Home Entertainment


Private Getaway Home Theater

December 4, 2009 By Susan Sharpe

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This home theater is tucked into the second-floor entertainment wing of a capacious South Florida home.
First Impressions’ staff artist hand-painted the sky ceiling and applied the glazing to the gold accents on site. The hand-rubbed cherry woodwork is finished with a clear sealer.
First Impressions’ handcrafted CineLoungers—in caramel, buff and maple wood leather—complement the lavish theater curtain, which is made of fire-rated velvet with bullion fringe.
The client uses his theater to watch everyday TV and sporting events, such as martial arts competitions and boxing matches. “I couldn’t believe I was sitting in a theater in my house and not in a big commercial cinema,” he says.
The perforated Middle Atlantic vent panels that separate each component in this home theater’s equipment rack provide plenty of critical airflow to fend off overheating. In addition, the panels help maintain a sleek, monolithic aesthetic.

A bachelor’s private home cinema in South Florida becomes an instant getaway.

We chat with Jeffrey Smith—owner of North Miami’s First Impressions Theme Theatres Inc.—about how he orchestrated every detail.

This home theater is tucked into the second-floor entertainment wing of a capacious South Florida home.

: We’ve seen a lot of your theater designs through the years, and this is possibly the smallest home cinema to date. It’s so easy to make a space look over-decorated or cluttered … how did you incorporate so much into such a tight space?
JEFF SMITH: We compacted this home theater’s architectural elements—such as the Ionic capitals, the fluted half-round columns and the modified arches. All of these architectural elements protrude from the wall in a minimal way. Doing this allows the design of every component to be appreciated on a different level.

This home theater now stands in the place of what used to be an extra bedroom, so we started out with a small space. It’s only 160 square feet. This project is unique in that we had to deal with size constraints. And we still had to find a way to make the room appear magical and spacious.

In your own words, how would you describe the overall look you created for this space?
Pure Classical. The look was driven by the owner. He wanted to bring elegant, rich architecture into his home theater to echo the look and feel of his palatial home.

Is there a specific design element that served as the catalyst for this home theater’s look?
The owner is a very bright, hands-on guy who knew what he wanted. Not being a design professional, however, he didn’t have the training and experience to bring it all together himself—especially in such a microcosmic space. So he hired us. Our trademarked Starlite “dusk-to-dawn” ceiling system was on the top of his list. To watch the sun rise and set on the ceiling—complete with shooting stars and constellations—is one of neatest features for this client.

It’s clear that you take a lot of pride in customizing every starry sky ceiling you create.
That’s right—we have never designed a fiber-optic ceiling system that’s exactly alike in size or effect. This one features a hand-painted sky in colors the client selected. The colors fade from day to night. We use a computer system called Intelligent Lighting, which mixes 10,000 colors to create the right hue for the specific time of day.

This ceiling is personalized with Taurus, the client’s birth-sign constellation. For another theater project that’s in the works right now, First Impressions Theme Theatres Inc. is developing a series of scenes with special effects for thunder and lightning. This is done with a series of mini strobe lights and digitally recorded thunder claps. It’s amazing how realistic it sounds.

How does the homeowner activate these sky scenes? Can he turn on any part of it—either the sunrise or sunset or the shooting star part—right in the middle of a movie?
Of course. The programming is organized by scenes such as “walk in” or “exit.” Or he can “drive” the system individually through the touchscreen, which has an automated sequence setting. Everything happens on cue.

The carpeting you’ve chosen for this theater is unexpected. It seems to add movement or playfulness. Perhaps the swirls are telling guests that it’s OK to kick back and have fun in this somewhat serious space?
Sure, carpeting can introduce a touch of whimsy into any room. This particular wool carpet fits into any Classical or Neoclassical interior design scheme with ease. Its name is “Clay Dust.” This rug is custom dyed to match the wall panel colors exactly, as well as the full-hide leather that covers our customized CineLounger theater chairs.

First Impressions’ staff artist hand-painted the sky ceiling and applied the glazing to the gold accents on site. The hand-rubbed cherry woodwork is finished with a clear sealer.

You’re a stickler for upholstering your customized theater chairs in full-hide leather.
Most manufacturers use split or leather pieces when they construct a chair or sofa. It’s easier to work with, but consequently results in a lot of “patches.” We use a full cowhide, which enables us to avoid any cross seaming. The quality is very evident when you see the finished product. It’s more luxurious.

You’ve loosened up this room’s somewhat traditional, formal design with contemporary-styled theater seating. Tell us about that.
The client picked this style of Cine- Lounger, which really works with any interior design scheme. It can be read as Classical, contemporary or transitional. We hand-build each CineLounger for every home theater we do. Our CineLounger is the only lounge-style theater chair on the market that’s totally custom in size and amenities.

Most home theaters have limited aisle spacing, so for this project we installed full-motion recliners on the front row and rockers on the back row.


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