New Rooms

Big homes mean big space and, consequently, the ability to allot rooms specific uses. Here are three new spaces cropping up in a growing number of luxury homes.

One of the greatest advantages of living in large luxury home is the abundance of space. There seems to be a place for everything, from divesting oneself of dirty clothes (the good old mud room) to working on various arts and crafts, even scrapbooks. (Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a "scrapbooking room.") We take a look at three spaces popping up with increasing frequency in local luxury home construction.

The Second Master Suite

It is forethought and planning, not mere extravagance, that's moving more and more of today's affluent homeowners to demand two master suites, one of which is on the first floor or in a full walk-out basement, according to Gail Prebis of Don-Pre Development Group in Hinckley. Some customers insist on bunking just steps away from their children while they're young, yet want to ensure they'll be able to continue living in their new home long after they can no longer climb stairs. Others are preparing for the day when an elderly relative will move in with them by adding private yet easily accessible sleeping quarters.

"Their parents are getting older, and they're looking at having to take care of them at some point down the road," she says.

The second master suites Prebis sees typically aren't as spacious or lavish as the ones customers first occupy -- no his-and-hers dressing areas and vanities, no whirlpool tubs and custom-built showers-for-two with multiple shower heads and body sprays. The second master suite is often used for something else initially, perhaps a home office or even an exercise room. Instead, the spaces are endowed with more practical features, such as doors large enough to push a wheelchair through and a shower-stall unit with a built-in seat and grab bars.

"For someone with a handicap, a tub isn't exactly convenient," she observes. The bedroom, however, is large enough to accommodate more than a double bed and bureau -- a small sitting area with an easy chair and an entertainment armoire, for example.

Some people, of course, go all out, building second masters with separate sitting rooms, walk-in closets and baths that rival their primary counterparts in amenities. Prebis says she knows of a woman who has one in her home that's more like an apartment, complete with a kitchenette that allows the occupant to enjoy a cup of morning coffee or midnight snack without getting dressed and venturing into the household fray.

The Wrapping Room

It certainly isn't the biggest or most glamorous space in the house -- in fact, it may only occupy the corner of a utility or hobby room. But homeowners of all income levels are deciding they need someplace to organize and store -- not to mention actually use -- their bulky hodgepodge of wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, gift bags and package tags. Anybody who's repeatedly schlepped the stuff from the closet to the kitchen or raced through the house in search of a roll of tape just moments before leaving for a party understands why.

Sandra Einstein of e = mc2 Organizing & Coaching Consultants in Gates Mills says lots of people stock up on wrapping paper, greeting cards and such during after-Christmas sales, only to lose their bargains in that Bermuda Triangle of a closet, attic or basement into which they tossed them. The same thing happens to those who diligently pick up birthday and holiday gifts throughout the year.

"My clients have an abundance of things that they've bought for future gifts, but they forget about them because they're all over the house," Einstein says.

The universal wrapping-room accoutrement is a large, sturdy table that accommodates the user's preference for sitting or standing while wrapping gifts -- Einstein has seen built-in tables that fold down or slide out from the wall -- and, if he or she likes to sit, a chair of corresponding height. Everything else is a matter of preference.

Stores such as Organized Living in Woodmere carry a plethora of items specifically designed for organizing and storing wrapping room supplies, but appropriately sized containers of a more generic sort will do just fine. Some people, for example, prefer relegating rolls of wrapping paper and ribbon to wall-mounted racks similar to those used by department store gift-wrap counters. Einstein, however, keeps tissue paper and gift bags in long, under-bed storage boxes and organizes ribbons, bows and other package decorations by color in stand-alone drawer units. Collections of greeting cards ("I have some clients who could open up their own card store," she says) are stored by occasion in large manila envelopes or file folders. And gifts are stashed in one place -- designated cabinets, shelves or drawers -- so they're always easy to find.

"I call it a gift garden because it's going to grow," Einstein says with a chuckle.

The Home Theater

Sick of shelling out a small fortune at the local Cineplex and listening to packs of unruly adolescents talk and laugh their way through that film you've been dying to see? Trust us, you're not alone.

"Home theater is by far the fasting-growing segment of the custom electronics installation industry," declares Ron Lee, sales manager for Audio Video Interiors in Medina. He adds that the home theater's appeal extends beyond the dedicated movie buff to include concerned parents looking to keep their teenager safely at home and successful entrepreneurs in need of a place to host meetings.

"You can plug a laptop into (the home theater projector) and do Power Point presentations, surf the Internet, whatever you want," Lee says. "For most people, it's just as simple as [getting] a wireless connection in the house."

According to Lee, clients typically devote at least 300 square feet to their own cinema, which is usually installed in a finished basement. He says Boca Raton, Fla.-based Acoustic Innovations now offers a prepackaged kit that includes all the components needed to transform an existing space into a home theater, right down to the wall columns in which to hide speakers and mount light sconces, for around $25,000.

But many homeowners are still opting for custom jobs with rooms sized and shaped to provide the best audio experience, unique designs on the "fabric stretches" used to cover acoustic wall panels, up to 40-foot screens, commercial-cinema-grade digital projectors, even arcade-style video games for the kids.

The seating, which can be covered in everything from classic red velvet to Italian leather, ranges from freestanding recliners to rows of reclining seats with cupholder arms. Finishing touches include automated curtains drawn at the touch of a button to reveal the screen, candy counters, popcorn machines, soda fountains, menu boards, movie posters and display cases, even lighted marquees and velvet ropes. The cost for such an authentic theater setup runs the gamut from under $100,000 to $1 million. Lee says these detailed touches, however, create a space that offers a true escape for the homeowners who have them.

"Because of the realism that we can generate in that space, [our customers] go away for a couple of hours," Lee says.

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