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From Spec to Spectacular Home Theater

September 18, 2009 By Dennis Burger



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To create a durable home theater that would withstand the wear and tear of rambunctious kids, Smith installed low-maintenance leather seating that’s nearly impossible to damage. The carpeting and wall panels are treated with water-repellent treatments.
The sales team told Smith that when Stillman first entered the house, he was immediately drawn to the home theater. “A movie was playing, and he sat right down and said, "We want this house."
From Spec to Spectacular Home Theater

In a Difficult Housing Market, an Elegant Home Theater Can be Just the Thing to Turn “For Sale” into “Sold.”

When NHL hockey player Cory Stillman and his wife Mara started looking for a new South Florida home, they knew they wanted a home theater.

More importantly, they wanted one that they and their children would actually use.

“We’ve had friends with theaters in their basements,” says the Florida Panther left wing. “But when you have kids who are 10 and under, they’re not going into a dark theater unless Mom and Dad go with them. Maybe when they’re teenagers you’d rather have them in the basement,” Stillman laughs. “We wanted a house where we’d put every room to good use.”

So when the couple stumbled upon a Mediterranean-style spec home in the gated community of Hawks Landing in Plantation, they were wowed immediately by the home’s stunning home theater, which was designed from floor to ceiling by Jeffrey Smith, owner of First Impressions Theme Theatres Inc. in North Miami. Not only were they blown away by the home theater’s elegant design, but they were impressed by the way its layout suited their lifestyle. “It’s perfect that [the home theater] is right off the kitchen so we can monitor what the kids are watching,” Stillman says. “That was the biggest thing for us.”

To create a durable home theater that would withstand the wear and tear of rambunctious kids, Smith installed low-maintenance leather seating that’s nearly impossible to damage. The carpeting and wall panels are treated with water-repellent treatments.

Little did the Stillmans know, though, that their beloved home theater almost ceased to be. Originally slated to be a billiards room, the space now boasts a 7.1-channel Niles speaker system, a Marantz VP-12S4L DLP projector, 15-foot-tall ceilings, and a clear view of the lake and the Italian-glass mosaic swimming pool beyond.

Long before the Stillmans laid eyes on their future abode, builder Betsy Rauch of Robinette Homes and interior designer Eloise Kubli of Collective Construction & Design Inc. decided to transform the space with the help of First Impressions. “We wanted one extra-special touch that other homes didn’t have,” Rauch says. “Something that would take the house to a level beyond the typical builder’s spec house.”

Before the first piece of gear was selected or the sight lines were calculated, Smith’s team altered the room’s square shape. The room, tall as it was long, was perfect for a brightly lit game room, but it was an acoustical nightmare for a home theater. “The first order of business was to create a lower tray ceiling, which allowed us to give some scale to the space,” Smith says. It also allowed First Impressions’ fiber-optic sky ceiling to be the theater’s high point. “You feel like you’re looking through a skylight into the heavens,” Smith says of his trademarked ceiling treatment.

As for the interior design of the balance of the room, Smith worked closely with Kubli to craft a look that would appeal to a broad scope of home buyers. “The finishes of this home are elegant, traditional, classical—natural woods, recycled glass mosaics, Venetian plasters,” Kubli says. “When I design a theater, I take the approach of [making] it totally different from the main house. [But] in this situation we wanted more of an extension of the house.” As a result, the theater features wool carpeting with a subtle pattern and neutral leather tones; the walls are bathed in suede fabric.

The sales team told Smith that when Stillman first entered the house, he was immediately drawn to the home theater. “A movie was playing, and he sat right down and said,

“Elegant” and “subdued,” however, are not the first adjectives to roll off Stillman’s tongue when discussing his new home theater.

“I love that you can watch action movies really loud without the rest of the house hearing it,” he says. “But my big thing is watching sports in there in high-definition. It feels like you are standing right on the field or on the court—or right in the rink. You become part of the game. Really, [this theater] is everything we could have hoped for.”

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