A home theater should have at least one element that wows.
It could be an enormous CinemaScope screen or an audio system that rattles the rafters. Dimmable lighting can heighten the anticipation of a special event, and elevated seating is one of the best ways to evoke a sense of being inside a real movie theater.
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The 15-by-18-foot home theater of Michael and Cyndi Parker has all of the above, but what really has their friends’ tongues wagging, says John Vandruff of Electronic Essentials of Vancouver, Wash., is a small switch built into the surface of a massive stone fireplace in the adjacent gentleman’s parlor.
Neither the guests nor the homeowners can see the switch — not that it’s much to look at. That’s because it’s connected to and hidden behind one of the stones within the fireplace facade.
When pressed, the “secret” stone throws the switch that signals a motorized arm to open a door to the theater. Like the stone, the door is imperceptible, having been integrated into the parlor’s wood paneling.
“There is absolutely no indication that a theater exists beyond the walls of the parlor,” says Vandruff. And once visitors are inside — the door shuts automatically after eight seconds — no one would ever know the room was occupied.
The hidden door has a lot to do with this. So does the room’s level of soundproofing. Through the use of special construction techniques and acoustical materials, as well as collaboration with the architect and builder, Electronic Essentials was able to reduce the amount of sound that seeps out of the theater.
“When the door shuts, you can hear a pin drop,” says Vandruff. More importantly, “when the 9.2 surround-sound system is playing at a normal volume level, nobody in the parlor can hear it.”
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates