Shhhhhh … don’t tell Maryland homeowner David Jacobs that he has a “home theater.” Be especially quiet, because he’s asleep in his bedroom, which happens to have a 96-inch projection screen, a hidden video projector and a 5.1-channel surround-sound system. This may sound like the makings of a “home theater,” but we won’t hold it against him if he’d rather not invite a bunch of guests inside. The seating is a bit cozy, after all.
But seriously, when David was discussing a technology upgrade to his place with Michael Wilson of local custom electronics firm Bethesda Systems, he explicitly requested not to have a traditional home theater room, per se. “He’s a single guy, and he wanted to have an unbelievable master suite, so whenever we talked about doing a theater in his house, he would say he didn’t want a theater,” Wilson explains. “Why? He’d say, ‘Every time I watch a movie, I’m in bed.’”
So for someone who was obviously interested in A/V, but just didn’t want a dedicated room to be under-used, the natural question was, could Bethesda Systems build a theater in the bedroom? Wilson and company answered that with a pretty definitive “yes,” we’d say.
Bethesda Systems not only managed to install a motorized projection screen in some tight confines, they also put in a flat-panel TV for daytime viewing. And they managed to deliver on David’s additional request that the video be hidden when he wasn’t watching it. A Media Décor mount that covers the flat-panel behind motorized artwork handles this trick, with the bonus that Jacobs could even use his brother-in-law’s artwork for the canvas.
“When everything is off, you just see a piece of art on the wall and nothing else,” Wilson says. “In a nutshell, we were able to give him three rooms in one: one for the art, one with a 46-inch TV to watch news during the day, and one with a 96-inch dropdown screen for movies at night.”
It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. One challenge was building a soffit over the bed with enough room to hide the Runco projector, as well as house wires, lights and loudspeakers. Bethesda Systems created a cardboard copy of the projector as a mockup to ensure it would fit the dimensions, and when the real thing was installed they cut an opening above it and mounted a Middle Atlantic single-fan cabinet cooler to provide proper ventilation.
(View images of this master suite here)
On the projector’s receiving end, Wilson worked closely with Stewart Filmscreen to install an acoustically transparent model sized to push the limits of its nook’s width. Bethesda custom-designed the screen’s soffit so when the screen descended it would cover only the TV and not the cabinets underneath, as well as stick out far enough so it wasn’t bumping into the four small wall-mounted shelves. Meanwhile, curtains are on a motorized Lutron drapery track so they can drop at the touch of a button on the Control4 remote (see sidebar) and darken the room for good viewing conditions.
For the killer audio, Bethesda installed a Professional Home Cinema (PHC) system that includes in-wall front, center and left speakers flanking the TV, a pair of in-ceiling surround models above the bed, plus two 18-inch subwoofers in the front cabinetry.
The NAD surround-sound processor and other gear, such as an Oppo Blu-ray player and Apple TV, reside in an equipment rack in the suite’s adjacent exercise room, where there’s also a car racing simulator and big flat-pane TV. And if that’s not enough, there are smaller TVs in the master bathroom and shower. Indeed, who would need a separate “home theater” room when there’s little reason to leave the master suite?
Easy on the Remote
These days, people want to use their iPads or Android tablets for everything. Not the owner of this master suite, though, who was “adamant about having a simple, handheld remote,” according to Michael Wilson of custom electronics firm Bethesda Systems, Bethesda, Md., which outfitted the master suite. A Control4 system serves as the home tech brains, and Bethesda pared down the bedroom’s multiple viewing options to four main commands on the Control4 handheld remote: watch TV, watch Movie, switch from TV to Movie, and switch from Movie to TV; those then lead him to select content accordingly (like cable for TV or Blu-ray for Movie), prep the room’s lights and shades, and smoothly transition the associated audio so, for example, it doesn’t abruptly clip on and off when he moves from the TV to the projection screen.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.