It’s great when you can stick to a plan. But as the owners of this elaborate, high-performance, nautical-style theater learned, being able to change course throughout the construction, design and installation of a project is critical to its success.
Right from the start, there were a few bumps in the road. In fact, a theater wasn’t even included in the initial quote given to the homeowners. “We were brought on originally to install an automation system,” explains Aaron Miller of the Audio Den, Lake Grove, N.Y. “It wasn’t until the entire house was outfitted with electronics that the homeowners came back and requested that we put in a theater.”
Since the owners had already used up most of their budget on automated lighting, whole-house audio and a surveillance system, Miller proposed a “very basic” setup for the partially finished 540-square-foot area in the basement. By basic, Miller meant keeping the decor plan and simple. “It’s nice to be able to walk into a room and see all the fancy accouterments, but it’s what’s under the hood—the screen, the projector and the electronics—that makes a theater really hum.”
Performance may be important, but the owners still wanted the something special in terms of design. “Mr. Fishel immediately suggested a red art deco design,” says Miller. At this point, the project had grown beyond Audio Den’s realm of expertise, and Miller called in the design experts at AcousticSmart. “Whenever our clients are looking for higher-level finishes, we bring them on,” he explains. “They have an excellent eye for detail.”
This didn’t make Audio Den’s job any easier, though. Multiple rounds of meetings between the clients and the project managers at Audio Den and AcousticSmart would be conducted to ensure that the style wouldn’t impinge on the electronics, and vice versa. AcousticSmart presented three-dimensional renderings at many of the meetings to help ensure that everyone was on board with the new roadmap … unfortunately, Mrs. Fishel wasn’t. When she saw the rendering of the red theater, she immediately vetoed it and asked her interior designer for input.
“Suddenly the design of the room went from a red art deco theater to a deep blue theater that would resemble a yacht,” says Miller. It was back to the drawing board for AcousticSmart. In addition to changing the color scheme, they would add wall panels of knotty pine and a fiber optic ceiling to resemble the night sky.
As for the electronics, just about everything except for the B&W speakers at the front of the room and a Marantz video projector suspended from the ceiling behind the back row of seats would be hidden. Working with AcousticSmart, Audio Den concealed the side and rear B&W behind fabric-covered acoustical paneling and covered the 120-inch Stewart Filmscreen with draperies motorized to open on command from a Control4 touchpanel.
Even the two rows of seven leather reclining chairs were a testament to teamwork. AcousticSmart built a docking station into the armrest of the captain’s chair to juice up the Control4 touchpanel that was programmed by Audio Den to operate the audio/video gear, as well as the lights, and thermostat in the this room and throughout the entire house.
Despite all of the modifications that happened midstream, Audio Den and AcousticSmart were able to complete the project in less than six months. A project like this will never truly be complete, though. Miller expects the owners to upgrade from a 16:9 screen to a 2.35:1 anamorphic-size screen and add a movie server to the current setup. “We never want to lock people into products, especially video products, because they’re always changing,” he explains. “Plus, we’d rather have our clients do things in steps and do it correctly than to do everything at once but have to cut corners.”
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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.