Socializing is a vital part of our mental health. The times that are most precious to us are often the times we spend with family and friends.
When creating a home designed for wellbeing, it’s important to have an inviting and welcoming entertainment room, game space, or area where you can host guests. If you’re considering creating an entertainment room, here’s what you should consider.
A progress view of our Game Room in the Modern European
What is an Entertaining Room or Game Room Anyway?
Entertainment spaces can come in many forms. Some people love home theater rooms, while others prefer more of a recreation room or a place for food and beverages. There’s really no right or wrong way to create an entertainment room; it's all about how you prefer to host guests and utilize the space.
Having a dedicated gathering area in your home doesn't mean you need a huge home with a big layout, either. Of course, having a living room or theater solely dedicated to that purpose is lovely. But you can also create a space conducive to entertaining and hosting, even if that means only a few gatherings per year. A small room can be designed as an occasional entertainment area.
When guests arrive at your home, there’s a tendency to gather in one of two areas—either around a television or in the kitchen. Neither is right or wrong; they just are. The drawback of guests gathered around a television is that it can be less interactive when the TV is front and center. Guests in the kitchen are great unless you have a small kitchen or need to focus on cooking (if, like me, you aren’t a big fan of food prep, cooking requires a lot of concentration)!
Rather than "shooing" guests out of the room or contributing to your stress, creating an entertainment or gathering zone somewhere else is far better—a spot with comfortable seating where people can mingle, play, or enjoy their time at your house.
Entertainment rooms aren't just for guests either. A recreation space is terrific if you have kids or simply like a dedicated space where you can have movie nights, play board games, or even dig into your favorite books. Many people find that their entertainment room or theater becomes their main household hangout spot—a family room and a fun space to relax.
So, how do you create a warm, inviting, and entertaining space? What's the best way to set up a game room that feels fun and enjoyable, not chaotic? Here are some ideas for creating the perfect entertainment room.
1. Ask Yourself: How Do You Like to Entertain?
The biggest question before you set up any game room or entertainment space is, “How do you like to host or entertain?” If you or your partner have a regularly scheduled poker night with pals or love a weekly “movies in” date night, how can you make a space that speaks to that need?
Some people naturally gravitate toward hosting. If you have teenagers, maybe you prefer to be the "entertainment center" that hosts so you can keep an eye on your kids. If you have a big group of friends that loves a dinner party, you may need enough space to easily serve a buffet or gather around a large dining table.
If you’re the person who only hosts family members at Thanksgiving every other year and would prefer to otherwise dine out, then maybe your entertaining space is more of a private haven. Perhaps it looks more like an intimate home theater or even a cozy library and media room.
A progress view of our Game Room Bar in the Modern European | Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
2. Plan for Multi-Functions
In our Modern European home, I've designed a multifunctional space that's all-encompassing for entertainment. I plan on using it primarily as a movie theater, but we'll be able to host parties, play games, and just hang out in the room as needed.
If you’re planning or hoping to create a similar space, consider all the functions that it will need to serve. How will you use the space the majority of the time (for example, as a theater for you and your significant other to enjoy your favorite movies)? What capacity do you need in the space (for example, during monthly game nights, holiday parties, or weekly sports viewing)?
A retractable screen and projector might be a wonderful option for your game room. Or maybe you prefer a television that doubles as artwork? Look for sideboards and tables that fold out or expand with a leaf. Consider lightweight, comfortable furniture that you can rearrange as needed.
3. Consider the Traffic Flow
If you have an ample entertainment room, traffic flow isn't usually a challenge. But you may need to play with your furniture arrangement in a smaller space or tighter layout. Many times, even a large space might have multiple entry points, so be sure those spaces are clear and open to give access to the whole room.
If your room has a central focal point, like a movie screen, large TV, gaming table, or fireplace, people will naturally gather near that spot. Consider what you'll need to set up for comfortable big screen viewing. Make sure the screen is at a height that feels ergonomic (viewers shouldn't have to careen their necks to watch). Traffic should flow behind the seating, if possible, so people aren't walking in front of the screen if they need to use the restroom or grab a snack.
Of course, it's not always possible to have a perfect layout, especially in a smaller space. That's where having furniture that's easily moved and arranged helps. Generally, you'll want to aim for at least 3 feet of walkway space between furniture for easy movement.
