May 01, 2006
| by EH Staff
Home theater designers know a good space when they see one. It’s a room that’s rectangular shaped, has no windows and is large enough to fit in a huge screen. Unfortunately, those perfect rooms can be hard to find, especially when you’re working in a home that has already been built.
But this home theater proves that even an oddly shaped bonus room lined with many windows can be transformed into a sensational cinematic escape that rivals the best commercial Cineplex. The metamorphosis, however, was by no means easy to accomplish. The design crew at NXT Generation in Issaquah, WA, spent one day carefully measuring every nook and cranny; plotting out a practical seating arrangement; and calculating the exact placement of the 100-inch screen, surround-sound speakers and an enormous rack of audio and video components. After putting everything down on paper and getting a thumb’s up from the homeowners, it was time for the team to start building.
It would be a couple of months before the family would see the NXT crew in their house again. In an unprecedented move, company president James Safronek decided to construct the entire home theater, including the walls and ceiling, at the company’s facility. “The idea was that we would build a completely new room off-site first,” Safronek explains.
“Everything would be built to be modular so that it could be taken apart and then shipped to the home where we would rebuild it. From there, it would be like putting together a big Lego set.” The plan worked. In less than five days, the pieces were put back together, giving the homeowners a space that looked nothing like the original room. The front wall that had once featured a large window now held the screen. The bank of windows that used to line a side wall was covered with a brand new wall made of stately polished hardwood. Closets were closed off, and new ones were created. The handcrafted wooden shell completely changed the look of the room, giving it a sophisticated, theatrical feel, says Safronek. Rectangular, dark and isolated from the rest of the house, the space had been molded into a perfect theater environment … almost.
Borrowing techniques from the restaurant-design side of their business, the NXT crew felt that the family could benefit from having snacks and beverages close by, as well as a spot to just sit and converse. Hence, the Cin-A-Pub concept took shape. “We wanted the room to be able to function as a cinema and as a pub where the owners could feel free to just relax, even without a movie playing,” says Safronek. Seven bar stools and a granite-topped buffet were added behind the two rows of Cineak theater seats to create a cozy, convenient post-movie hangout.
While adding a pub was an easy decision for the family, NXT was torn over where to put it. The back of the room made sense, but because it was the only wall that had no windows, it was also a good choice for the screen. In the end, NXT utilized the front wall for the screen and the back wall for the pub, an arrangement that required a lot more work but gave the room a really nice flow.
And flow was definitely important to these homeowners, who have at times invited more than 30 people over for a night at the movies. In addition to the seven stools at the rear, there are two loveseats and four individual theater chairs to sink into. Having three different types of seats not only offers several seating options but also ensures that everyone has a great view of the movie. The loveseats in the second row were fitted with six-inch pedestals so that they sit slightly higher than the seats in the first row. The bar stools, meanwhile, provide a perfect perch for those who’d rather sit way in the back. “By choosing chairs of varying styles and heights, we were able to keep the floor flat so guests wouldn’t have to stumble over risers or steps,” Safronek says.
Of course, even the most comfortable and inviting theater means nothing without the right audio/video gear, and this place is stacked. A top-of-the-line Vidikron Vision 80 digital projector beams bright, beautiful images to the screen from a custom-crafted enclosure on the ceiling. Rated with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, it can reproduce images from any high-definition source without degradation. And there are plenty of video sources to choose from. A high-definition satellite receiver feeds hundreds of programs into the space, while an Escient Movie Manager grants the family one-touch access to every DVD they own. Using a portable AMX Modero touchscreen, they can access the Movie Manager to see a list of DVDs stored in the Sony 400-disc DVD changer, select the one they want and cue the projector and surround-sound system. If the occasion calls for it, they can press another button on the touchscreen to dim the lights and lower a pair of motorized Lutron Sivoia QED blackout shades.
The audio and video components that comprise the home theater are great performers in their own right, but NXT made sure they lived up to their expectations through careful and thoughtful placement of each and every piece. The dual-wall design made it much easier for the crew to get all the parts in the right places. The open avenue between the walls afforded space to route cabling, to recess the Monitor Audio speakers and Sunfire subwoofers into the walls, and to add layers of Kinetics acoustical materials to improve the room’s sound. Once the original closets were closed off, NXT created a new storage area for the Sony DVD player, the satellite receiver, the amps and other necessary equipment.
To further simplify the job of wiring the space, a valance was constructed around the perimeter of the room. “We strategically placed access points around the valance, so that if we ever need to redo or add cabling, we can simple open up portions of valance and get to the wire,” explains Safronek. Last but not least, a door was added to the front wall so that the installers could reach the back of the screen. But given how well the Cin-A-Pub looks and performs, the family may never have to reach behind the magic shell.