Theater Becomes Labor of Love for DIYer
After a lot of cutting and cussing, measuring and remeasuring, a theater dream is realized.
Michael Gonzalez spent the majority of his time doing woodwork designs and soffit and rope lighting.
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February 09, 2009 by Krissy Rushing

The first time Michael Gonzalez, a pediatrician from Morganton, North Carolina, heard a surround sound movie at a friend’s house, he knew a home theater was in his future. “After that experience, I went out and purchased a home theater in a box, and I just went up from there,” says Michael. 

Michael purchased his home in Morganton, North Carolina, in 2005, and after he had lived there for about nine months, he began working on his home theater in the 1500-square-foot basement. The basement was practically finished when he bought the house, except for the theater and the bar area.

But finishing out those two areas proved to be a labor of love that took a good two years. “It was a very long and drawn out process, working on weekends and evenings,” says Michael. “Fortunately my wife has been very gracious and accepting.” Michael found a welcome respite in the work, escaping the routine of his job with manual labor. The first step was to look at the space that was available and try to figure out how he could fit the largest theater possible there. There were some constraining factors in terms of location and theater size, however. “I had an engineer come in, who showed me I could remove one of the support posts to put the theater in the space I wanted,” says Michael. After the post was removed and a wall torn down, Michael’s work began. 

Other than having as big a space as possible, he needed room for six Berkline recliner theater seats, and wanted an old world look with metals, rich colors, and dark, stained woods. “I joked with my wife that this was going to be my own little castle,” says Michael. He spent the majority of his time doing woodwork designs and soffit and rope lighting. He also did all the crown molding, plus a lot of “cutting and cussing.” “In the end, I got fairly good at it. I learned to measure and measure again and cut things a little longer than I thought they needed to be,” say Michael.

As for the equipment, Michael relied heavily on Internet research to come up with a well-rounded system. Because the theater build was drawn out over two years, he paid as he went, and as such, didn’t set a budget. “Each time I made a purchase, like the cabinet for the bar, I thought about what I was willing to spend. I budgeted by the piece, not by the project.” His equipment includes a Panasonic AE1000U projector, a 105-inch diagonal SMX DIY acoustically transparent screen, and a 7.1-channel Axiom surround system. Thanks to a Lutron graphik eye, with the touch of a button, the lights dim and stair lighting on the risers come up. 

Michael only contracted a few things out, such as the bar countertops and acoustical tweaking. “Acoustic treatment is a large factor in determining if the room is going to sound good,” say Michael, who had Bryan Pape of Sensible Sound Solutions lay out an acoustical plan for sound treatment. The front wall is covered with 2-inch acoustic absorptive materials, with bass traps behind the proscenium. For soundproofing, Michael added two layers of drywall with Green Glue between them. He also used acoustic caulk to seal all the nooks and crannies where sound could escape to the rest of the home.

For now, the theater is largely for the enjoyment of Michael and his wife, as his two young children, ages two and four, are too young to appreciate it. But Michael certainly isn’t. After all, a man’s home theater is his castle.

Click here to view photos of the Gonzalez home theater.

Quick Hits:
Dimensions: 18 feet x 12.5 feet x 10 feet
Length of project: Two years
Starting budget: None
Ending budget: $35,000 for construction and equipment

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Equipment List

Denon AVR-3808CI Receiver
Panasonic AE1000U Projector
Axiom M3 V2 Front, Left, and Right Speaker
Axiom VP100 V2 Center
Axiom QS4 V2 Surrounds
HSU VTF-2 MK3 Subwoofer
SmX 105-inch 16:9 Screen
Harmony 890 Remote
Lutron Grafik Eye GRX-3104
Berkline 13174 Seating
Playstation 3
Xbox 360

Acoustic Design: Bryan Pape

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