Bland Basement Transformed into Family Theater
This design team overcomes several acoustical challenges to make this boring basement a fun, family-style theater.

- Home Theaters $10,000–$25,000

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May 01, 2008 by Steven Castle

It started as a basement. There was a low suspended ceiling, concrete walls and a fireplace made from blast rubble. And the owners wanted a simple home entertainment system. Oh, and they wanted a tin ceiling and tile floors.

Let’s see: low tin ceiling, tile floor, concrete walls, blast rubble fireplace. That could create an acoustical nightmare. Or shall we say night … night … night … mare … mare? Not only would the room reflect too much sound, the systems contractors at Harmony Interiors had to find a place to put a fixed screen and a projector.

The solution was to build a new wall in the corner to house a 92-inch Draper screen that was acoustically transparent so the three front Tannoy speakers and a Velodyne subwoofer could be placed behind it and sound through. The Epson 1080p LCD projector was concealed in a false ceiling beam that stretches diagonally into the room, allowing for routing of the projector cables as well as ventilation for the projector through a long tube. The fan was placed in the nearby equipment room.

To address acoustical concerns, Harmony added sound absorption panels, seen as decorative rectangles on the walls, and encouraged interior designer Kathryn Long of Ambiance Interiors to use padded couches with lots of throw pillows. A thick carpet was custom made to absorb the sound, and drapes in the back of the room were added to help diffuse the sound as well. For aesthetic purposes, the fireplace was refinished with polished concrete.

The two surround speakers are Tannoy Dual Concentric ceiling units that peek out from the ceiling like eyelids. The dual drivers in the speakers can be positioned to point sound in any direction, and the units were painted to blend with the tin ceiling tiles. An equipment rack flush mounted in a hallway by the stairs houses the Denon receiver and DVD player, and a Universal Remote Control MX-3000 operates the system. “They were just looking for a very simple system,” says Harmony’s Scott Varn.

One value-added feature is a jack next to the leather seat so the man of the house can plug in his digital camera and view the pictures on the big screen. “He can sit there and scan through the photos on his digital camera, deleting the ones he doesn’t want. They go through their pictures more, and it really brings back the family experience,” says Varn.

A VGA jack also allows the owner to plug in a computer, and Harmony fitted him with a Bluetooth-enabled wireless keyboard so he can surf the web on the big screen.

One of the biggest benefits of this room, though, is its warm and casual style. Even though it’s a dedicated theater, it has a family-style feel to it. “We’ve lost the family environment in some theaters,” says Varn. “The most fun you can have is in a space you want to live in, which also happens to be a great place to watch movies.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
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.

Equipment List

Epson Powerlite Pro Cinema 1080 Pro 1080p projector
Draper  Onyx M1300 projection screen

Audio/Video Components
Denon AVR-2807 audio/video receiver
Denon DVD-1730 progressive-scan DVD player
Velodyne SC 1250W amplifier

Tannoy IW6 Dual Concentric in-wall speakers (3)
Tannoy CMS401DC dual concentric in-ceiling speakers (2)
Velodyne 12-inch subwoofer

Universal Remote Control MX-3000 universal remote

Acoustic First acoustic panels
Liberty A/V cables
Middle Atlantic rack

Systems Design & Installation
Harmony Interiors
Asheville, NC

Interior Design
Ambiance Interiors
Asheville, NC

Finish Carpentry
David Woodworth
Asheville, NC

Robert Brownlee
Asheville, NC

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