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There was a time when most folks were content to prop their feet up on the coffee table and spend the evening watching the tube. But yesterday's rec-reation room is undergoing a metamorphosis.

The name has been changed to "media room" and the look incorporates a wall of the latest electronic toys, flanked with ultra-plush interior amenities such as leather or suede modular seating, coffee tables with built-in wet bars and the last word in custom cabinetry."It's all part of the longing for the luxury of stretching out and staying home," says Rob Kistner, president of Audio Vision Plus Inc. "America is rediscovering the concept of coming home. In the early '70s there were discos; in the late '80s we're coming home. It is now fashionable to invite people over for an evening of videos."

In response to the growing thirst for home entertainment, retailers throughout the country are providing customers with service that ranges from the design and installation of entertainment wall systems to custom cabinetry.

Audio Vision Plus in Cincinnati sells the entire media-room concept - high-tech entertainment systems complemented with high-end contemporary furniture and lighting.

Kistner has teamed his electrical knowledge with the interior-design talents of partner Barry Steinnecker. The company incorporated in 1984 as Audio Vision. Since then the duo has hired an industrial engineer, a systems engineer, an installation staff and additional design features, adding "Plus" to their logo.

Retailers say the media-room concept started on the West Coast about five years ago.

And now the trend is in full swing throughout the country, reports Stephanie Sandish, sales representative for Audioaccess, a San Francisco manufacturer of technical equipment for custom installers.

"Before the year 2000 we'll all have media rooms," she predicts. "Entertainment centers are the way of the future. If you look, it's all around you."

Sandish said the media-room trend is undergoing "spontaneous combustion," at the consumer level. "New York and Los Angeles are the most mature markets," she said. "But middle America is coming right along. Custom installers are now in every city in the nation."

In response to the custom media-room craze, the magazine Audio/Vision Interiors came out with its first issue in February. Editor Chris Esse said the new bimonthly publication focuses on style, technology and the harmony of technology with a variety of interior styles.

"The trend has hit," Esse said. "People want music in 10 rooms and want to be able to control the radio station, compact disc player and tape deck from five rooms. And at the same time, they want the kids down the hall to be able to listen to a different source."

Technology has made it possible for today's electronic buffs to stock their media room with the following toys:

Sophisticated, remote control-operated sound systems; a variety of video sources, supported with a surround-sound audio system; high-resolution television screens that range from 40 inches to a 15-foot diagonal; custom cabinetry that's as functional as it is stylish; and extra details that zero in on acoustically correct rooms with exciting, comfortable furniture and lighting.

And the price tag for all this?

"The truth is you can't get into it for under $10,000 for what was just described," Kistner said. "Obviously, with the ability to choose custom design, there is no ceiling. Normally $15,000 to $25,000 is a safe statement. And this is not a tiny market. $10,000 is cheaper than a second car. It comes the way of the family room, boat or putting the pool in the back."

Some clients start from scratch and revamp the entire room; others incorporate equipment from old systems into new plans, he said.

"What we generally have to do is make sure the VCR is stereo, add a Dolby surround-sound processor and additional amps and speakers. Quite often we go from the standard television screen to a high-resolution TV."