4. Err on the Side of Simplicity
Keep your layout, furniture, and the room as simple as possible. Game and entertainment rooms can quickly get overwhelming and chaotic with too much clutter. You’ll want a room that’s fun and inviting, so some whimsy is certainly welcome, but at the same time, you don’t want to detract from the activities in the space.
You also want to avoid going too “themey” with your décor. For example, if you’re really into sports, music, or video games, you could include a few key pieces with a nod to those hobbies in your room design. A vintage golf club on the wall or an antique pennant from your alma mater can enliven the room. But you don’t want to go wall-to-wall vintage Hollywood posters or sports memorabilia.
On a similar note, keep some surface areas sparse, especially if you plan to regularly host gatherings with food and beverages. Avoid accidents by making sure that there’s somewhere to set drinks and food while guests are seated, especially in a theater room!
Design + Image: Studio McGee
5. Create Warmth and Welcome
Even though a gathering room should stay somewhat simple, there's no reason it should feel cold or stark. If your entertainment room or game room is in a basement or off the main wing of your home, it can get a little chilly—especially during small gatherings.
Keep some cozy throw blankets, pillows, or poufs in the room so guests can nestle in the space and get comfortable. You may even want to tuck away a basket with some slippers (especially if you’re a shoes-off household). Pillows and poufs can double up as comfy seating too.
Rugs and even hanging textiles are an excellent way to cultivate a casual but comforting atmosphere. Any time you bring natural elements like plants and greenery, wool, or silk into your décor, it will create a more inviting space. As humans, we often feel relaxed and intrigued by elements from nature (especially if there are electronics in the room).
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
6. Look for Pieces that Do Double Duty
In an entertainment room, multifunctional pieces are your BFFs. Look for sectionals that could be reconfigured in several ways. Consider ottomans that could be used to prop up feet or as extra seating and surfaces as needed.
Large single-use pieces like a billiards table, foosball table, arcade games, or ping-pong table can be tough to work with (unless your entertainment centers around that particular activity). Consider other fun games and activities that don’t require dedicated furniture. For example, a large wooden table could double as a game surface and a buffet.
Cabinets are nice for hiding rec room clutter (like game consoles), but pieces with open shelving or sideboards with storage might offer more surface area for entertaining. A pretty wooden chest or a closed basket can be a great spot to store games, extra blankets, remotes, and other odds and ends.
Design + Image: Studio McGee
7. Get the Lighting Right
As with almost any space, lighting is a key factor in creating the right mood and tone in a space. For a theater, you'll want adjustable lighting so you can really get an immersive experience. Similarly, consider shades for any windows adjacent to the screen. If you have surround sound, window covering will add extra insulation.
At the same time, natural light is vital for almost any room, and entertainment spaces are no exception. Playing board games in low light is an extra challenge no one wants to tackle. If you are serving food and drink in your gathering space or if the space features a home bar area, you'll want to have plenty of lighting there.
Often, entertainment occurs in lower lighting—think of the theater, concert hall, restaurant, or bar. Overhead lighting is essential for the entire space, especially for daytime gatherings, but be sure to mix in some ambient lighting, as well as a few softer lamps or sconces. The ability to adjust light levels in an entertainment space is crucial.
A progress view of our Game Room in the Modern European
8. Cultivate Conversation
Finally, remember that the point of a game or entertainment room is to gather and create connections. As I mentioned earlier, not all forms of entertainment are interactive. You may want to catch up on a series in the theater room alone or leaf through magazines as you lounge in the game room. However, most of the time, our entertainment rooms are where we socialize, visit, play our favorite games, or watch films together.
Any easy way to foster social interaction is by creating pockets for conversation, especially if the room is large. You can use rugs and a few well-placed chairs to designate different gathering zones in a room. You'll want most of these smaller gathering areas to be conducive to interacting with the larger space, too. With a turn of the chair or a shift in seating, people should be able to easily mingle or watch.
Add a few interesting conversation pieces to the room as well. Artwork and even art or coffee table books can stimulate discussion. Look for items with an interesting history or unusual features to get guests talking.
Once your entertainment space is set up, the most important step is to use it! Hosting gatherings and entertaining friends is good for our souls (and mental health). When you create a designated area of your home for gaming, film, sports, or other hobbies, you generate more joy and deepen your social connections.
Remember this critical purpose as you design an entertaining space in your house. No matter the size of your home or the room where you gather, some careful thought will help you create a welcoming space.
Do you have an entertainment space in your home? What is your favorite way to get together?