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:
General contractor $8,500
Electronics and design $16,121
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.