DIYer Creates Relaxed Vibe in Media Room
Whether you're watching the big screen or plasma TV, surfing the web via the HTPC or playing pool, Mike McFaul wants you to chill in his basement media room.
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June 01, 2009 by Krissy Rushing

When Mike McFaul first purchased his home back in 2001, he looked at the 1970s-style basement and instantly thought “home theater.”

Mike’s idea of home theater, however isn’t the formal style you find on the pages of many home theater magazines, with theater seats and hidden gear. “I saw a picture of a guy with equipment behind his couch, and used that as an inspiration,” says Mike. “I loved the look of the exposed gear. All those twinkling lights, but I also wanted a family room where my newly adopted three-month-old daughter Phoebe could play.”

Mike wanted the room to have a relaxed vibe—the perfect spot for sitting on the sectional, watching television, surfing the Internet on the big screen via the HTPC, viewing Netflix movies, and more.

“I wanted it to be more encompassing and connected than the traditional home theater.” And the basement entertainment complex certainly expands upon this goal. It’s 1,000 square feet, which gave Mike room for an office with a long bookshelf, a pool table, and a workout area. 

McFaul, unlike some of the DIYers we profile on ElectronicHouse.com, was not a skilled handyman before he began the project. “This was first real handyman foray!” he says.

He hired out the electrical and canister lights, but did the drywall himself and built the screen. “It’s pretty simple, you just use blackout fabric that you can buy at places like Joann’s fabric, Velcro it on to some aluminum, and you have the same gain as some more expensive screens,” he says. “Because the fabric is used to block out sunlight, it makes it very bright!”

While he was able to pull off this DIY feat without a hitch, it doesn’t change the fact that for Mike, the build out was the most difficult challenge of the project.

When it came to picking out equipment, things got a little easier for this DIYer. Mike takes an upgrade approach to getting the best possible gear in his system. He does his research and selects components based on both his needs and wants.

“I’d gone through several receivers in the past four years, starting with a Dolby Pro Logic model, upgrading to Dolby Digital, and then I needed an HDMI model,” says McFaul. “I settled on the Onkyo TX SR606, which has four HDMI outs, and I get a great HD image.” That’s in no small part due to the Panasonic AX200U projector shining on that DIY screen, which replaced a Mitsubishi projector McFaul had purchased from a friend.

“I wanted to mount the projector in the rack, I didn’t want it suspended from the ceiling.” McFaul also upgraded to a high-def TiVo, which was built around a home theater PC that McFaul built himself. His background working as a project manager for a computer company didn’t hurt in that effort.

“I am forever tweaking. My wife hates it. I start a movie, but then I say ‘I just need to adjust this one thing.’”

For watching older movies on DVD, like his favorite Jimmy Stewart flicks, McFaul uses a DVDO iScan HD video processor to upscale DVDs for better image quality. “I love old movies and I also love new movies, so it was important to get the best quality I could out of both.”

In the future, Mike wants to get another couple of flat panels to watch multiple sporting events in addition to the 45-inch plasma that sits next to the screen. But when it comes down to it, this is a room for the family, first and foremost. In fact, Mike can’t wait for his new daughter to be able to watch Wall-E on the big screen.

Click here to view additional photos.

Quick Hits:
Location: Glen Ellyn, IL
Year Completed: 2005
Room Size: 1,000 square feet (theater & pool table area = 20x26)
Length of Project: Basement - 3 years, Home Theater - 3 months
Total Cost: $25,000

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Equipment List

Projector- Panasonic PT AX200U
Receiver- Onkyo TX-SR606
DVDO - IScan HD
Sony PS-3
HTPC-Intel 2.4 Ghz
DVD- Toshiba HD-A2WKU
DirecTV H-21
DirecTV HR-20
DirecTV HD-10/250
Speakers – PSB Speakers
Screen - DIY Wilsonart Designer White Laminate, Aluminum Frame


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