When we started on plans to finish our basement the most common question we got was, “are you going to do a home theater?” Our friends, family, even our contractor assumed we would.
And they almost had us duped into it. Right through this door…
I am not sure if it is the same everywhere, but here in the Midwest the home theater in the basement is considered an essential. Maybe it is because we live in the frozen tundra at least half the months out of the year. Sure, the idea of cuddling up and watching movies all winter long sounds fantastic.
Everyone else has one. Surely we must do the same, right?
In suburbia, it is all about keeping up with the Joneses. Doesn’t it help our resale value to have the same features as all the other homes?
But, would we ever really use it? And, if we don’t, then it is not really a feature, right?
There was the perfect space for a home theater in the back of the basement. It was windowless and presumably not good for much else. The room is bordered on two sides by utility rooms, which would have made routing wires to a hidden AV closet easy as pie.
But, doubting our use of a home theater, we wondered what else could we do with the space.
We love watching movies, but as we really thought about how we function, we couldn’t imagine ourselves using a dark, windowless room. We already have two large screen TVs, one in our main floor living room, and one our very generously sized basement family room.
Although part of the appeal of a media room is the level of darkness you can achieve, that only really matters during the daytime. And, guess what? We hardly ever watch a movie in the daytime. And, when we only get daylight for what seems like a fraction of the day in the winter…we want to enjoy it, not hide out in a dark room. That is why we fell in love with the big windows and walk out basement in this home…it doesn’t feel like a basement.
So, that begs the question…what do you do with a dark, windowless room?
W started with a list. We wrote down all the functions we could use the space for.
- Storage Room
- Home Theater
- Home Gym
Then, one by one we talked ourselves out of the ones that didn’t feel like a good fit, like the home theater.
We have amazing amounts of storage in this home. Too much if you ask me. We have so many closets and a third car garage, that I actually wish we had less space and were forced to purge things more regularly. So, extra storage space was definitely out.
The workshop was a strong contender for a while especially since we were in the midst of finishing the basement and our unheated garage is unusable half of the year. We have been using the basement bathroom (yet to be finished) as a tool closet. But, we don’t have any large tools, like a table saw. And, the space has not ventilation. Ultimately, we realized we could make a nice tool storage are in one of the utility rooms instead and we probably don’t need a dedicated workshop space.
We couldn’t find a single reason to cross home gym off the list. As tempting as popcorn and movie marathons are, we knew we would get much more use out of the gym. We already had a treadmill and some other equipment that became homeless during the basement remodel. Besides the convenience of a home gym, we save a ton of money by not having a gym membership. And, I do not miss working out in front of other people…I like to sweat in private!
We value a healthy lifestyle. We knew the best use of this space would support a healthy lifestyle. I am proud to say both my husband and I work out 6 days a week in our home gym. And, our boys beg to workout, too. We supervise them trying out the treadmill and doing sit ups and push-ups. My hubby assists our oldest on the pull up bar. We are happy that they are growing up to know exercise as a normal daily routine. Because we so highly value our workout time, our boys know it is important and wonderful.
Over a year later, we have absolutely no regrets about forgoing the typical home theater room, and opting instead for a home gym. We have decided wherever we go in the future, any home we have must have a room dedicated as a home gym. It is a non-negotiable.
Making your home function for you is paramount over worrying about what your neighbors do with their space or resale value. It is your home.
We are programmed to believe a home is temporary and we will continually “move up”. Subscribing too much to those beliefs leads you to live temporarily or put things off while waiting for something better.
Make your home right for you, right now. Don’t wait for the next place, it might not come. Tweet this!
You don’t have to do what other people do. You don’t have to use your home the same way. So many of my students and clients lament about their formal living rooms and dining rooms going undone, because they don’t need the formal spaces. I say, make them work for you! What things do you wish you had more space for? Turn an unused room into a playroom, an office, a music room, a library, or a home gym. Make it work for you!
Deme @ House For Five says
So right on, Jackie. And it’s fantastic that exercise is something the whole family can get into with this dedicated space! A lot of people assumed since we gained another bedroom when we moved that we would give each kid their own room. But we opted to keep our boys together – they love sharing a room and it allowed me to have my own craft room/office. It’s been so amazing to have that space and the kids enjoy it just as much as I do.
