Starry Night Theater
Top-grade finishes give this space eye-popping appeal, even when there’s nothing on the screen.
March 31, 2011 by Lisa Montgomery

A home theater experience can be as much about the room as it is about the equipment. The owners of this 26-by-22-foot space adhered to that philosophy by contracting specialty home theater architectural and design firm First Impressions Theme Theatres of North Miami, Fla., to create a classy, sophisticated setting that is visually stunning even when a movie isn’t playing.

One of the most eye-catching features is the ceiling. The hand-painted sky and clouds behind a grid of mahogany hexagons takes on a three-dimensional quality. First Impressions infused the grids with fiber optic lighting—a mere 3 millimeters thick—to create a virtual star field where some of the stars appear close up, others far away. Another lighting scene triggers soft color hues to resemble the sky at dusk and dawn. For a nighttime effect, the color wash fades to black, and the realistic fiber-optic display of constellations and shooting stars takes center stage.

To cue the effects, the homeowners simply walk into the theater through a hidden door disguised as a mirrored wall panel. As soon as the biometric reader mounted near the glass doors detects the fingerprint of the owner, the Savant home control system triggers a Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system. Over the course of 80 seconds, the ceiling cycles from dawn to dusk and into a starry preshow event.

Related: 9 Ways to Enhance Your Home Theater

As the lights dim for movie viewing, a pair of motorized draperies parts and a valance rises to reveal a curved anamorphic, 12-foot-wide Vutec screen. Meanwhile, audio/video gear, which includes a 12-terabyte Mozaex Blu-ray media server, warms up. There’s no soffit, equipment rack or humming noise to give away the identity of the components, though. Any noisy equipment was installed in a way that would enable the sound to be siphoned away from the theater.

The JVC projector, for instance, sits inside an acoustically isolated box installed in the back wall of the theater. Heat and noise are extracted through a duct typically used for clothes dryers. Even the refrigerator by the cappuccino bar at the back is completely silent; its compressor was installed in a utility room.

Nothing shakes, rattles or vibrates in this space, either—even when the volume is on full tilt. Acoustical treatments on the walls help, but lead electronics designer Chris Brunson of Automated Life in Boca Raton, Fla., attributes the clean, untainted audio more to the all-digital Meridian surround-sound system. “Each speaker has its own processor and power supply, which means the audio can be perfectly balanced to preclude any rattling,” he explains. That’s good news for the walls, too, as each speaker was recessed into a wall and covered with acoustical fabric to blend in beautifully with the other fine furnishings.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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