Home Theater $100,001-$250,000
Gold Winner Winner
JVC QMotion
1700s House Gets Home Theater Update
Home Theater $100,001-$250,000
1700s House Gets Home Theater Update
A radical rehab introduces a state-of-the-art theater in a 1700s carriage house.
Photo by Scott Braman
View Slideshow

May 16, 2007 by Lisa Montgomery

It’s hard to believe this amazing entertainment space dates back to late the 1700s, not to mention that it once stored horse-driven carts. But the third-generation owners of this historic gem didn’t let the past prevent them from turning a portion of their renovated carriage house into a theater loaded with some of the newest audio/video around. There’s the Marantz VP11 projector that shoots out pictures at a resolution of 1080p, the highest of the high-def formats available. Then there’s the Kaleidescape server that allows the family to select a movie—jukebox style—from a collection of more than 600 DVDs that have been stored on the unit. There’s also a screen that alters its shape automatically to fit the type of program the family chooses to watch. Last but not least, a Pioneer Blu-ray high-def DVD player was recently added to the mix, giving the early adopters yet another cutting-edge technology to enjoy.

As it turned out, choosing the right assortment of components for the household of movie buffs would be the easiest part of the project. Actually installing them would be another matter altogether. Although the space chosen to serve as the theater had gone through several renovations over the years and was currently being used as a dining room, much of the original architecture had remained largely untouched. “The room still had its original plaster and bead board, and the 12 stone columns used to support the roof were still standing,” says E.J. Feulner, chief custom designer for HiFi House, the Wilmington, DE-based firm charged with the daunting installation task. 

Although having a home theater was important to homeowners Tim Brewer and Chris Soleil, so was preserving their home’s historic flavor. The stone pillars would stay. So would the walls that hemmed in the room to a smallish size of 18-by 13-feet. HiFi House worked around these structural parameters, fitting two tiers of four chairs, a 100-inch screen, seven speakers and a hefty video projector comfortably into the space. One clever space-saving design HiFi House implemented was applying custom woodwork around the screen that protrudes just three inches from the wall. “A front cabinet with built-in equipment and speakers would have been too overpowering for the room,” Feulner explains. The team freed up floor space by stationing all of the audio/video components, including the Kaleidescape system, NAD preamplifier and amplifier, Crestron control processor and Tripplite battery backup units, in a different room. A Crestron control system lets Tim and Chris control the gear remotely from the theater as if all the components were right in front of them. The speakers would be the only part of the theater to eat up a portion of the space. The plaster and stone walls prevented HiFi House from building speakers into the structure, so they opted for floorstanding- and bookshelf-style speakers from Sonus Faber that “are so stunning, they look like works of art anyway,” says Feulner.

Although the room is small on square footage, it’s big on performance. The Kaleidescape server alone puts this space in a league of its own. The owners literally have an entire movie store at their fingertips. And the library keeps growing. “Every Tuesday (the day new releases hit stores), Tim goes out and buys a pile of new DVDs to add into the system. But even more remarkable than the capacious DVD server is the way the theater reacts to the new movies. The Kaleidescape server, the Crestron control system and a special motorized fabric masking system from Stewart Filmscreen work together to alter the shape of the screen automatically to match the movie format. For example, should the family choose a CinemaScope-formatted blockbuster (very wide), the masking material closes in the top and bottom of the screen. Then, if they decide to watch a recording of an old TV show, the masking shrinks the screen down to the dimensions of squarish 4:3 analog TV. In this arrangement the unused side portions of the screen are covered with the masking material. Should they select a high-definition TV show the masking opens up to reveal the full screen. As the masking system adjusts, the Lutron QED blackout shades lower over the windows, and the lights dim to a preset movie-viewing level.

All these alterations are set into motion by pressing just a couple of buttons on a Crestron ML6000 handheld remote. One tap pulls up the cover art of every movie in the server. From there, the family can sort by genre, artist or even movie duration. “If they only have an hour to watch something, they can pull up only the movies that are 60 minutes long,” Feulner explains. After entering their selection, the Crestron system engages the projector, masking fabric, window coverings and lights. The lights can be adjusted to a 25-, 50- or 75-percent intensity level at any time from the remote or by touching PAUSE, which brightens them just enough to guide someone into or out of the room.

The technology in this space may make the historic residence seem a lot younger than it is, but the systems still pay tribute to the old forms of entertainment. A READING button on the Crestron remote, for example, sets the lights near Tim’s favorite seat to a perfect level. Sure, the reading light may not evoke the nostalgia of the 1700s, when horses ruled this roost, but the magnificent 300-year-old straw-filled plaster walls and stone columns keep this room deeply rooted in its past—without infringing on its future.

