Giddy Up in This Wild Western Theater
These homeowners corralled plenty of design elements, including some from a local steakhouse and saloon, to create their themed theater.
BRONZE WINNER: Best Themed Theater
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July 21, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

Inspiration for home theater design can come from just about anywhere. A restaurant is rare, but Homer Simpson would be proud of where Kurt and Kelly Santoro were inspired: Cool Hand Luke’s, a California steakhouse and saloon chain. Mmmmmmm … steak, beer and home theater.

While the fixins at this old west-style restaurant might be tasty, it’s the decorative visual feast that really caught the Santoros’ eye when they were thinking about turning part of their big garage into a theater.

With a nudge from Jay Cobb of custom electronics firm Hi-Tech Home in Clovis, Calif., the homeowners circled the wagons and agreed that a western theme fit their lifestyle and locale perfectly. The result combines enough steak and sizzle to challenge the Cool Hand Luke’s tagline as “The Coolest Joint in Town.” (Click here to view photos and more info.)

“He does taxidermy, and he’s got a big barn in the back that he runs his business out of that has a cool western theme to it. Originally when we were talking about design we were discussing a more traditional theater look with the woodwork, columns, colors,” says Cobb.

“Then it dawned, why go with a traditional setup? A western theme is more intact with their casual lifestyle out here [in rural California], so why not carry the business into the home, but not to the extreme where they have stuffed animals in the room, just a comfortable, cozy atmosphere. They were excited about it, and liked a lot of the stuff in Cool Hand Luke’s restaurant.”

After scoping out the interior of Cool Hand Luke’s, Cobb created a “designer’s palette” that consisted of potential materials, ideas, color combinations, decorations and more. Stephens Construction in Madera, Calif., was brought in to serve as general contractor for the job, which involved renovating a garage space used for storage rather than a car.

The GC worked closely with Hi-Tech Home on the planning so it could incorporate appropriate dimensions and aesthetics for building the walls and ceiling, cutting in HVAC ductwork and running power to necessary locations, for example. Hi-Tech Home developed a “power layout diagram” to specify where it would place the projector, equipment cabinet, two subwoofers, four sconces and can lights.

As for the aesthetics, some elements made the cut, while others made the cutting room floor. Distressed wooden beams, a heavy wood door and rustic iron hardware were in. So were Cool Hand Luke’s details like the bluish, acid-washed treatment on the tin ceiling, textured drywall plaster finish and exposed brick (Cobb conceded the latter two despite acoustical concerns), and beige carpet. Features that could have enhanced the theme, such as leather seats dotted with big nail heads and antler-laden sconces, were toned down to a more basic design.

How’s the performance? With a setup that includes a Panasonic projector, 92-inch Vutec screen and full 7.2-channel Sonance and Sunfire surround sound, we’re guessing Homer would drool over that, too.

How Much to Pony Up?
The Santoros liked the quality of the home theater they experienced at Hi-Tech Home’s showroom, which contains an affordable mix of products. Because their home was not new construction and some heavy remodeling would be required to convert half of their garage into a theater room (like constructing a dividing wall, for instance), the project expanded a bit past their original $25,000 budget and about doubled the couple of months Hi-Tech Home had estimated it would take to complete the job. “There were no major catastrophes,” noted custom electronics pro Jay Cobb, however. Here’s a breakdown of where the budget went:
Seating $5,900
Carpet $1,750
Lighting $600
Ceiling $1,000
General contractor $8,500
Woodwork $7,500
Electronics and design $16,121
Total: $41,371

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for and Electronic House magazine.

Systems Design and Installation
Hi-Tech Home
Clovis, Calif.

General Contractor
Stephens Construction
Madera, Calif.

Equipment List
1 Panasonic PT-AE4000U Projector
1 VuTec VuEasy 92” Screen
1 Sanus VMPR1 Projector ceiling mount
1 Denon AVR-4310CI A/V Receiver
1 Samsung BDP-3600 Blu-Ray/DVD Player
1 VUDU XL Movie Purchase/Rental Device
1 Sonance Symphony Cabinet LCR
2 Sonance Symphony S622C Cabinet Speakers
2 Sonance Symphony S623T In-Wall Speakers
2 Sonance Symphony S623TR In-Ceiling Speakers
2 Sunfire HRS-10 Subwoofers
1 Control4 C4-HC300-E-B Controllers
1 Control4 LSZ-101-W Intelligent Switch
2 Control4 LDZ-101-W Intelligent Dimmers
1 Tripplite HT1000UPS Surge Protector/Battery Backup
1 Holovision CFM-27 Cabinet Fan
1 Active Thermal Management System 2 cooling kit

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