Cool Homes
Hidden Home Theater
A home theater in an open circular room? And with the screen and front speakers facing five sets of windows and glass doors?
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When it’s movie time, this classical space is transformed into a theater. The screen descends in the front while a custom-crafted projector housing rises from a table in the rear of the room. Photo courtes Moulin Rouge - 2005 Twentieth Century Fox. Photo by Scott Arthur.
May 01, 2006 by EH Staff

A home theater in an open circular room? And with the screen and front speakers facing five sets of windows and glass doors? For many home theater designers, that’s their worst nightmare. Light from the windows and doors alone can wash out the best picture, and all that glass presents a harsh, reflective surface for sound. You couldn’t fault a home theater designer for running into the hills outside this western North Carolina home.

However, Scott Varn and Harmony Interiors stuck around for one very big reason: The homeowner is a big fan of classical music, and he wanted more of a “live” or reverberant room for enjoying favorites. In addition, says Varn, the open spaces around the room lent the audio system a more spacious sound—also ideal for enjoying some of the classics.

Like many classical music aficionados, this homeowner wanted accurate audio reproduction. So for front speakers, Varn chose Legacy’s Victoria line, featuring responsive ribbon tweeters and very quick woofer and midrange drivers. “It gets a lot more bass response out of a smaller sound, so you’re not getting these sustained booms,” Varn says. Paired with the Legacy speakers is a Triad subwoofer, chosen for its particularly tight-sounding bass.

The left and right Victoria speakers are out in the open, while the subwoofer and Victoria center channel are located below the screen and behind the fabric-covered cabinet doors.

In the back, a JVC D-ILA (Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier) projector rises from a table. D-ILA is a variant of the LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) projection technology that rivals popular DLP (digital light processing) systems and, according to many critics, produces a more smooth and film-like image.

But what to do about the windows and doors, with all that glass that could make even classical music ring and echo badly? Heavy drapes and blinds were the answers there. The drapes are mostly decorative and the blinds are thick and beveled to help diffuse sound evenly throughout the room.

The drapes are so heavy that carpenter John Forman rigged a wooden handle that pushes out the drapes and allows the blinds to descend easily. Forman also crafted the table in the back that the D-ILA projector rises from, with the legs carved out of wood to match the iron legs on the glass coffee table.

The woodwork was very important in this room—so important that Varn tried to match the wood ordered for the Legacy speakers to the beautiful alder used for the front cabinet. The only problem was that Legacy doesn’t offer an alder finish, so cherry was used. Then the speakers were left outside for awhile so the wood would darken to match the alder.

The homeowner does a lot of listening in good old two-channel stereo, so Varn and Harmony Interiors rigged the radio-frequency remote so when he chooses to listen to something stored on the Escient FireBall music server, only the left and right front speakers are used. The hard-drive-based FireBall is also used to provide classical music throughout the house.

The one thing this room doesn’t have? Motorized window treatments for the drapes and blinds. “He didn’t want that,” says Varn. “He’s a storyteller. He likes the warm up, so he can tell people what they’re about to see or hear while he’s pulling down the blinds.” We should have known—he’s a true classicist. EH

Equipment List:

  • Legacy Victoria front speakers (3)
  • Legacy Studio rear speakers (2)
  • Denon AVR-3805 receiver
  • Escient FireBall E-40 music server
  • Denon DVD-1710 DVD player
  • JVC DLA-HX2U D-ILA projector
  • Furman line conditioner
  • Auton lift system in custom cabinet

Systems Design
Harmony Interiors
Asheville, NC
www.harmonyinteriors.com

Architect: Warren Gresham

Custom Carpentry: John Forman

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