DIYer Builds Texas Themed Theater


A DIYer from Big D adds some Lone Star flavor to his home theater.

Aug. 11, 2008 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

A little bit of sawdust, a cowhide rug and a mechanical bull go a long way toward infusing a Texas theme in a space, but not in this refined home theater, dubbed the Lone Star Theater by owner Terry Williams. “We are Dallas natives, but we didn’t want this to look like ‘Billy Bob’s’ Texas. It’s not a country and western feel, it’s more like a tribute to the small theaters you would find in old Texas towns like Waxahachie or Hillsboro,” says Terry. With this as inspiration, Williams began thinking about his theater, making other goals like getting the best possible sound and image quality for his budget, which was originally under $20,000. “I figured if I did most of the construction myself, we would save a bundle there,” he says. 

When Terry and his wife, Susan, were hunting for a new house, they looked for one with some sort of bonus room that could be used as a theater. Once they found that house, however, the decision to build a home theater still wasn’t final. “I sell swimming-pool equipment for a living, and we had been juggling the ideas of a swimming pool or a theater. We figured we could do either for about the same amount of money,” says Terry. “The only difference with a home theater is that I could do a lot of the work myself, which would save us a little. So we decided to go with the theater.” 

The room selected for the theater was at the top of the stairs and was serving as a game room. The problem was, there was only half a wall separating the room from the hallway. “It was not an enclosed room, you could look right down the stairwell,” says Terry. One of the first things he had to do was build the wall up to the ceiling to completely enclose the room and separate it from the rest of the home. “I did a lot of research online to figure out where I wanted to go with the theater,” says Williams. “And for a year, my wife didn’t see me as I isolated myself up there.” 

In fact, Williams did the construction himself, including all the electrical and interior trimwork, pilasters, risers, and columns. He did, however, have someone lay the carpet and the granite on the top of the bar at the rear of the room. He also had Magnolia Home Theater come in to do a theater consultation and install the equipment, with the exception of the speakers and speaker wiring. “I could have figured out the equipment installation myself, but Magnolia’s fees were minimal, compared to the amount of time they actually spent with me,” says Terry. “I had purchased a lot of appliances and electronics from them, so I was able to take advantage of their no-interest financing plan for this large purchase.”

Of course, Williams had no idea how long the entire project was going to take, and had overshot his projected “due date” by six months. When Susan gave him a deadline of Christmas Eve, 2006, Terry struggled to meet it, pressured even further by the fact that family and friends were coming over that night for a movie premier. One minor snafu occurred when Magnolia came to install the equipment on December 23, and realized that Terry had chosen to hide the equipment in a closet at the back of the room. “We needed an RF base station for the remote to work through the wall, and Magnolia was here until early in the morning on the eve of Christmas Eve, tweaking the remote.” There was also the small issue of the Screen Innovations screen being on back order. Magnolia had to have it over-nighted and installed in a pinch. “The last two weeks before Christmas were really rough,” says Terry. 

The decision to put the equipment in a closet coincides with Williams’ desire that the theater not have a lot of visible equipment. Originally, he was going to install in-wall speakers to further this effect. However, because he wanted to enjoy music in the theater as well, he chose to go with richer-sounding Definitive Technology on-wall speakers and floorstanding Martin Logan Dynamo subwoofers. He also installed a hush box around the projector so you can’t see it when sitting in any of the six tan Berkline Sedona leather theater chairs. 

In terms of décor and the finishing touches, Williams got inspiration from what was available. “We went to Lowes and found these great star motif wooden blocks that we mounted over sconce lighting to go along with the Texas theme,” says Williams. The star over the screen came from a decorative iron fence dealer. It is lit from behind with an under-cabinet kitchen light. Original movie posters that were either given to Williams as a gift or that he purchased at online auctions adorn the walls, including “Young Frankenstein” (a pivotal movie for Terry growing up) and “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Williams did go over his original budget on equipment, but he “figured if [he was] going to do it anywhere, do it there.” He saved on the Screen Innovations 100-inch Theater Reference screen, the Sharp XVZ3000 720p projector (instead of a more expensive 1080p model), and by running only component video cable instead of the more costly HDMI. “Only a true videophile would know the difference,” says Terry. 

With Williams doing 90 percent of the labor, the family ended up spending about $25,000, with equipment accounting for about $12,000 of that, and a large portion dedicated to buying the proper tools, such as an electric miter saw and a nail gun, needed to do the job right. 

Not only was Terry able to show a screening of that Christmas Classic, Pink Floyd’s Pulse Concert, on Christmas Eve 2006, he and Susan continue to enjoy the theater on a daily basis, whether alone, accompanied by family, or throwing a small party.  “It was like nothing I have ever done before,” says Terry. “Getting started was the hard part . . . enjoying the theater is the easy part.” 

Quick Hits:
Length of Project: 1 year
Starting Budget: Under $20,000
Ending Budget: $25,000
Theater Dimensions: 18 wide x 22 deep x 10 high

Sharp XVZ3000 HD DLP Projector
Pioneer Elite VSX82TXi Receiver
Denon 1930CI Disc Player
Definitive Technologies Mythos Two On-wall Speakers (4)
Definitive Technologies Mythos Three Center Channel Speaker
Martin Logan Dynamo Subwoofers (2)
Screen Innovations Reference Series 100-inch Screen
Panamax 5300 Line Conditioner
Universal Remote Control MX-850 and RF Base Station
Berkline 090 Power Reclining Theater Seats (6)
Lutron Spacer Lighting Control

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