Lifestyle

The Rebirth of the Basement

The Rebirth of the BasementIf you’re of a certain age and grew up in a house, chances are you have fond memories of the floor console record player/eight-track tape deck, flush to one wall not far from the ping pong table in a tastefully appointed basement rec room. For the very fortunate, there was some vaguely orange shag carpeting and perhaps some wood paneling on the walls, and naturally a Zenith console television. Good times.

The aesthetic may have changed, and chances of the entertainment room being in a basement in Hong Kong are low, but some things never truly vanish. Interior designer Rashida Hashim, founder and creative director at Yaali Designs, has noticed an increase in demand for nouveau basements. In this day and age of 3D HDTV and motion control video gaming we call it the media room — the evolution of ’80s home theatre and the rec room before that. “Almost every project requires a setup for a home theatre system in the house,” begins Hashim. “Together with the good surround sound speaker system,clients are now keen on setting up a proper Wi-Fi networking system too. This allows them to connect the devices in different rooms to the main system.”

Regardless of where you are in the world, home entertaining is a bigger business than ever, with video games hitting record sales (it could be argued Call of Duty “outsold” Avatar), and the 3D revolution yet to slow down despite a tiny consumer backlash (2010’s defining non-event was first generation 3D television sales). Nonetheless, major manufacturers aren’t giving up. Multi-function Blu-ray players have caught on, and the next generation of fully loaded TVs is ready to go.

Most sprawling home media rooms still have a TV (or monitor) as the beating heart, with most high-end HD models Internet-ready as a complement to the Blu-ray. But other toys to be watching for this year include Toshiba’s rumoured glasses-free 3D set, and the big story — the arrival of 4K resolution TV (four times HDTV resolution). First up will be the LG 84-inch (!) behemoth boasting that was the talk of the Consumer Electronics Show in January. On a more manageable scale is LG’s newly updated 55-inch 55EM9600 OLED 3D unit, or Germany manufacturer Loewe’s complete home entertainment systems: Connect, Art and Home Cinema Set 5.1 with complementing MediaVision 3D.

So with the gear settled — and LG and Loewe represent the tip of a very large iceberg — where do you put it, and is it a complicated process? If you’ve got the space, “then it is not a very difficult task. I would highly recommend getting help from a professional designer and not going with just a regular electrician,” notes Hashim. “Good quality wiring in the room is the key to success. First choose the right equipment and then ask a designer to help you with the right placement of everything, including the furniture.”

As with any other room, poor ambience disrupts function, and heaven help the poor soul watching a high-res Alien, playing a moody L.A. Noire or enjoying a remastered Kind of Blue with icky fluorescent lights on. “Most [people] concentrate on buying the high-tech equipment and big screen TVs but they forget about the comfortable seating and the overall environment of the room,” cautions Hashim. “Your may be equipped with the most expensive technology but if the lighting, mood and the seating in the room are not appropriate you cannot enjoy the whole experience of having the media room in the house.”