DIYer Adds Classic Touch to Garage Theater
Steve Mize has put a spin on the classic theater -- as well as the classic do-it-yourself approach.
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September 02, 2008 by Rachel Cericola

Steve Mize is a fan of the classics. “When I was little, going to the theater was a pretty special event; bigger than life,” he says. However, it wasn’t his childhood that inspired this spin on an older era of theater. “I don’t know if one can be nostalgic for a period they didn’t experience, but the time period of the ’40s and ’50s really resonates with me.”

Go up the stairwell towards the theater, and you’ll find an homage to Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and many other actors from the past. “They were the stars of that era and remain some of my favorites,” Steve says. There’s even a ticket booth, and a “Walk of Fame” tile at the entrance of the theater. However, Steve also added plenty of small touches to make the room his own. 

Oh—and yes, you have to go up. Another spin on the classic theater: Instead of going down into the basement, Steve put his palace on the entire top floor of his garage. 

At the top of the stairs, there’s a 16.5-by-10.5-foot concession area, as well as the equipment room. Steve designed the art deco molding on the stairwell, as well as the ceiling of the stairwell/concession area. This hides the rope lighting, which he says, “gives the room almost a neon light look that runs completely around.” Clear rope lighting illuminates the stairwell.

Steve was also thinking about more than his sweet tooth when it came to the candy counter. “The candy counter and cabinets were fabricated from some old office cabinets that were going to be thrown out,” he says. “They received an extreme makeover.” Steve added 8 inches of height, applied laminate to give them a burgundy tint, added a countertop to make it look marble, and a glass block corner that is backlit – “for a little extra kick.”

Steve’s theater is a classic, but it’s his ears that get to indulge in the real beauty. “When thinking about home theater, I think most people tend to emphasize the video, and that is how I first approached it with my budget,” he says. “As I got into it, I realized the sound is the most important of the two when trying to achieve that immersive experience.” After much research, Steve built the theater on a “floating floor” consisting of foam insulation sandwiched in between plywood—none of which is attached to the walls.  Those are acoustically treated and covered with GOM fabric. “Thanks to this acoustically transparent fabric and THX screen, none of the speakers in the 7.1 system are visible.” 

Inside “Deja View,” as Steve calls his theater room, you’ll find a big theater experience, complete with carefully chosen equipment. Steve researched his audio and video for about two years, both in print, on the AVS site, and by visiting various dealers. “I made the decision early on not to purchase any equipment until the room was ready,” he says. “The technology is improving so fast that you always get better equipment and usually cheaper equipment by waiting. At some point though, you just have to jump in.”

In the future, Steve plans to jump a bit farther, by upgrading his preamp processor to include HDMI (“I feel like I am missing out on the audio side a bit”), as well as screen and projector. “Having said all that, when I sit down to watch a movie, I don’t think about what I am missing,” he says. “It still looks and sounds pretty good.”

Quick Hits
Location: Norfolk, VA
Year Completed: 2004
Room Size: 16.5 x 23.5 feet
Length of Project: 18 Months
Total Cost: About $63,000

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.

Equipment List

Audiosource 100-Watt Monoblocks (3)
Audiosource 250-Watt Monoblock
Aura Bass Shakers (4)
Berkline 087 Cinema Seats (6)
Canare RG-6 & Connectors
Clark Synthesis Platinum Transducer
Denon DVD-3910 DVD Player
DirecTV HR20 HD DVR
JVC 40K HD VCR
JVC HX-1 DILA Projector
Lutron Grafik Eye 3104 Lighting Controller
M&K In-Wall Back Surround Speakers (2)
M&K THX 150 Speakers (5)
Middle Atlantic Slim 5 Equipment Rack
Parasound Halo C1 Processor
Parasound ZHD 5 x 1 HDMI Switch
Parasound ZTuner FM/AM Tuner
Pioneer BDP-94HD Blu-ray Player
Screen Research 110” 16:9 Screen
Sunfire Cinema Grand 200~seven Amplifier
SVS PB2-Ultra Subwoofer
Toshiba A1 HD DVD Player
Universal Remote Control MX-3000


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