Not so long ago, the trendy options in home entertainment included oversized entertainment centers and tricked-out media rooms.
But things have changed.
Even as TVs have gotten bigger, their role in the home has become more restrained. At least that's the impression gained from the Lane Home Entertainment Tour, a showroom on wheels. The display showcased Lane furniture, so by its nature it offered a limited view. Still, it was an interesting one.
"Entertainment is not just the theater room," Lane representative Cam Johnson said as he walked through the room setups. More people are living in smaller spaces, and the economy has forced us to be smarter about our spending. Manufacturers are responding with furniture that helps us fit our entertainment equipment - particularly the TV - into rooms with multiple functions, Johnson said.
Typically, that's a family room, where people might read, play games, work on the computer or do all kinds of other things besides watch TV. While the television might be a focal point in such a room, it's no longer likely to dominate.
TV furniture has been downsized accordingly. Compact consoles are common, sometimes with separate shelving units that can flank the TV or be moved elsewhere. Vertical back panels are another frequent option, allowing you to hang a flat-panel TV and hide the wires without the hassle of attaching the TV to the wall.
It's all about keeping things simpler, smaller and easier to rearrange, Johnson said.
Multifunctional furniture is also widespread. One TV cabinet had a game drawer with a flip-down front, so you could stash your Wii out of sight but still be able to use the controllers. I also liked the coffee table with the sliding top that makes it more comfortable to eat in front of the game. Because this was Lane, recliners were prominent, but often incorporated into sofas and sectionals. The recliners are designed now to slide forward when they open, so you can position the chair as close as 3 inches from the wall.
Of course, some people still want that dedicated home theater. In that case, comfort is key.
The theater seating in the Lane display reclined at the touch of a button to the exact position the user wanted, and the bases were lighted - both to make it easier to find your way in the dark and to provide a bit of ambient lighting to reduce eyestrain. Even the cup holders were illuminated, I guess so you don't end up parking your Pepsi in the lap of the person sitting next to you.
It's all tempting stuff, but shop wisely, Johnson said. Measure your room first, and go to a good retailer who can help you tailor your furniture choices to your needs. Manufacturers' Web sites often have lots of information on their products, so you can narrow your choices before you shop.