Home Entertainment


Theater in the Round

June 4, 2010 By Brooke Lange

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This grand home theater includes a set of signed Wagner chandeliers and sconces, which were found on a shopping trip to Miami at Artisan Antiques. The Art Deco scones are circa 1920-1930, and are from Paris.
The home theater’s video projection screen bears floral and vine-shaped scrollwork in the manner of Ruhlmann.
Each sconce is crafted of carved glass, polished steel, and nickel or gold bronze frames, and all are signed by the artist. The antique sconce motif kicks off in the theater’s lobby, and are crafted by Lalique.
The entertainment zone of this grand home has several lounge areas that are accessorized with antique lighting fixtures from Artisan Antiques in Miami, and antique railings from an old department store in London.
The lavish detailing of the lobby includes a mahogany bar, bronze sculpture and period furniture. The mural is a tongue-in-cheek depiction of the classic film “Cleopatra,” complete with a leopard, movie-set lighting and a director at work.

Award-winning Chicago Interior Designer John Cannon weaves together an elaborate downstairs entertainment zone that revolves around an antique Parisian bar and a breathtaking home cinema, all decorated with the utmost in Art-Deco detailing.

Home Entertainment: This 900-square-foot home theater is part of an entertainment zone that includes an elaborate train room for the husband’s lavish train collection, a game room, a bar and theater lobby, as well a home spa that’s complete with an exercise room, and steam and wet rooms. Which came first, the theater or the rest of this fantasy retreat?
John Cannon: Actually the train room and the theater came about simultaneously. My client loves old movie theaters, the Orient Express and trains, so he wanted to create a miniature Swiss mountain village for his train collection.
The detail in the train room is amazing. Everything except the trains, the vehicles on the street, and figurines are custom made. Even the roses on the café tables, and the six brass chandeliers in the interior of the train station, were made by hand. The chandeliers are lit with LED lights.

For a more realistic perspective, we incorporated several gauges of trains—smaller trains in the background to make them appear farther away. The train room’s elaborate, computerized lighting system replicates daylight moving into a starry evening via the fiber-optic lighting system in the ceiling. This programmable system allows the village to progress through a 24-hour day.

This grand home theater includes a set of signed Wagner chandeliers and sconces, which were found on a shopping trip to Miami at Artisan Antiques. The Art Deco scones are circa 1920-1930, and are from Paris.

HE: The home is designed to resemble an Italian villa with Greco-Roman touches throughout, but the theater isn’t Greco-Roman in style. How did the Art Deco look come about?
JC:  My client took a photography trip on the Orient Express in the early 1990s and fell in love with the original styling of that train. So there was some influence from that. We all felt the theater, train room, exercise room and game room were perfect places to showcase some of the owners’ Art Deco sculpture, which they found during their travels to various art shows in Palm Beach, Chicago and New York. So that’s how the Deco look came in.

Even the wall treatments in the spa’s exercise room tie into this overall Art Deco look:  They replicate some of the murals at New York’s Rockefeller Center, which include Art Deco-style gazelles and impalas in a forest setting.

The entertainment zone’s sauna, hot tub and steam shower are all tiled in an Art Deco-style design with Ann Sacks tile and very elaborate tile bordering.

HE: How did you weave in the antique French bar?
JC: After I found the Parisian bar at Judith Racht Gallery in Michigan, I began the design of the lobby bar and the theater.  The bar is made of mahogany and it’s inlaid with several kinds of wood in an intricate geometric patterns.

The bar’s antique, zinc-topped countertop wasn’t large enough to accommodate everything we wanted, so we added onto it so it could hold a popcorn machine and drink fountains.

HE: The footprint of the home theater doesn’t appear square or rectangular, although I’m not sure that it’s concentric in shape either. Please describe the floor plan.
JC: The room is basically rectangular with a full radius at one end. The home theater itself has the same footprint as the family room right above it. The projection screen is recessed into an alcove on the opposite end of the room.

So we created two alcoves on either side—one at the entrance and the other as a niche for an 18th-century sculpture of [the Greek God] Mercury, for whom the home theater is named.

HE: Is there a specific element in the theater—such as the chandelier or the proscenium—that served as the catalyst for the overall look?
JC: My clients love the old movie houses of Hollywood, so after we purchased the pair of Sue et Mare torchères—designed and fabricated by the contemporary of Lalique, Ruhlmann and Edgar William Brandt—the tone for the room was set.

The torchère style is pure Art Deco. They are made of cast bronze, a gold bronze and solid onyx. The proscenium followed suit.

We used two different kinds of draperies in this theater. The panels that envelope the room are a crepe silk velvet in a dark rust, trimmed in a gold metallic Greek key pattern. The ivory panels behind the screen can change color, as determined by the neon control panels.

The home theater’s video projection screen bears floral and vine-shaped scrollwork in the manner of Ruhlmann.

HE: How did you create the proscenium and its elaborate scrollwork? It looks like you can change the illumination from behind the ironwork to change the mood?
JC: I love [the style of] Ruhlmann and Edgar William Brandt. Since we had to create a level of camouflage to hide all of the technical aspects of the screen, we came up with an ornate, highly stylized proscenium and crown that hides the screen’s masking elements.

The proscenium is very heavy, but we can access everything—the speakers, the screen—for maintenance without dismantling a lot. The gold-leaf “waterfall” panels on the sides hide the neon lighting. The clients can change this lighting from yellow to gold, orange to red, and blue or lilac to emerald green.

You can achieve any color you want to suit the movie you are watching or your mood by dialing in any combination, using the three dimmers, one for each primary color.


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