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The Surprising Story of Murray Hill's Infamous Arcade Bedroom

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The whole arcade thing might seem so very "Murray Hill," but Kooluris's corner is quiet and peaceful.
The whole arcade thing might seem so very "Murray Hill," but Kooluris's corner is quiet and peaceful.

Welcome to House Calls, a new feature in which Curbed tours New Yorkers' lovely, offbeat, or otherwise awesome homes. Think your space should be featured next? Drop us a line.

[All photos by Max Touhey for Curbed.]

Chris Kooluris's Murray Hill apartment made headlines last summer—sensational ones, at that: "A Guy Turned His Bedroom Into A 1980s Arcade And Lost His Fiancée In The Process." A senior vice president at public relations firm Weber Shandwick, the tables turned, and Kooluris fielded countless media queries in June, all of which zeroed in on his bedroom.

It currently houses five arcade cabinets, one giant console that can project up to 25,000 games on a big screen (surrounded by an array of videogame marquee signs), and his collections of mint-condition Transformers and Street Fighter action figures. So yeah, it's pretty easy to get stuck on that part of the apartment, which Kooluris bought in 2001. After all, there are candy machines. But the rest of his home is decorated in a style that couldn't be more distant from Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. "I was going for more of a Burger Joint-type reveal, with a nicely appointed living room," said the 38-year-old. "I love that shock and awe moment."

Kooluris grew up in Bronxville, where his mother owns an art gallery. Fourteen years ago when he was decorating, she played a major role. The monkey sconces? They're from Italy. "They have a cool Old-World cigar lounge vibe," he said, adding that the goal was to be "classy" and "masculine." The living room hasn't changed since he moved in, thanks to Mom. "My mom probably had more influence on the interior design. All the mirrors came from the gallery," he said. "When you're younger and you're designing an apartment, that's not something you spend money on."

There are a few hints, though, of what's to come in the gloriously colorful, incessantly beeping bedroom ahead: an action figure on a side table; a metallic claw resting next to a weighty glass decanter that looks a lot like Vega's weapon of choice; a Nintendo 64 console exclusively for competitive, for-fun-and-for-money Mario Kart games with friends that rests inconspicuously beside the wooden TV cabinet, next to a wine rack.

[On the left, the room when it's a proper bedroom. On the right, what happens when you fold up the bed and get ready to play.]

The arcade bedroom came to be as follows. Kooluris and his then-fiancee were living in Williamsburg, even though he still owned the this unadorned one-bedroom at the corner of 36th and Lexington. He put it on the market in the summer of 2013, but no buyer took the bait. So he decided to take action on a lifelong passion and convert the bedroom into an arcade. It cost about $32,000 (including the Transformers collection) and took about six months to complete. "I had the space, so I did something fun with it," he said, adding that his now-ex actually helped him with the design, suggesting he not paint the walls black, to make "a colorful inviting room vs. a dark man cave." She helped find the blocky carpet, which can be replaced one square at a time in the event of spills. Those might become more and more vital, as Kooluris is starting to rent it out as a space for parties and events.

They split up for other reasons, and so Kooluris ended up moving back to Murray Hill, and sleeping in the arcade that was originally intended for mere recreation. The couch folds into a bed, made comfortable by a memory foam pad. When not in use, the bedding is stored in a closet to the left of the main console (in official parlance, the MAME pedestal). Oh, and as for his new girlfriend? "She's fine," Kooluris said. "She doesn't have a problem staying in the arcade."

· Murray Hill Man Turns Apartment Into Video Game Arcade [Curbed]
· House Calls archive [Curbed]