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15 ways to design an incredible family-friendly home theater

Occasionally, family homes will have a custom home theater hidden away in the basement with a no-kids policy in place. But there are ways to protect the equipment and furniture in these rooms without banning the children. In fact, family-friendly home theater designs are often some of the most creative and exciting projects we see. Measures can be taken to make even the highest-end space suitable for the rough and tumble nature of children. There are plenty of little tweaks that will help open the doors of home cinemas so that the whole family can enjoy the space.

Recommended reading: You asked, we answered. A guide to luxury home theater design.

15 tips to transform home
theaters into kid-friendly zones for the entire family

that don’t stain

Modern carpets are more durable than their
tired ancestors, and the advancement of deep-cleaning equipment means that
keeping floors in tip-top condition isn’t half the battle it used to be. In the
past, kid-friendly zones were usually kitted out in duller/darker colors to
hide the inevitable stains
caused by clumsy kids. Although we wouldn’t suggest going for a
brilliant white carpet if there’s a toddler on the loose, today’s carpets are
equipped to manage stains
, pushing them to the surface, so they are
easy to mop up. A family-friendly home theater doesn’t have to relegate floors
to colors like navy and aubergine, and designers can embrace brighter, more
vibrant hues or even lighter creams and greys if they’re feeling adventurous.

2. Vintage popcorn makers

Cinemas just aren’t the same without a bucket of popcorn to munch. The smell alone is enough to make you think of darkened rooms and big screens. Yet, somehow, popcorn is the last thing on the mind of most designers when building a dedicated home theater space. Many ignore this detail completely, and families end up microwaving bags in the kitchen. For those who want to create a family-friendly home theater that recreates the authentic cinema-going experience, then installing a vintage popcorn maker may be the perfect finishing touch. Expect to find the noses of kids pressed firmly to the glass as the kernels pop and butter is poured onto bowls piled high with homemade popcorn.

Kids enjoy mocktails and cake before a family-friendly home screening

3. Mini drinks bar

Deck out the drinks bar for the whole family!
Many theaters have a dedicated beverage space at the back of a home theater or
just outside the door where adults can grab a beer or a glass of wine, but
there’s nothing stopping designers adding a few touches to make it
kid-friendly. Mocktails, smoothies, ice cream floats, and milkshakes are just a
few ways to get the younger generation lining up for a pre-screening drink.
Equip the drinks bar with a lower counter for kids to make crazy slushy blends
and serve their friends custom concoctions.

4. Play with the home
theater lighting and control

Experimenting with lighting is one way to make
a dedicated home theater appeal to both adults and children. Fiber optic
star-lit ceilings add the wow factor for any generation, but simple things like
installing settings that make it easy to change the color of the lighting can
keep younger children amused. In our recent blog with Madison Hudson Design, we discussed how blue,
pink, and green lights were used to give the home cinema a kid-friendly touch.

5. Karaoke equipment

One of the best ways to make a custom home
theater family friendly is to imagine other uses besides screening films.
Designers can add other elements to the experience that make the most of the
surround sound and big screen. Karaoke machines are just one way of giving the
room an alternative use, and kids can perform for their friends or parents. Sit
back and enjoy as they reach for the high notes or thoroughly sound-proof the
space; either way, it will keep them occupied for hours.

6. Build a mini staging platform

Why stop at a karaoke machine. Some of our favorite home theaters not only have a dedicated stage in front of the screen but go as far as installing a curtain. Fitting in a performance area is space dependent, but if there’s room, a stage that is a step or two higher than the floor can give kids the license to get truly creative. Let them stage kung-fu shows, showcase their latest ballet moves, or try out some magic tricks.

Beanbags and games consoles are just two ways to make home theater kid-friendly

7. Games consoles

More and more family-friendly home theaters
are tapping into the popularity of gaming. Taking full advantage of the
surround sound and giant screens by kitting the room out with the latest gaming
technology. If kids are on the scene, it’s worth hooking up their favorite
consoles. That way the room isn’t just limited to family movie night and
perhaps family-gaming will become a  new
Friday night favorite. After all, nothing beats a Mario Kart marathon when it
comes to home entertainment.

8. Waiting area

Why not ramp up the experience by creating
dedicated waiting areas for family-friendly home theaters. Add that half hour
of anticipation before the doors open and get kids excited about what they
might be about to see. Ideally, locate a waiting space in a large hall outside
the theater area or an adjacent room. It could be decorated with movie
memorabilia, benches, and be a place to gather and chat before the movie kicks
off. Particularly useful in families where an adult wants to be present when
the kids are let loose in the actual movie theater room.

9. Beanbags

If there are younger kids on the scene, then we can’t recommend having a few beanbags strewn about for late-night movie marathons. Custom theater seating will be a must for anyone over the age of sixteen, but sometimes teenagers enjoy sprawling across bean bags as they drink in the film. Part of making a home theater space family friendly is trying to meet the needs of all ages. Comfort is one of the biggest concerns. Especially when it comes to entertaining for children’s birthday parties. There may not be thirty dedicated theater seats, but there will probably be plenty of room for a few additional bean bags to accommodate a bigger audience on special occasions.

10. Password protected streaming

Family-friendly home theaters require a little
extra vigilance when it comes to streaming services and internet access. It’s
wise to get the A/V integrators set up different levels of permissions for
various streaming services and internet access. These don’t have to be
particularly stringent, but it can ease the worried parent’s mind to know that
kids don’t have easy access to content which is too mature for them.

11. Experiment with murals and

The film experience comes first in any custom home theater, so it’s crucial that no matter how whacky the design, nothing interferes with the performance of the film. Furniture and accessories shouldn’t interfere (read more about this in our blog on home theater layouts). But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get creative with a theme. Why not paint murals or intense colors on the walls. As long as care is taken to avoid painting home theater no-nos like gloss paint, it should be possible to create something truly memorable.


12. Durable fabrics and furniture

Poor quality furniture will break under the
wear and tear caused by a restless ten-year-old. It’s wiser to select custom
seating and fabrics that are designed to be durable. Most designers will spend
time scoping out the right furniture. At Elite, our custom cinema chairs
come with an incredible warranty that makes them perfect
for family-friendly home theaters. Our silk leather is particularly appropriate
as it has the look and feel of butter lambs’ leather
and is as durable as our Valentino Leather. Because it is actually a fabric, it
does not require conditioning. It can be cleaned with mild soap and
water. In fact, one proud owner confided, “Our one year old 55 lb
Golden Doodle is on it all the time and even with dusty paws ­­– a quick clean
is all that’s needed.”

13. A collection of classic kids’

No home theater is complete without a
collection of films. Streaming services are convenient, but they don’t cover
everything, and nothing beats browsing a curated library of blue-ray DVDs.
Stock up on family favorites like Disney and Pixar blockbusters, as well as
John Hughes classics, and all the Avengers movies. We recommend sneaking in some
well-worn classics like the original Karate Kid among the kids’ current

14. Crowson technology

4D motion is the next big thing for
family-friendly home theaters, and we’ve written an entire blog dedicated to
explaining why! So, let’s just say this, kids will squeal with delight as their
chairs shudder in time with the dinosaur stomping across the screen. Adding
motion gives family-movie night an extra dimension and will certainly keep even
the most apathetic teenager on the edge of their seat.

15. Protect technology

Perhaps the most important when smaller kids
are involved. Most dedicated home theater spaces conceal wires and equipment,
but when kids are involved, it may be wise to keep projectors, a/v equipment
and blue ray players under lock and key. Most home theaters build small enclosures to house the
equipment, and this is often an excellent way to keep it away from curious
little hands.