Every time the owners step foot into their golden home theater, they feel as if they’ve traveled back in time to their Italian honeymoon.
Consider this: A regular everyday person—not a big-name, highly-in-demand interior designer—masterminded every single detail of this elegant private screening room outside of Los Angeles.
While the wife doesn’t have any formal interior design training, she bravely orchestrated all of her home’s interiors from top to bottom.
“I know what I like,” Kim Banducci says. “It’s in my head, and sometimes it’s difficult to verbalize, but I know it when I see it.”
At first blush, the theater’s aesthetics appear utterly simplistic with its monochromatic color palette and minimalist embellishments.
The look of the space is so easy on the eye that none of the carefully crafted architectural detailing or design flourishes will cause any guest to do a double take—nor do those flourishes distract from the film at hand. Even the streamlined leather theater seating melts into the background instead of competing for a second look. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s clear that the room’s visual artistry is as complex and ornate as Florence, Italy’s famed gilt-bronze Baptistry doors.
Even the intricately stitched acoustic wall fabric echoes the stunning craftsmanship of the handmade gowns worn by those who passed through the historic doorway. The owners of this theater admit that last year’s Roman Holiday in Italy influenced their theater’s design deeply.
“Everything in Italy is in the molding and the details,” Banducci says, adding her company provides security services to the largest commercial movie theaters around the world, including the Kodak Theater, which stages the Oscars.
“Italy’s streets are literally lined with marble,” she says. To that end, Banducci found a way to re-create Italy’s stone-laden vias in her screening room in the form of backlit onyx marble panels, each of which strategically lines the bottom portions of the theater’s side walls.
A soft light blushes through the marble slabs, lending a romantic glow to the space while illuminating the tiered theater aisles for ease of movement. In a nod to Italy’s richly decorated villa and palace walls, the panels of goldstitched, flora-patterned acoustic fabric— which Banducci found after scouring L.A. Mart’s showrooms for several days—are framed by multiple layers of gold-gilded crown molding.
Each hand-selected layer of crown molding, as well as the perfect arrangement of crown molding for each area, took an untold number of hours. “Just the chair railing itself has eight different pieces of molding,” she continues. After the molding company J.P. Weaver carefully placed Banducci’s custom-cut pieces for the baseboard design, she realized the intricate detailing of the elaborate woodworking was lost, so it was back to the drawing board.
“Luckily the general contractor was patient with me,” she says, adding that she worked with professional colorist Phillpa Radon (who also works with Ralph Lauren) to ensure the palette of more than 20 paints work together seamlessly to complement all of the architectural elements.
“We created mock designs on one wall and changed them if I did not like them,” Banducci says. “We did not want the whole room to look the same.”
The owners’ beloved memories of Italy’s grand villas and duomos came into play when designing the theater’s “sundown” ceiling of bronze, brown, taupe and gold.
The famed celestial ceilings in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas also contributed to the theater’s heavenly ceiling scene. “We didn’t want it to be gaudy,—we wanted a classic, breathtaking look,” Banducci says. “We wanted to be able to walk into the theater 20 years later and think that the design is timeless.”
The theater’s original rooftop design called for each corner to be punctuated with a medallion-like, carved-wood cornice. Banducci decided against those concentric accent pieces in the end, fearing they would overpower the cloud scene. Numerous layers of recessed lighting, which spills over much of the room’s crown moulding, cast a warm glow on the sundown scene. The wall sconces are from Fine Art Lamps’ catalogue. What started out as a simple space evolved into a much more involved design, both from a visual and a technological standpoint. In the beginning, the husband envisioned building a living room-like environment that revolved around a wall-mounted 71-inch plasma TV.
Knowing such a setup wouldn’t deliver a bonafide theater experience, the wife and custom installer, Los Angeles’ Future Home owner Murray Kunis, quickly talked the husband out of that media room design approach. Soon enough, with the guidance of Kunis, the couple was learning about high-end projectors and automation possibilities. Once they saw how much fun they could have with the technology, the theater system grew in sophistication.
“They love the Kaleidescape,” Kunis says of the movie and media management technology. Kunis’ team wrote the software for the touchscreen’s video overlay, which allows the homeowners to select a movie by touching the DVD title on the touchscreen instead of having to cursor through a list. “It’s much easier to use instead of having to look up at the screen and use the up/down/left/right touchscreen button,” says Kunis, a classically trained musician who has been installing highend home theaters and doing Crestron programming for 20 years.
“We’ve been designing THX theaters since 1991,” says the music engineer who graduated from the University of Miami—one of the top music-engineering programs in the world. “It’s a given that the room has to be easy to use, a given that it provides a theatrical experience, and a given that it has Dolby sound that’s encompassing.”
