Family room upgrades and AV advice

While architects are known for producing high-concept designs that are impossible to live in, mass-produced subdivisions have their own quirks. I’ve previously mentioned the goofy peninsula in my kitchen that led me to search for [a decent counter-depth fridge] (/archive/2018/04/005480/). I don’t recall if I also mentioned that the pantry has no light (or power) inside, or that what looks like terrific storage space above the cabinets is ruined by code-required fluourescent uplights that I never use.

Anyway, a lot of that stuff is all on the list for the contractor I’m finally going to hire, but some upgrades just require a credit card and a web browser.

The first upgrade to the family room was the Fuji print over the fireplace.

Second was the seating. 18 years ago, I bought a dark grey couch and chair from Ikea. The machine-washable covers are nice, and they’re sturdy enough that I could keep using them, but you tend to sink into them these days, requiring some effort to get back out (a real issue for my mom).

The problem with replacing them is the way the room is laid out; it’s 14 feet wide and 12 feet deep, but the far end is consumed by a gas fireplace and a deep storage niche, and the left half of the near end needs to be kept open to allow easy traffic flow into the kitchen and dining area. That leaves the right side, and the tiled hearth sticks out nearly two feet, effectively limiting the seating space to 10x6 feet.

I wanted an L-shaped sectional, but 99% of what’s on the market are huge. If they’re under 10 feet long, then they’re at least 8 feet deep, sometimes with a chaise section instead of a proper seat with back and armrest.

I finally found this at the local Ashley, and after very carefully measuring the space and the sectional, I decided it will work:

It’s a foot longer and nearly two feet deeper than the current couch/chair combo, but it does fit, and the small “chaise” extension basically takes up the space that’s currently an end table, so the traffic flow is unchanged. I’ve ordered a slide-under tray table to provide a place for drinks at that end, and the large comfy cushions compensate for the lack of an armrest. It should show up in about two weeks.

The only real downside is that the corner space between the couch and chair is where I currently have my liquor cabinet, and now I have to find a new place for about 70 bottles of booze.

Third was the TV stand. When I bought my first BluRay player and HD TV, 37 inches provided plenty of bang for the buck, but now I want something bigger, and because a wall-mount is impractical (the left side of the room has big windows), I need a new stand that’s wide enough for a 55-65-inch TV. Here the problem isn’t height, width, or depth, it’s the fact that most of what’s on the market is either too ugly or too dark for my mostly-blonde house. I eventually stumbled across this:

My Harmony hub has two IR blasters to reach the components behind the doors, and there’s plenty of space for the FireTV, Japanese PS2, etc. I’ll have to build some new shallow shelving for the discs that don’t fit into its drawers, but that’s not hard.

That should also arrive in about two weeks, and then I can start looking for a new TV. I’d prefer the least-Smart 4K TV I can find, because the vendors have a really poor track record regarding privacy and security. If I let it access the Internet at all, it will be on an isolated VLAN from the rest of the house. I haven’t looked seriously at what’s on the market right now, so suggestions are welcome.

After that comes the real fun: a new receiver and speakers. My old 5.1 surround system is a Kenwood VR-407, purchased way back when to drive my top-of-the-line laserdisc player. It’s held up surprisingly well, but yeah, it’s time. For the receiver, I’m thinking overkill, specifically the Denon AVRS940H Denon AVR-X3400H for its large and versatile set of inputs, and ability to upscale the analog inputs (which is why I crossed out the S940H; I’m going to look at some other decent brands to see if I can find something that doesn’t cost quite so much more). For speakers, honestly I haven’t a clue; the Kenwood came with a set.


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