Location, location, location. Anyone who’s ever bought property knows how important location is. A house that’s in a safe neighborhood, is near parks, the waterfront or the mountains is not only enjoyable, but has great resale value. The same can be said for a home theater. Put in a good spot and you’ll enjoy your home theater setup for years. Place it somewhere else and you may not use it as much as you thought. So, before you consider a single audio/video component, you’ll want to pin down an area for your theater.
Contrary to popular belief, this area does not have to be specially built. Although many people do build dedicated theater rooms—and those work out fantastically—it’s not essential. Any room can function as a theater; some may just require more work than others to get into shape. Some popular choices are family rooms, rec rooms, dens and master bedrooms, although we’ve also seen our fare share of theaters in gazebos, pool houses, even garages.
With so many options, how do you narrow them down? First, you’ll want to determine who you’re designing this theater for. Is it just for you and your spouse, or is your plan to create something that your entire family can use? Do you envision friends coming over to watch movies? Would you like the whole gang over for a Super Bowl party or will your home theater be a place where you can get away from it all? A master bedroom or a den naturally, work best for private, one- or two-person theaters. You’ll be able to shut the door and escape to your own entertainment oasis. If you’d rather share your good fortune with your kids, your neighbors and your friends, you’ll want to put your theater in a room that has the square footage to accommodate a crowd. The family room and rec room would be your most likely candidates.
Upstairs or Downstairs?
Once you’ve determined who’ll be using your theater, think about where you’d be most comfortable watching movies. Many people will choose the largest room, and that makes sense. You’ll need space for that big-screen TV and surround-sound system. However, bigger isn’t always better in the world of home entertainment. A downstairs rec room may have lots of elbow room, but ask yourself: “Do I want to walk downstairs every time I want to watch a movie?” Some families love the idea of making a special trip to the basement. It makes movie time feel like a special event. For other households, though, it’s more convenient to have a home theater in a common area like the family room. It makes a lot of sense: the more conveniently located a theater is, the more it’ll get used.
If you’re still mulling over which room to choose, take a look at each room’s construction. Rectangular-shaped rooms work better than square-shaped areas. So do rooms with fewer windows and oddly shaped nooks and crannies. A high ceiling is helpful if you’re plan is to have a video projector installed, but a cathedral ceiling can be a bear to work with. The floor can have an impact on your theater’s performance, too, by causing the sound to reflect harshly throughout the room. Also consider the walls. If the walls are already eaten up by windows, artwork and other design elements, it might be difficult to find an empty slot for a TV and speakers.
Of course, any room can be modified—you’ll just need to decide how much work and money you want to put into a space to make it theater-worthy. In the case of a hardwood floor, the addition of a large, fluffy area rug might do the trick. Window shades are a simple fix for a room that has too might light. Sometimes, just rearranging the furniture can make a huge difference. In extreme cases, you might need to add a new wall or build a ceiling soffit.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.