Real Estate

Designing around modern media

From lighting to seating, many issues factor into design decisions

One of the most frequently asked questions an interior designer hears is, "Where should we locate the TVs, flat screen and monitor?" Given the time we spend enjoying media, it is important to create an environment that supports a comfortable viewing and listening experience.

As technology changes, options increase. Important considerations are the quality of data and delivery, seating, acoustics, lighting, temperature control, ventilation, "user-friendly" controls and visual aesthetics. For mobility, there are smaller sources and many personal options that offer a magnitude of control -- including all the amazing iPhone and Droid applications.

A frequent collaborator and AV expert, Tony Fisher, of Fisher Power and Data, Mountain View, is on the forefront of creating options.

"Right now there are an amazing number of paradigm shifts taking place in how we receive our entertainment. Couple those changes with the almost critical need to conserve energy and water. While you are at it, throw in an overload of information and top it off with a tad bit of security fear and you have headache," he said.

"A good approach is to make it simple. Make a wish list of what is important to you and prioritize the items. I'm not talking about the stuff -- TVs, receivers, speakers, cameras, and all -- I mean what you want to experience. This not only helps cut through the clutter of sales chatter and eliminate the noise of equipment specifications, it gives criteria for tangible results where both you and your provider know they have been successful.

"Take a few risks with the list. Ask for things that aren't there yet, or at least you don't know if a solution is on the market. More importantly many solutions are becoming proven and reliable."

These criteria also help the interior designer develop a plan to include the preferred items in an overall thoughtful way. For instance, does the chef in the home enjoy TV cooking programs in the kitchen? By identifying the best viewing space, whether it is on the counter, a flip-down undercounter unit, or wall-mounted, the viewing experience will be more successful.

Will multiple family members be watching programs and listening to music in different areas of the home? Is there a comfortable space for the entire family to watch a movie together?

Lighting also impacts TV viewing. Wall-mounted flat screens are best viewed with dim lighting at least several feet on either side, not directly overhead or shining on the screen. Planning for lighting, whether recessed or flush wall-mounted with dimmers enhances this experience. Glare is a big issue for computer monitors or wall-mounted TV watching. A simple window shade or curtain that is easily controlled will enhance visual comfort.

If there are young children at home there are many options to consider. High-quality stand-alone speakers are subject to damage. It might be safer to plan for wall or ceiling delivery of music and TV sound. Simple control systems for TV with parental choices for programming are also available.

For older children, space for gaming and sports should be planned. Storage for game modules should also be considered. Many families prefer cabinetry to hide all equipment and media. Other homes are being de-cluttered by using wireless systems. Music from the Internet and on-demand movies frees shelf space.

Jez Hildred, of Audio High, Mountain View, specializes in providing audio systems that can be tailored to any level of music or film appreciation. Whether a client wants a "fast-food" download or desires high-level audiophile perfection, there are systems to suit the client's discretion. Different systems not only provide that experience but also enhance various genres of music or film.

Hildred shared that Francis Ford Coppola has a favorite screen material for movie viewing that he promotes for the ultimate film experience. Demonstrating these options is believing. I asked him what the hot "wish-list" for TV purchases is. Hildred doesn't promote 3-D but explained that many TV manufacturers are providing that feature --3-D glasses included!

Whether experienced in a dedicated home theater, a cozy family room, a kitchen, home office, bedroom or on the go, amazing new applications, devices and ways to gather, store, share and receive information and entertainment are being introduced every day. Take time to plan for the best user experience. The complexities of integrating the many wonderful options are both an art and a science.

Risë Krag, ASID, associate AIA, IESGG, is founder of RKI Interior Design, a full-service interior-design firm. She can be reached at 650-854-9090. Design problems can be sent directly to

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