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 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
1.Carpets 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 colors
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’ movies
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 favorites.
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.