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How home cinemas are no longer just a luxury

Whether watching movies, sports, or listening to music, home theaters have become an increasingly popular way for families to enjoy a variety of entertainment in the privacy of their own homes. What once was considered a luxury only for the very rich has become much more typical for homeowners in the twenty-first century.

Home theater is basically the adaptation of the environment of the cinema to the living or entertainment room in your home. The difference between home theater and a traditional TV set is dramatic: While watching high-end television can be exciting, it really can't compare with the potential of home theater. A well-designed home theater system can catapult your senses to a movie experience beyond even that of your local cineplex.

Sound quality for the home today can easily surpass that of the cinema because of the cinema's requirements to provide sound coverage for such a large space. In your home, sound quality can be customized to benefit from your particular conditions. In addition, home audio components have been designed and crafted for quality sound reproduction and thus are optimized to deliver cinematic sound that will re-create the experience envisioned by the filmmakers.

The design and installation of a home theater can best be handled by hiring a design professional to create, specify, and coordinate all of the details. A true home theater designer can tailor your system to your desires and will be an expert in acoustics and audio and visual design. Such designers are educated and professionally associated consultants in these fields. The advantage of hiring a design firm is that the homeowner can rely on a professional team that is proficient in all the areas involved in creating such an aesthetically and technically demanding environment. This in turn provides the homeowner with the professional help to design and manage the project and specify all of the needed furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

With a home theater designer, you avoid being stuck with unnecessary, high-markup items. This saves you money in the long run and ensures that your space will deliver a full and robust audio-visual experience. Below are some areas to consider as your project begins to take shape:

The Room

The space that will become the home theater can be added on to an existing residence, built as part of a new project, altered from existing spaces, or retrofitted into an existing room. The room should be designed from the beginning with spatial proportions and sound dampening qualities (i.e., acoustics) in mind. Everything that is designed into your project will have a direct impact on the room's acoustics.

The Theater

The system design is customized to the needs of the homeowner and his or her budget. It is designed to provide the best reproduction possible of movies, events, and music, with the least amount of unnecessary bells and whistles. In addition, your designer can ensure that your system can be upgraded or modified to incorporate new technologies.

The Interior

The home theater designer can incorporate new furniture or can adapt to your current furnishings. Finishes are selected to provide not only an aesthetically cohesive space but also to work in conjunction with the room acoustics. Similarly, lighting fixtures serve not only to accentuate the details but also to provide acoustically reflective or diffusive surfaces. Artwork, fabrics, floor coverings … all of these details do matter and will directly affect the system's performance.

The Experience

When you sit down to watch a movie, prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience. Listen to music as if the musicians were performing right in front of you. This is the way home theater was meant to be. Every home theater is unique in itself. Our firm, MKP Architects, provides clients with knowledgeable and professional services specifically designed for their individual needs. We custom-design crafted woodworking to house equipment, displays, bars, and libraries as well as custom-designed loudspeakers and subwoofer systems. For us, there is no limit to what is possible, as long as it is done accurately and cost-effectively.

The Solution

The Woodwork 
We designed a custom wall system that would not only house the audio and video equipment but would also organize all their media needs. While being built-in, this unit would also be capable of standing on its own in a future location. It was designed to contain a 56-inch-diagonal theater-wide rear-projection television as well as an 80-inch-wide front-projection screen that would roll down for a 100-inch-diagonal picture. This unit would tie in to the rest of the room via custom chair rail and base moulding that would wrap the room and frame the windows as well as the new artwork. We also designed a custom ceiling unit that would house new lighting fixtures as well as acoustically absorptive material. A custom bar unit and a custom coffee table were designed to complete the room.

The Acoustics and Finishes 
To control sound in a room that was not originally designed for acoustical synergy, we specified the installation of a relatively inexpensive acoustical wallcarpet within the wainscoting. The same material would be installed into the ceiling unit to control the proper sound field imaging. To dress the existing windows, we specified a cord-and-pulley drape system that would allow the material to drape in theater-curtain fashion. This not only continues the overall theater scheme but also provides for some additional sound diffusing. The existing padded carpeting would remain, along with the leather sectional and armchair, which would provide us with a color and material precedent to work with.

The Lighting 
A proper lighting display is critical to provide an appropriate environment for home theater. We designed the ceiling unit to work with the woodwork and highlight the custom coffee table as well as to absorb and diffuse sound.

The Equipment 
The audio and video equipment were specified and composed to work in harmony. They are simple to operate, while providing the client with the latest in media technology. The upgradability of this system is relatively straightforward and is designed to provide the user with many years of optimal performance. Finally, we designed and assembled a custom subwoofer loudspeaker system to reproduce low frequencies that are typically not easily recreated. This was very inexpensive for our client, extremely efficient, and ultimately very impressive during theater exhibition.

The Artwork 
We researched and specified custom facial images of actors from yesteryear to the present. The images were selected to provide decoration as well as to create a composition of acoustically diffusive surfaces around this townhouse theater.

Author Profile: Thomas Makris is a registered architect and interior designer. He graduated from the New York Institute of Technology with a degree in architecture. He formed Makris Kedzierski Partnership Architects (MKP Architects) in 1993 together with John Kedzierski, a registered architect and audio-visuals-acoustics consultant. MKP Architects practices architecture, interior design, audio, visual, and acoustical consulting nationwide. The integration of these disciplines is what provides our clientele with complete and comprehensive design and project management within realistic budgets. MKP's projects include private and public theaters, corporate facilities, and places of worship.

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