Maybe it was the Mission-style spindles on the backs of the chairs that caught our attention, or perhaps it was the alabaster-colored ceiling pendants that drew us in. Whatever it was, one thing’s for sure: This theater possesses a style that’s refreshingly fitting for a home that dates back to the early 1900s. “Every possible detail of the design was scrutinized to provide the homeowners with the optimal mix of aesthetic perfection and technological innovation,” says Paul Baumeister of Baumeister Electronic Architects, the Niles, IL based firm hired to blend a slew of modern electronic systems into the stunning 16-by-28-foot arts and crafts–style theater.
But before the Baumeister crew could get to those details, the space had to be created. Like many homes of the period, this one had a number of small crawl spaces but no room big enough to use as a theater. Local zoning ordinances prohibited adding on to the main level, so construction crews were called in to dig out a space beneath the house. With a blank slate to work with, the architects and home systems installers were able to collaborate on a design that would marry 21st-century systems and the historic arts and crafts style.
The end result is nothing short of spectacular. A top-of-the-line Barco DLP video projector mounted to the coffered wooden ceiling shoots images to a 110-inch Da-Lite screen. The projector contains not one DLP chip but three: one each for reproducing the red, green and blue colors that make up the picture on the screen. Three-chip DLP projectors are more expensive than the more common one-chip models, but the three chips produce a smoother, more refined image. The audio was taken up a notch as well. Instead of the usual seven-speaker surround-sound setup, this theater boasts nine speakers. The front three units are built into the wall on either side of the screen, while the six others are tucked into the side and rear walls. Each speaker is driven by its own amplifier to ensure that every inch of the room is blanketed with amazingly realistic sound.
Even the furnishings were given modern touches. The Mission-style seats, for example, feature spring-loaded cup holders and were designed so that the seat bottoms move forward to save space when they are inclined. The pendant lights, meanwhile, are connected to a control system that enables them to be brightened or dimmed to different settings based on what’s happening in the room. For example, when the family wants to grab a snack during a movie, they touch the intermission button on the Crestron touchpanel, and specific lights brighten slightly so that people can see their way to the mini fridge built into the bar at the back of the room. Controls found on the room’s built-in Crestron keypads and a portable web tablet can be used to engage a lighting system, operate the theater and manage the systems upstairs. There are also preset lighting scenes for watching movies, presenting video slide shows and singing karaoke, which happens to be one of the family’s favorite ways to use the room. A 21-inch LCD screen on top of a moveable Mission-style TV stand allows singers to easily read the song lyrics. The karaoke system also includes a wireless microphone and a small camera that captures the performances for playback on the home theater screen or on any TV in the house.
When the family isn’t putting on their own show, they can watch video from sources including a high-definition satellite receiver and two 400-disc DVD changers. An Escient DVDM Movie Manager displays on the touchpanel a list of the DVDs loaded in the changers. Scrolling through the list, the family can quickly find the flick they want and cue the show. When the movie is over, the room goes back to an earlier era, where the family feels equally comfortable spending time. But the modern technology that functions so naturally in this historical home can spring to life at a moment’s notice, never overpowering the room’s unique style.
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