Any space can function admirably as a home theater. Barry and Sally Primmer use the master bedroom in their Southern California home. Chris and Kristi Williams of Bloomington, Ill., have one in their downstairs rec room. And then there’s Mark Hiser of Lockport, N.Y. On warm summer nights, he transforms his home’s backyard into one by carting the video projector, DVD player and portable speakers out to the driveway.
But for an experience that truly feels as if you’ve stepped into your local cinema, it’s best to build a room that will function solely as a home theater. This is something to think about while your house is being built. That way, everything can be tailored for a performance that just might surpass what you hear and see at that overcrowded theater down the street.
Survey the Area
For many, the basement is the place to banish old appliances, photo albums and toys from your childhood. It’s also the perfect spot for a home theater. The basement is separated from the main living areas of the house, so you can select a huge screen and big, booming speakers without distracting other areas. Furthermore, it can cost one-third less to finish a basement than an upper-level room.
The shape of the room is also important. Make sure the ceiling is high enough to accommodate a video projector and that the walls form a rectangle to ensure that the audio sounds great. Avoid constructing cozy nooks and alcoves around the perimeter of the room and stay away from hard-surface flooring. These features will make the sound bounce uncontrollably around the room, producing an echoing effect. You can improve acoustic imperfections by having a home theater designer install acoustical insulation between the studs, as well as decorative acoustical fabrics to the surface of the finished walls and ceilings. The acoustic materials will also help prevent loud movie sounds from seeping out into other rooms. These are available in a number of colors and designs, so they can actually complement the room decor. Finally, select carpeting for the room. It’s better for the room acoustics and provides a soft place to sit when all the chairs are occupied.
Create an Atmosphere
Windows and wall paint aren’t just part of the decor. Any form of light can interfere with the picture on a movie screen. For that reason, a dedicated theater should be kept as dark as possible—with no windows and all the lights off. Choose a dark colored paint for the walls, as bright colors tend to reflect back onto the screen. For example, a red wall can tint the picture red.
When it comes to finding a comfortable seat, there are loads of options for a home theater. Seats come complete with cup holders and snack trays, or you can pick something that looks and feels more like your family room furniture. Select fabrics and colors to suit your taste as well as features like reclining backrests and pop-out footrests.
Measure the room and the width of the seats to figure out how many chairs you can comfortably fit into the space. If you’d like to install more than one row of seats, it’s a good idea to have your home theater designer or builder construct risers on the floor. A riser is like a wide platform that places the seats in the back row several inches higher than the front row so that everybody has a good view.
When a theater is well constructed, the equipment will be able to perform its best. The pictures will pop right off the screen, the sound will be realistic and engaging and you’ll always have the very best seat in the house.
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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.