Sometimes it’s tough to squeeze enough seats into your home theater space. There are a couple of ways you can make room for more chairs and couches. The first is to build risers on the floor to create a stadium-style seating effect. Each level gets progressively higher, which allows people in the back rows to see clearly over the heads of people in the front rows of seats. In the past, home theater designers simply placed the last row of seats against the back wall—not a good look. A better design is to build a bar at the back of your theater, where barstools can serve as your last row of seating. Depending on the size of the room, you’ll be able to line up several chairs in this area, adding another seating option for your family and friends. “If the room is longer than 26 feet, there’s usually enough space to fit in a bar,” says Al DeGaetano of Futureview TV Services in Elysburg, PA.
A bar offers other benefits than simply extra seating… “It provides a more social seating area,” says DeGaetano. “We’ve found that barstools are the first seats chosen in a home theater. People just naturally gravitate toward tables.
Having a table in a theater can be helpful to families who plan to use the room for more than just movie viewing. For example, it’s ideally suited for drinks and food. “The TV dinner has been around for more than 50 years, so having a place to eat while you watch a movie just makes sense,” says DeGaetano. During parties and sporting events the bar can function as a buffet table for all your snacks. Families with small children will benefit from having a place where the kids can drink and eat without messing up the upholstery on the cinema seats. If spills are a concern, carpet the area in front of the bar only and use an easy-to-clean surface like tile or hardwood flooring at the back by the bar. To make it convenient to get to all your beverages and munchies, consider outfitting the area with its own sink, ice maker, microwave oven and refrigerator and wine cooler.
A bar also provides a place to read, play cards or quietly socialize without interfering with the action on-screen. “We had one client who used the bar area to smoke cigars while his family watched a movie,” says DeGaetano. If you plan to use the bar for activities other than movie watching, be sure to design the area as its own zone, separate from the viewing zone. For this cigar smoker, this meant outfitting the space with a special fan that would expel the smoke. Lights in the bar should be kept on a separate circuit so they can be on while the lights in the viewing area are off. “With today’s high-lumen projectors, you can keep the lights on in the back of the room without any worries about washing out the picture,” says DeGaetano.
With a bar in the room you won’t have any worries about storage, either. Your entire audio/video system can hide out behind the bar along with all your media, game consoles and other gear.
Last but not least, having a bar at the back of your theater will also provide a nicer looking backdrop for the room than a row of seats pushed up against the wall. You’ll be able to dress of the space with rich woodwork, colored fiber-optic rope lighting, custom artwork—the sky’s the limit.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.