Home Theater with Japanese Flair Overcomes Acoustic Issues

Shoji screens and other decorative elements help tame unruly audio.


Design dictated much of this media room’s A/V layout, but thanks to some creative thinking and a eye on the budget, the owners, along with their home theater designer and electronics integrator, were able to successfully mesh form and function to create an entertainment space that’s uniquely suited to their tastes and style. “The owners really weren’t all that concerned about having stellar audio and video,” says Mario Clowes of MarioArts, Sacramento, Calif., “Rather they wanted the space to really stand out aesthetically.”

Specializing in home theater design, MarioArts incorporated several unique pieces into the 22-by-20-foot space, including a massive, custom-built wooden medallion on the ceiling, illuminated Japanese shoji panels and architectural columns, and multicolored acoustical panels. These decorative elements are more than just eye candy, though. Through thoughtful design and collaboration with the electronics integrators at Smith & Sons, Sacramento, Calif., they also help improve the performance of the room’s audio and video components.

The ceiling detail, for example, combines acoustical materials to help minimize audio reflection so that dialogue and effects from the surround-sound system are clear and pure. The shoji screens, which are built into a oval cutaway on the front wall, hide a 106-inch screen until the owners are ready to watch it, and the acoustical panels close off the home theater from an adjacent guest quarters.

Lighting would also present an issue in this area, as the owners planned to watch movies during the day as much as at night and planned to do so with the windows open (sliding glass doors at the back of the room lead to a swimming pool) and the lights on. The solution: Smith & Sons selected a screen and projector that could produce a bright picture regardless of the level of the room lighting. “The Black Diamond screen [from Screen Innovations] was designed specifically to combat ambient light, and the Epson 9700 UB projector has a relatively high lumen output for the money,” says company owner Ward Smith.

Providing the homeowners with a way to control the room lights would also be helpful to achieving a good picture, and for transitioning the room from a social gathering spot to a movie viewing venue. To stay within budget, the room was outfitted with six wall-mounted Lutron dimmer switches which can be operated both manually and via a handheld URC 450 remote control. Several scenes, like MOVIE and INTERMISSION, were programmed into the remote so that one button press adjusts the levels of all of the lights, or the owners can dim and brighten each group of lights individually—brightening the lights in the columns flanking the screen, dimming the fixtures in the ceiling and activating the lights behind the shoji screens for a party, for example.


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