Data shows gaming and entertainment spaces, gyms and playrooms are among the top uses for recreation rooms.

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When asked to build a luxury home for a house tour this year, designer Kenyon Woods opted to include a rec room — but not the rec room of his childhood.

Unlike old-time rec rooms with their wood paneling, ceiling tiles, box TVs and cast-off furniture, this one measures about 800 square feet on the main floor, with space for watching TV, shooting pool, rock climbing and more.

“Media rooms used to be off by themselves,” says Woods, owner of Authentic Custom Homes in Oklahoma City. “I’m tired of the theater or game room being separated. Today, families want to be together” even if they’re doing different activities.

Recreation rooms of all shapes and sizes are popular in new homes, according to a recent survey by U.S. Houzz and Home, an online source of interior design photos and décor ideas. Gaming and entertainment spaces, gyms and playrooms were among the top uses for rec rooms, it said.

Clients often want “several different areas in one large, open space,” says Kristen DuChemin, design director for the Columbus, Ohio, homebuilder Romanelli & Hughes.
For some, that means adding game tables like foosball, shuffleboard, air hockey and billiards. Chance Pack, spokesman for game manufacturer Valley Dynamo in Richland Hill, Texas, says sales of game tables, which dipped during the recession, have seen an uptick as the home-building industry rebounds.

Parents and grandparents like gaming tables, he says, because they are interactive and intergenerational, luring kids away from electronics and into family activities.
“People are really focused on the entertainment aspect of their home,” Pack says.

Furniture makers have responded with multi-functional pieces that aim to get the most out of a space, says Patricia Bowling, a spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, in High Point, N.C. Portable bars and high-top tables with stools have become popular, she says.

“Whether entertaining means kids’ birthday parties or adult cocktail parties, bar furniture is an affordable alternative to the expense of built-ins,” she says. “A portable bar provides a serving counter, sitting/dining space, storage and more.”

Kitchen islands also are playing a role in rec rooms, she says. They can provide seating or a flat surface for serving food, and have space to store games or dishes. If there isn’t space for an island or a bar, a beverage cart can be useful, Bowling says.

“You can use them as a nightstand next to a bed or in the kitchen or outfitted as a bar. You move it around as needed,” she says.

Minneapolis interior designer Billy Beson also recommends tables with built-in game boards, and bean-bag chairs, which are great for TV viewing and can easily be moved when not in use. Keeping a space flexible is a priority, he says.

“The rec room is back and definitely here to stay,” Beson says. “There’s a need for that space to watch a movie, play a game or have a party.”