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Home Theaters Aren’t Just TV Rooms

Adding a home theater is as complicated as it sounds — you’re adding a theater to your home, a building that likely has an open floor plan to at least some degree. Most of our shared spaces allow unimpeded flow from one area to another, whether it’s in one great room or some sort of modified flow.

Home theaters also are shared spaces, but ideally are closed off from the rest of the house and the world to reproduce the movie-theatergoing experience of being shut away from reality with a giant screen for a couple of hours.

You need to have a separate room to really pull it off, one that’s accessible for everyone but insulated from “things,” such as: from such things as noises, smells or clutter from other parts of the house.

Sealing a room like this off takes some work but can pay off in the end with an at-home cinematic experience that can’t be outdone by any “real” theater out there! These are the basics:

If you have a basement, use it for this. It’s isolated from the rest of the house and has minimal natural light that needs to be controlled.

If not, you will need a room with a solid door, and depending on where it is in relation to the rest of your home you might need to consider soundproofing it, either with another layer of drywall or a special soundproofing material using specialized materials to block the noise. If there are windows you’ll need to find blackout curtains to keep uncontrolled light from spilling in.

After getting rid of “light pollution” lighting, you’ll need to put it your own lighting system that is bright yet dimmable, with a combination of recessed lights for task lighting, sconces as accents and safety lights for during the show.

You’ll be going against conventional interior design wisdom in this room. You don’t want a light neutral for the walls — black or dark gray are the best choices, matte surfaces only. Instead of maximizing light through reflective surfaces you’ll want to keep them in the back of the room, if at all.

Decide whether you’ll want to use a flat-screen TV or projector. Projectors come out on top for producing the largest, most immersive images of 100 inches or more with good quality, but prices for OLED TVs that are 75 or more inches are now competitive with high-end projectors and screens. They deliver a higher-quality image that isn’t significantly degraded by ambient light managing to seep in.

The audio can make or break your home theater. Its depth, more than the volume, is what truly cuts the viewer’s connection with everything else going on in the world and inside their heads. Home theater systems have at least five speakers and a subwoofer, known as a “5.1” system, with “7.1” becoming the standard for larger rooms and comparable to the digital systems found in new or updated multiplexes.

Go for tiered seating if you think you might need it. It’ll cut way down on conflict within the audience. The type of seating is up to you. You could go for the traditional theater look or try sofas, lounges, loveseats, beanbags, wing chairs — whatever you, your family and guests will find most comfortable.

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