Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Ping Pong Palace

Many contemporary houses or lofts offer high ceilings and the promise of open space. And the opportunity to explore the flex room concept.

I recently decided to give some thought to organizing my living room so that it could be transformed into a space for playing table tennis (and back again) in a matter of minutes.

The requirements for table tennis are quite simple. Enough space to put a table (9' x 5') and have room to move about (in my opinion, bare minimum playable dimensions should be at least 3 table lengths and 3 table widths: although the width is fine, most two car garages (20' x 20') are therefore not long enough).

[Variety of minimum dimensions for the playing area, from recreational through to international level events.]

The space has to be extremely well lit (beyond typical residential levels): lighting should be well controlled, i.e. even (no shadows, overly bright or dark spots) and glare-free. Floor should be even and durable enough to withstand gym shoe pounding and be easy to clean. And neither be too slippery (as with dusty concrete or ceramic tile) nor have too much friction (as with carpeting or rubber mats). For multiple ball training use, barriers or screens are needed to stop balls from marking walls or disappearing into hard-to-reach areas. Depending on geographical zones, the playing area might need to be completely climate controlled.

Sure you could play in a basement or garage but low ceilings can restrict lighting choices and any support columns can interfere with play. Moreover, those areas are not usually climate controlled and dust can be a major problem. A dedicated, purpose-built gym room would be the gold standard, but let's suppose you want to explore the flex room concept without making your living room look like a garage. Here is what I came up with:

Details are as follows:
  • Lighting: Two rows of indirect/direct light fixtures suspended 2' off the ceiling (source: Architectural Indirect Version 4, H.E. Williams Inc). Spaced so you don't see the lights directly when at the table looking up. Each row contains 6 end-to-end interlocking 4ft units. 3 T8 high performance fluorescent 32W tubes are mounted per fixture. Designed for about 700 lumens at the table. Wattage: 1152W total.
  • Table: A folding rollaway Butterfly Centrefold 25 table (US Open 2010 model). Color blue. Japan-sourced Butterfly International net set. Color blue.
  • Floor: Sealed slate tile floor. (No Gerflor here.)
  • Ball barriers:There is a (removable) retractable clotheslines reel (source: Home Depot) hanging across the home entertainment center end of the room. (You can see it just above the sake bottle-styled lamp.) It supports a super-lightweight black (nylon) plastic mesh net (6' high x 20' wide, made of 0.5cm squares, weighing less than 1 lb, source: Tokyu Hands). At the other end of the room is a floor to ceiling screen (12' high x 20' wide) operated via a hand crank, see below.
  • Robot: Y&T S-27 from China. Not shown.
A first evening for the facility, inviting friends around to play, eat watermelon and drink chinese tea:

Here is a time-lapse video of the room transformation from living area into ping pong palace.

(All pictures except the first taken using the Panasonic Lumix 8mm f/3.5 micro-4/3rds fisheye lens on my Olympus E-P1.)