Building a mini man cave

Moving is an opportunity to rework, rewire, or completely redesign your multimedia setup.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Moving is always a time-consuming, life-upending experience, but it can also be an opportunity to rework, rewire, or completely redesign your multimedia setup. Having just moved 60-odd boxes, plus furniture, from one end of SoHo to the other (well, the movers moved, but I packed), that's the situation I currently find myself in.

As a native Manhattanite, I know going into any new apartment situation requires savvy use of minimal space. And in fact, while my new place is a larger than my old one (with an extra bedroom for the summertime arrival of Ackerman Jr. and a private patio in the back), the room I was able to snag as my gaming/multimedia den is a bit smaller than the living room I had previously. On the plus side, it doesn't have to serve double duty as a home office or general sitting room, so the focus can be on gaming and media viewing.

A quick sketch of the available space. Dan Ackerman/CNET

I'm going to sketch out the dimensions of the room, the equipment that needs to go in it, and the furniture everything needs to fit around--I'm essentially working out the details in this public forum, so any advice from the home theater experts out there is welcome.

The room itself is about 105 square feet (New Yorkers hear that and shrug, those elsewhere in the country are probably wondering why I'm building a media room in something smaller than one of their closets). The main part of the room is about 11.5 feet by 8 feet, with a small closet in one corner, and an entrance-way on the other end of the same wall. Helping the room not feel too claustrophobic are the 10.5-foot high ceilings and a large window that measures 3 feet wide by 6.5 feet high.

Testing a couch/chair layout. Dan Ackerman/CNET

Into this small space, I'm trying to fit a 50-inch Samsung plasma TV (the same one you read about here), along with various game consoles, some media storage, and a sofa and chair set (which would go against the longest wall in the diagram above).

With only 8 feet of space between the coach and TV, I'm risking blown-out eyeballs, but arranging the room lengthwise wouldn't leave enough room for adequate seating. I'm considering wall-mounting the ultra-thin TV to squeeze in a few more inches of viewing distance.

I'm also considering ditching the 5.1 surround sound system I've had for years in favor of a soundbar system--the idea of cluttering this small-ish space with speaker wire seems like a bad one. Sony's CT150 (reviewed here) has three HDMI inputs, audio return channel, and seems compact enough, and would replace my old Sony Dream System 5.1 DVD home theater and my big component video A/V switcher (I put together my old living room setup before HDMI became standard).

Related links
Flat-screen TV upgrade 2010: What a difference five years makes
Sony HT-CT150 review
Wire box cleanup: 2011 edition
Bringing a flat-screen TV back from the dead

What else is at risk of getting left out? Microsoft's Kinect won't work well in such a small space (it hardly worked in my bigger old living room), and the same goes for Sony's PlayStation Move wands -- not that either one got much use after an initial trial period. With three potential HDMI inputs, that's enough for my cable box, 360, and PS3--the Wii may have to get relegated to another TV in a different room(or get connected directly to the TV via HDMI or component cables).

That's where the mini man cave stands right now. I'm moving furniture around and blocking things out to see what works and what doesn't. If you've got some brilliant ideas about building maximum media awesomeness into a minimal space, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Check back for part two of our story, where I'll show off the finished room and reveal what components made the cut.