Theater Born in a Barn

A deteriorating barn is transformed into a state-of-the-art home-entertainment space with original-looking beam work and warm, stained woods.

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At first glance you would never expect that this 1,500-square-foot renovated barn, part of a 13-acre suburban Philadelphia estate in Bucks County, can convert into a high-tech home theater with the touch of a button. But do just that—press a single button on the Universal MX-850 remote—and concealed blackout shades descend from above, a projection screen drops down from behind a ceiling beam, the lights fade to black, and the projector jumps into action.

“We wanted to use it for fund-raisers, small parties and to watch sporting events and movies,” says the husband, who is the CEO of a small investment bank.

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While the barn’s previous incarnation—dark, drafty and devoid of character—revolved around TV-watching, the family of five envisioned a modern-day entertainment zone that honored the original architecture.

Naturally, a barn-based theater couldn’t have a contemporary look. To breathe new life into the 15-year-old structure, the couple hired builder Brett King of Brett King Builder-Contractor Inc.

“I listened to their goals and then we dreamed together,” says King, who also transformed the home’s master suite into an award-winning masterpiece. “They gave me freedom to make [their] vision happen. It’s very exciting when I can use all of my creativity in a project.”

Construction began with the removal, reinforcement and insulation of the barn’s interior walls. Next, King tackled the structure’s six central support feet in length. “The sun can be blazing through, but when the shades are lowered it is unbelievably black,” King says. “You can’t even see your hand.”

To oversee the audiovisual details, King brought in Mark Vargo of Audio Visual Specialists in Pennsburg, Penn., with whom King has worked with on three previous projects. To accommodate the owners’ request for the largest movie screen possible, Vargo installed a 106-inch-wide Draper Ultimate Access Series E screen. “It was the best choice because it has an outstanding color enhancement to give the best picture,” says company- owner Vargo.

A high-definition projector —the InFocus IN83—was chosen for its supreme brightness, contrast ratio, and overall resolution ability.

“The IN83 is an awesome projector that supplies the theater with all the adjustments needed for a quality picture,” Vargo says. The projector dangles from a ceiling beam, which was also added for aesthetics.

Suspended from the sturdy beams are delicate tear-shaped glass pendants by Sea Gull Lighting.

“Random accent lights draw attention to the majestic cluster of framework overhead,” King says. “A lot of thought went into the [selection] of these fixtures because we believe lighting is crucial for setting mood.”

Seven mood settings, from “entertainment” to “movies” and “games,” can be activated with a single button press on the Lutron RadioRa lighting system panel.

To provide sound quality that was equitable to commercial movie-theater audio, Vargo used the most powerful 7.1 speaker sound system available.

Interior designers Nelson Zayas and Rich Vergine of Blue Raccoon in Lambertville, NJ, assisted the owners with color and fabric selections. The end result is a palette of muted blues and greens, which lend a warm, natural look that’s classic and slightly contemporary. Instead of traditional tiered home-theater seating, the designers opted for a custom-made sectional from Vanguard Furniture in Hickory, N.C.

The finished project, which took three months to design and six months to complete, exceeds everyone’s expectations. “I stopped by the barn last week and pushed ‘the button’ just for the experience,” the builder/contractor says. “When I watch everything work, it’s as exciting as the day I finished the project. It still gives me goose bumps. It’s a job I’ll talk about forever.”

By Karen Appold/Home Entertainment

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