Sometimes form follows function, sometimes function follows form. In the case of this gorgeous home theater in Fresno, Calif., the design choices were first and foremost … and they’re certainly the first thing likely to grab your attention. Red colors pop throughout, an illuminated flower blossoms overhead in the ceiling’s dome, framed acoustic panels glow in LED lighting, and rich curtains add a dramatic touch to “showtime.”
It’s not always ideal when custom electronics pros must heed strict guidelines from an interior designer on a tech project, but Hi-Tech Home, Clovis, Calif., teamed with award-winning designer Michael Weil to deliver plenty of A/V sizzle and aesthetic splash. “His thing is that he never wants to do anything the same way twice,” Hi-Tech Home’s Chris Green says of Weil.
Unique would certainly describe the hand-painted flower ceiling dome, which Green says is a visual element that Weil wanted to work into the room from the beginning. Plus the homeowners can brighten, dim and make the color-changing LEDs up there “chase” each other around thanks to a remote operating the Control4 automation system. The reddish hue of the LEDs washing over the acoustic panels does not change color, but as with the dome, as soon as the owners press a button to start a movie the lights fade while the curtains part and the electronics spring into action.
In tandem with Da-Lite’s motorized masking for its 133-inch screen, the Control4 system knows whether to unveil the screen in a 2.35:1 or 16:9 aspect ratio, depending on if the homeowners select the 400-disc Sony Blu-ray changer as the source (2.35:1, since its mainly movie content) or satellite TV or Apple TV (16:9 mode), plus the masking can be changed manually with a button press. The horizontal masking fabric will cover the extra space on the sides of the 2.35:1-shaped screen when the narrower 16:9 content is showing.
(View images of this home theater here)
Weil did not want any electronics to be seen until there was a movie playing, so Hi-Tech Home installed motorized velvet drapes in front of the screen and hid the Digital Projection M-Vision LED projector within the ceiling on a customized Inca lift. There’s little wasted space in the lift design, so Hi-Tech Home had to program the electronics shutdown sequence into the Control4 system in a way that automatically removes the projector’s motorized anamorphic lens away from the regular lens before the projector could rise into the ceiling (the anamorphic lens is used for the 2.35:1 super-wide movies). “There’s no room for play on that at all, probably a half-inch between the front of the lens and the lip of the lift,” says Green, noting that recessing the projector was not an option with the cement rear wall.
The surround-sound speakers and subwoofers are also concealed (see sidebar), as is all the A/V gear—it’s not even in the room. Two packed, full-size Middle Atlantic racks that serve the entire home along with the theater are stored behind glass doors in a hallway of this multifaceted lower level. There’s also a gym, sauna and wine room, and you must pass through the wine room to get to the theater, whose exterior doesn’t let on to the grandeur that awaits. “It’s a standard wooden door leading into the room,” Green says, “and then when you go in and there’s all the LED lighting it’s quite a wow factor.”
Seven James Loudspeaker 803BE in-wall speakers and two 12-inch Velodyne subwoofers belt out 7.1-channel surround sound. Fed by separate Sherbourn amplifier and preamp/processor components, the speakers can be heard loud and clear but are pretty well kept from view. The outline of the front speakers can be made out but they blend into the red screen wall, while subs are up front behind a stationary set of curtains and the side and rear surround speakers are behind acoustic panels. Hi-Tech Home went through about a dozen fabric samples before finding one that was transparent enough to let the surround speakers ring through.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.