Working within the framework of a 425-square-foot room with an 8-foot ceiling—one of the lowest ceilings Kunis has worked with in a theater of this scale—was a challenge, especially when the ultimate goal of creating a “theatrical experience” translates into fitting a 10- or 11-foot video screen into a space that’s less than 23 feet deep—all while carefully executing the perfect seating plan to accommodate the perfect sightline to the screen.
“The coolest thing,” he says, “is that we were able to create a very comfortable room in a limited space with a low ceiling for six to 10 people. The logistics of the room are very comfortable with no compromise of performance.” But Kunis did more than deliver a jawdropping theater system: He saved the couple’s marriage.
“When my husband was laid up after having ankle surgery and was ordered to stay off his foot for at least four weeks, he set up camp in the home theater and barely left the room,” Banducci says, adding that her husband, a retired LAPD and SWAT Team member, typically exercises two to three hours a day after working a 12-hour day. Not exactly your sit-still-for-long kind of guy. “He could recline and watch movies and Fox News,” she says. “He brought his office into the theater so he could work. It was a godsend.”
Ask any systems integrator how early they need to become involved with a construction project and the answer you receive will invariably be “before the beginning.” General contractors aren’t custom installers, after all, so they’re often unaware of the seemingly esoteric requirements of home theater and whole-house entertainment.
As a result, custom installers aren’t always afforded the luxury of early involvement in home-building projects. “The shell of the theater was already built by the time we were brought in,” Kunis says, “and the ceiling height was lower that we would have liked, so making everything fit was a challenge.” Kunis had to figure out how to create a comfortable line of sight, get all of the theater seating to fit and still deliver a wide enough image.
“We wanted a 35-degree or 40-degree field of view, so that means we needed an 11-foot screen. We had to figure out how to accomplish that with the restrictive ceiling height,” he says. Once Kunis accommodated the line-of-sight issues, though, the rest of the room fell in place. Fortunately, the space was fairly deep—at 23 feet—relative to the other dimensions. “That’s important because you lose a little more than 2 feet at the front of the room because of the screen wall and subwoofers,” Kunis says.
The screen in question is a Stewart Filmscreen Luxus Screenwall with an ultra-wide 2.35:1 cinematic aspect ratio. In addition, the room is equipped with a JBL Synthesis Two Array System—a complete home theater solution featuring an audio processor, equalizer, crossover, amplifiers, and speakers. “We love the JBL Synthesis Systems because you don’t have to mix and match and try to hope that things work together,” Kunis says. “All of the components have been pre-engineered to work together. They all meet THX standards, and you’re getting a complete system from the premier name in professional theater sound.”
Kunis and his team did make one slight tweak to the system, though: “Although this is the Synthesis Two Array, we’re using Synthesis One [subwoofers]. Often, in rooms that call for the Synthesis Two, you don’t have room for bigger subwoofers. Fortunately we had room here to upgrade to the larger series.”
But they didn’t have room to raise the ceiling or lower the floor since the theater is located above the garage, and the roof was already in place. “I would like to have had 2 more feet of ceiling height, but it wasn’t necessary in the end. Once we did the initial engineering and figured out the line-of-sight issues, it actually went really smoothly. Little things always pop up, but nothing that required more than a two-minute conversation.”—Dennis Burger
Custom Installer: Future Home of Los Angeles, Calif.
General Contractor: Joseph Kearney Construction of Newhall, Calif.
Crestron Pro2 processor with ethernet
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Crestron PW-2410RU Regulated Universal Power Pack 24VDC, 1A (25 Watts)
Crestron TPS-4000 Isys 10.4” Tilt Touchpanel
DirecTV HR21 HD satellite receiver
Kaleidescape DVD Server System
JBL Synthesis system including:
SDP-5 THX Ultra 2 Surround Processor/System Controller
SDEC-3000 Synthesis 8-Channel Digital Equalizer
S7150 THX Power Amplifier
S800 THX Power Amplifier
SAM1HF Synthesis Array THX Horn Modules and SAM2LF Synthesis Array THX Dual 8” Low-Frequency Modules (3)
S1S-EX 18-Inch THX Ultra2 Subwoofers (2)
S4A Vertical or Horizontal Multipolar Flush-Mount THX Surround Loudspeakers (6)
Liberty Wire & Cable interconnects
Middle Atlantic rack and hardware
Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U D-VHS VCR
Monster Home Theater Reference HTS 5100 MKII PowerCenter
Monster interconnects and speaker cable
Runco VX-22d DLP Projector w/DHD II Video Controller/Processor and CineWide
Stewart Filmscreen 2.35:1 Luxus screen with Electrimask
Sony BDP-S1 Blu-Ray Disc Player