May 01, 2006
| by EH Staff
As a custom home builder, Doug Cull knows the value of a house made for entertaining, so when he embarked on building this $2.4 million, 7,000-square-foot spec home outside of Cincinnati, he knew he had to offer some spiffy built-in home entertainment systems. That meant a whole-house audio system, a “pub room” complete with music and a plasma screen for entertaining friends, and, of course, a really nice home theater.
“My goal was for people to come in here and say wow,” says Cull. But because the systems would be part of a spec home, the home theater had to fit within a budget in the $30,000 range.
In his plans, Cull allotted a 14-by-36-foot space on the first floor for the theater, with windows looking out the front of the house and across the river to Cincinnati. The screen would face the windows on the opposite wall, and the room would provide plenty of space to add a bar and a pool table in front of the windows. Remove the pool table, Cull says, and the space could be used as an exercise area.
The theater area consists of three seating levels with risers and steps. Because the home sits on a hill and Cull wanted unobstructed views of Cincinnati, many of the rooms have 12-foot-high ceilings. In the room to be used for the home theater, the lowest ceiling was 14 feet high. Interior designer Diane Kidd worked with Cull and custom electronics contractor Randy Bender of Sound Design to put some warm colors and textures into the room. But the home theater system would have to boast performance to match the rich looks—all within the budget.
The result is a big-screen experience and then some. In fact, a look at this home theater system leaves one wondering what compromises—if any—had to be made. A Runco DLP projector shines on a 110-inch Stewart Filmscreen to provide a big, bold picture. There are Triad in-wall speakers in the front, Triad in-ceiling speakers for the surrounds, Triad subwoofers, and a pair of SpeakerCraft AIM in-ceiling speakers in the bar area in the back. No slouches there, either.
All that is controlled by a Yamaha surround-sound processor, Yamaha DVD player and Yamaha Digital Audio Server, which provide solid performance at a reasonable price. Plus, Clark Synthesis transducers provide some shake and rattle from beneath the floor risers. “You really get the feeling of vibration and motion in the room,” says Bender. “It’s a real sensory experience.”
And not just from the electronics. The front wall, for example, is covered in a leather like material, while curtains above the screen help absorb the excess sound. The door to the room is also upholstered in the leather like material. Cabinetmaker Randy Landrum worked with Sound Design on the poplar equipment cabinet and media storage drawers, set into an angled wall. A Triad subwoofer fires from above the rack. In the back of the room, the 8-foot-high wainscoting lends a warm and intimate feel.
Perhaps the biggest cost savings came in the control system, which may be considered modest by some big home theater standards. Rather than investing tens of thousands in a major control system, an Universal Remote MX-3000 touchscreen operates the home theater, while a LiteTouch lighting system dims and turns up lighting via four preset modes, including one for movie (lights dimmed) and another for intermission (lights on).
The lighting also helps showcase the dramatic ceiling coffers near the front of the theater. Bender says that with the high ceilings, there was plenty of room to build a “reverse tray” with lighting to bring out the structure’s fine features.
The SpeakerCraft speakers in the rear are normally a part of the 7.1-channel home theater system, but if someone is in the back playing pool instead of watching the game or a movie on the big-screen, a switch near the bar delivers audio from the Xantech whole-house music system to that area.
Cull and Bender believe they got a lot of home entertainment punch for their budget. “I don’t think most people who walk into the room think it’s inexpensive,” says Cull. “And it seats seven comfortably, but if you had a party, you’d get 20 to 30 people in that room.”
Guests can also peruse the nearby wine grotto, where music can play through a SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speaker, or head upstairs to the pub room and watch the Yamaha plasma screen or listen to music through a pair of SpeakerCraft speakers. When the mood turns toward a taste of the city, the drapes in the theater can be opened, and everyone can step outside to the covered patio and take in the views.