The Collective How-to

The High-Design Game Room

By Elizabeth Wallace
December 8, 2017

Win big with an elevated game room that has all-ages appeal

Interior design isn’t all fun and games—except when it is. Game rooms have come a long way since the days of man-caves housing La-Z-Boy recliners with cup holders and tall-boy-stocked mini-fridges. Boston-based designer Rachel Reider, who elevates the game room concept for private residences and hotels, says the key to keeping gaming spaces upscale, whether they’re hosting kids’ parties or a grown-up poker night, is creating “a foundation that’s fresh and timeless, and then using accessories to add fun, lively elements.” Take her tips to your table tennis nook and beyond.

Make spaces multi-functional. For a kids’ game room in a Rhode Island beach house, Reider built daybeds into the room that transition into lounge spaces to read or play board games. She added structured bean bags ideal for chill movie-viewing, but that are easily movable for a dance party. For a home in downtown Boston, Reider installed a dining table that morphs into a pink-felt-covered pool table when its top is removed. “It’s a cool, unexpected surprise” that also maximizes a limited urban space.

A Middletown, Rhode Island game room. Photograph by Michael Partenio
A Middletown, Rhode Island game room. Photograph by Michael Partenio

Keep it graphic. For the Lark Hotels Martha’s Vineyard property Summercamp, opened on a former camp site, Reider wanted to build in games to “appeal to all ages but also look graphically cool when not in use.” She reimagined the classic game Connect Four as a centerpiece, custom crafting the base in white oak, and the checkers in bright colorful Plexiglass. “Rather than painting that whole wall turquoise, you have these dots that get scattered across the space.” Similarly, Reider custom spray-painted a traditional Twister mat design onto the floor of Summercamp’s rec room; it serves both as the game foundation and a whimsical floor design during down time.

A convertible ping pong table at Martha’s Vineyard hotel Summercamp can also serve as a dining table. Photograph courtesy of Lark Hotels
A convertible ping pong table at Martha’s Vineyard hotel Summercamp can also serve as a dining table. Photograph courtesy of Lark Hotels
AstroTurf Twister at Summercamp hotel. Photograph courtesy of Lark Hotels
AstroTurf Twister at Summercamp hotel. Photograph courtesy of Lark Hotels

Mix up indoor/outdoor elements. Reider also installed AstroTurf as the floor covering for Summercamp’s rec room. “It’s a fun way of bringing the outdoors inside, as well as being a durable surface.”

Surprise people. At Gilded, a Lark Hotels property in Newport, Rhode Island, Reider did a 180 from your average room with a pool table, executing a billiards room in a baroque Gilded Age vision, with a custom pool table and Art Deco lighting and wall mirrors.

The billiards room at Gilded, a boutique hotel in Newport, Rhode Island. Photograph courtesy of Lark Hotels
The billiards room at Gilded, a boutique hotel in Newport, Rhode Island. Photograph courtesy of Lark Hotels

Make playful design mobile. To keep your game room from feeling too juvenile or theme-park-ish, Reider recommends keeping the foundational elements—furniture, walls, window treatments—more basic, then punching up the décor with wilder pieces that you can move as you wish (or remove altogether if your tastes change): bright throw pillows and blankets, artwork, and statement décor pieces.

A residential play room. Photograph by Nat Rea
A residential play room. Photograph by Nat Rea

Turn themed objects into artwork. Reider sourced vintage tennis rackets and arrows at the Brimfield Antique Show in western Massachusetts, to hang on the walls of Summercamp. She’s used the same technique in summer homes, framing children’s sports jerseys or bathing suits. This is a “great way to activate a space and give it personal meaning without having it feel overly themed.”

Turn off (the focus on) the TV. Creating a gallery wall of photos or artwork around a flat-screen TV ensures that the tube isn’t “the focal point.” That said, Reider notes that for a room that’s really a dedicated TV room, embrace it, and enjoy.

The poker room at private residence club Kohanaiki on the Big Island in Hawaii features a custom table and custom midcentury-inspired chairs beneath a red cedar ceiling and atop end-cut oak wood floors. Photograph courtesy of Kohanaiki
The poker room at private residence club Kohanaiki on the Big Island in Hawaii features a custom table and custom midcentury-inspired chairs beneath a red cedar ceiling and atop end-cut oak wood floors. Photograph courtesy of Kohanaiki

Design kids’ spaces a little older. “I always say design up and add age appropriate accessories that you can change as they age, to keep the overall room more sophisticated.” A great way to do that is artwork, pillows, smaller pieces of furniture that aren’t a huge investment. The same philosophy is true for adult spaces: “Something that feels cool and trendy one day can quickly age itself.”