Follow Electronic House on Facebook and Twitter.
Find an Installer in your Area — Find custom electronics installers who provide infrastructure wiring, lighting systems, security, home automation, audio and video systems, and much more. Find an Installer
Home Theater $250,001+
Gold Winner: Theater Built Without Attachments
Silver Winner: An Audio System that Spares No Expense
Bronze Winner: High Stakes Home Theater
Home Theater $100,001-$250,000 Gold Winner: Colonial House Gets Home Theater Update
Silver Winner: Vintage Home Theater
Bronze Winner: Return of the "Titanic" Theater
Home Theater $50,001-$100,000
Gold Winner: The Multipurpose, Multitasking Entertainment Room
Silver Winner: Benefits of the Latest and Greatest
Bronze Winner: Home Theater with Waterfalls
Home Theater $25,001-$50,000
Gold Winner: Big Room Requires Big Theater
Silver Winner: Room Within Room Traps Theater Sound
Bronze Winner: Home Theater Bachelor Pad on a Budget
Home Theater $10,001-$10,000
Gold Winner: Experience Pays Off With Second Theater
Silver Winner: Three-Car Garage Reborn as Home Theater
Bronze Winner: Homeowner Expertise Leads to Easy Theater Installation
Green Home
Gold Winner: Electronics and Environment Coexist in EcoManor

Family/Media Room
Gold Winner: Commissioning a Theater Masterpiece
Silver Winner: Push a Button, Pick a Screen
Bronze Winner: Kid-Friendly Home Theater
Fun Room
Gold Winner: Remodeled A/V Rec Room Serves as Icebreaker
Silver Winner: Old Boat Turned into Unique Bar
Bronze Winner: The A/V Comfort Cave
Gold Winner: Kitchen With Perfect Line of Sight
Silver Winner: Dual LCDs Pop Up from Kitchen Counter
Bronze Winner: An Easy Recipe for Kitchen Music
Master Bath
Gold Winner: Music and Convenience Combine in Master Bath
Silver Winner: Video Screen Hidden Within Bathroom Mirror
Bronze Winner: The Three-Room Bathroom
Master Suite
Gold Winner: TV Lift Built into Wood Floor
Silver Winner: Bedroom Features His and Hers A/V Systems
Bronze Winner: Clunky Media Center Makes Way for Classy A/V
Outdoor Space
Gold Winner: Inflatable Screen, Custom A/V Create Ultimate Party Pool
Silver Winner: Professional Pitcher Warms Up in Tech Spa
Bronze Winner: Watch Video from Both Sides of a Screen
Wow Factor
Gold Winner: Professional Designer Raises Bar in Her Own Home
Silver Winner: Full Control: From TVs to Tiki Torches
Bronze Winner: A Stickler for True Home Theater

Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.


  • Marantz VP11 video projector
  • Chief RPAU Elite ceiling bracket
  • Stewart Filmscreen 100-inch four-way masking screen
  • Audio/Video Components
  • NAD M15 7.1 pre-amp/processor
  • NAD M25 7-channel by 160-watt amplifier
  • Sony DVPNS9100ES DVD player
  • Kaleidescape System 4000 movie server
  • Tripp Lite HTR10-2U backup batter systems (2)
  • Tripp Lite HT3100PC power conditioners (2)
  • Monster wire and cables
  • Speakers
  • Sonus Faber Cremona tower speakers (2)
  • Sonus Faber Cremona center-channel speaker
  • Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor surround-sound speakers (2)
  • Rel B1 Britannia subwoofer
  • Control
  • Crestron CP2E control processor
  • Crestron ML600 handheld remote
  • Lighting
  • Crestron CAEN 2x1 lighting enclosure
  • Crestron CLX 1DIM4 lighting module
  • Lutron QED blackout shades
  • Furniture, Acoustics & Accessories
  • Middle Atlantic SRSRX-30 slide out equipment racks (2)
  • Middle Atlantic UQFP-4 exhaust fan panels (2)
  • Panamax in-wall power outlet
  • Jaymar 57334 motorized theater chairs (8)
  • Sound Panel acoustic wall panels

HiFi House
Wilmington, DE

Nelson Enterprises
Bear, DE

Home Theater Domain
Grants Pass, OR

FREE Charter Platinum Membership
Claim your FREE Charter Platinum Membership to EH Network and receive 6 FREE issues of EH Magazine.*
First Name
Last Name
Email Address

We understand your email address is private. By granting you access to the EH Network, you agree to receive email communications from us, including our newsletters. You can manage your subscription at any time in the future.
* The new EH Network launches and your free subscription begins December 2014.


Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.