway.
On a bigger budget, play places and slides can be installed as well.
Depending on the age of users, Comstock said a game room could also include a wet bar with a variety of liquor and beer choices. And for kids, a snack bar might be a good replacement.
Other ideas for game rooms include using a cubby shelf system to display various game consoles and using chalk board or white boards to keep score.
When creating a craft room or art studio, Comstock said it’s all about storage and organization. She recommended using a shoe organizer hung over a door to hold paints and small supplies.
Pegboards and various cubbies can also be used to neatly organize tools and supplies.
And, to finish off the room some creative inspiration on the walls, whether it’s a quote, photograph or previous work, is always helpful.
For an inexpensive home theater, Comstock said homeowners can decorate their family room or movie room with a movie theater theme. Movie tickets, cinema signs and popcorn buckets can give people the feel that they’re going to a theater without spending buco bucks.
Recliners or couches can also be arranged in rows to help create the theater feel. And, candy bars and snack stations can be added on a back wall or outside the room.