DIY Home Theaters
DIYer Turns Basement into Theater, Kitchenette
Chris Martino took his L-shaped basement space and turned it into a full theater - complete with a kitchenette.
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Chris Martino embraced his L-shaped basement and built a theater with a kitchenette.
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August 11, 2009 by Rachel Cericola

Not all basements are perfect. Some have spiderwebs and leaks. Others just have weird shapes. Chris Martino’s basement has an L shape — at least the part that’s usable.

Of course, the room with the water heater, furnace and other home necessities may literally be the hot spot, but it’s not where he and his wife Beth want to spend quality time. So the couple took the rest of the underground space and turned it into a home theater, which opens up to a kitchenette area. Yes, there’s a bathroom, too. Let the movie marathons begin!

Chris was sold on that space from the very start. “From the beginning, I more or less embraced the L-shape,” Chris says. “I considered closing in the theater completely, but quickly decided that a more open space was really what I wanted.”

A big open space doesn’t mean that the project didn’t have its challenges. A lally column separating the theater and kitchen areas made things difficult. Instead of bumping into the structure on your way in and out, a few tweaks to the bar area added to the design element, while making the transition between rooms seamless. 

Chris wanted this theater no matter what the challenges were. “I’ve always been into computers, gadgets and technology,” he says. “Combine that with reading the AVS Forum for a number of years prior and you’ve got a recipe for disaster—at least as far as the bank account is concerned.” Still, when he moved into his current house in 2005, “a space for a dedicated theater was a high priority.”

Chris and Beth did most of the work, including the:

  • Framing
  • Low-voltage wiring
  • Insulation
  • Finish carpentry
  • Paint, wood and tile floors
  • Cabinets
  • A/V equipment installation
  • Decor

When it came to some of the other work, the duo decided to call in a few subcontractors to help with the job. Chris says that the time and effort saved by having someone do the electrical and drywall was worth every penny.

“Hiring out the drywall alone probably saved us a month on the build,” he says. That wasn’t the only outside help that Chris called on, though. He also received a lot of general construction advice from his father, Bob, a former carpenter.

Thankfully, his contractors completed some of the tasks, because Chris had other issues to contend with. He needed electricity around the riser, for both lighting and the Bass Shakers. “This required me cutting a 7-foot trench in the concrete floor through which I ran PVC conduit for the high and low voltage lines,” he says. Naturally, that wasn’t quite as much fun as picking out carpets and A/V equipment.

Another challenge was choosing the right screen. Chris had originally hoped to build his own acoustically transparent screen using SheerWeave 4500 material. “After researching techniques for building a quality frame, I basically chickened out,” he admits. “I am much more confident with rough construction [framing] than with the finish work.” Instead, he went with an AVS favorite, SmX Screens.

Most of the other A/V equipment is mounted under the basement stairs behind a tinted-glass door. Chris framed out the opening in the wall and created some custom shelving to accommodate the space. Earlier this year, he also added a home theater PC, which is used for streaming TV, music and web video. Chris says he would eventually like to add a TV tuner to the PC setup, complete with DVR functionality.

For now, though, Chris is very pleased with how immersive the room is. “Since the screen is acoustically transparent, there are no visual distractions and the sound comes from directly behind the image instead of from below and way off to the sides,” he says. “Combine that with the wider 2.37:1 aspect ratio, Bass Shakers installed in the seats, and a darker color scheme… you get sucked right in!”

It’s an easy lure, too, because you basically never have to leave the underground level. There’s a kitchen and bathroom; what else would an enthusiast need?

When designing this space, Chris had originally wanted a more traditional wet bar. However, he couldn’t figure out how to deal with the plumbing and still keep the space open. Today, the spot includes cabinets, a sink, a small refrigerator/freezer, a microwave, and granite countertops. Oh—there’s also a few “necessities,” such as a 42-bottle wine cellar, a popcorn machine and a beer kegerator. Chris is pleased, saying that the spot is perfect for entertaining. “Having a wet bar or kitchenette as well as a bathroom made the basement a complete entertaining space with no need to access the rest of the house.”

For a better look at Chris Martino’s L-shaped space, check out the pics in our our slideshow or take a video tour.


Quick Hits
Location: Massachusetts
Year Completed: 2008
Room Size: 32 x 13.3 feet
Length of Project: 6 months
Total Cost: $35,000

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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
AuraSound Aura Pro Bass Shakers (6)
BASH Subwoofer Amplifier
Berkline 13175 Home Theater Seats (6)
Comcast HD DVR
Denon 3808ci Receiver
Logitech Harmony 680 Universal Remote
Logitech Harmony PS3 IR Adapter
Monitor Audio RS6 Front Speakers (2)
Monitor Audio RSFX Rear Speakers (4)
Monitor Audio RSLCR Center-Channel Speaker
Nintendo Wii
Panasonic PT-AE3000 Projector
SmX Cinema Solutions 129-inch ProLine Screen (2.37:1)
Sony PlayStation 3
SVSound PC-13 Ultra Subwoofer
Thecus N5200 1.5TB RAID5 NAS
X10 Powermid IR Repeater

Home Theater PC
2.7GHz Dual-Core Pentium
4GB RAM
500GB Hard Drive
DVD +/-RW drive
Microsoft Entertainment Desktop 7000 Keyboard/Mouse
Microsoft Windows 7
NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GT Motherboard
Silverstone LC17B case


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