Wow, I had no idea home theater rooms were so common! It must be a suburban thing. It looks like you found a much better use for the space! Love that red metal cabinet there too…it looks so cheerful!
When we gave up our formal living/dining room in our cookie cutter tract home for a bigger living space, we got a few questioning comments. Now a few short years later practically all those with our same model have done the same! Thank you for this post!
Robyn, Yay! You paved the way. Most people are just scared to do something different than what is expected of them. Go you!!!
The gym sounds so much better than a theater! I’m with you- we would never use a home theater, even if we had the space. We do have a room off the kitchen that is meant to be a TV room, but we decided to get rid of the TV all together and turn it into a playroom- complete with a trapeze swing hanging from the ceiling! (With mattresses underneath.) It gets used every single day for hours at a time. So much better for us!
Amy, You win! I want a playroom with a trapeze swing and mattresses underneath. What lucky kids you have. I bet it is the playdate spot of the neighborhood!
Our house originally had a home theater in the back room of our walk-out basement. It was dark and windowless and we had a set of theater seating recliners. But our kids were young and we rarely used it. To watch a “grown up” movie meant closing the door and then not being able to hear them if they needed us. To watch a family movie meant squeezing all of us into those chairs with no room for wiggling. The room was almost never used.
A few years ago we decided we needed to make a change. After some brainstorming, we removed a wall that we’d added to make an extra bedroom and remodeled our very large playroom to be more of a “recreation room”. We moved the theater projection equipment to one end and got a large, comfy sectional. We added a pool table at the other end and a couple of bar tables in between to be used with both ends of the room. Now we use the room all the time! We watch movies, football games, and even tv there. And we enjoy hanging out together playing pool. We turned the old theater into a home gym. All in all it’s been the best decision for our family.
I love that you didn’t stop until the space was really working for you and your family. Sounds like such fun place to hangout and now you have the rec room and space for a home gym!
Your home gym sounds fantastic!
My husband needs a small desk somewhere quiet in our house to write. We have two little, active kids, so quiet is hard to find! But we’ve decided to tuck a small desk into the back of our closet. The closet is larger than we need, and with a fresh coat of paint, a bright light, and some nice built-in shelves above it will be the perfect workspace for him!
Emily, I think that is fabulous. Way to go finding the ideal space for your hubby and make an under-utilized space in the closet a little writing sanctuary! Thanks for sharing. I love stories like this!
We have a room in our basement that has no windows. Unfortunately, it is currently being used as a storage room only, and needs de-cluttering. We originally hoped to use it as a gym room, but the ceiling is low which makes some exercises difficult (e.g. using a medicine ball).
Hopefully, we will eventually get it set up as a gym room anyway (I have your gym room pinned as inspiration), or get it set up as a tool storage and wood-working room. Since we don’t have a garage, maybe the tool/wood room would be more practical for us. Our standing toolbox and big saw are already in that room since our shed and our utility room are both tiny and full.
A third alternative would be to try to do both by moving a wall, thus enlarging our utility room (and making room for the saw), and then have a smaller but totally dedicated gym room.
Depending on what you want to do in the gym, the low ceiling can make it difficult. We are very lucky to have a 9 ft. ceiling in our home gym. Our contractor was going to drop it to 8 ft. to cover some duct work, but we asked them to move the duct work and keep the ceiling as tall as possible.
Sounds like you need both spaces, since you have no alternative for the saw. Just make sure you will really use the “woodworking shop” before committing to it.
Such good ideas! You may not realize it, but you’re so lucky with all that extra basement space. In California, almost no-one has basements. I have decided that when my kids leave home (they’re 21 and 18) I’ll make a guest room and a home gym from their two rooms. I don’t exercise enough — just walks and bike rides — and would love to get an elliptical machine but don’t want it in the family or living rooms!
Jennifer, Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the extra space. It really is a luxury…especially here in the winter when we spend so much time indoors! My hubby is from Texas and they don’t have basements either, they have attic bonus rooms (aka the Texas Basement)!