Home Entertainment

 

Bold and Beautiful

December 1, 2005 By Brooke Lange



What was originally planned as a room where the family of four would burn off stress and melt away pounds morphed into a space of another function—a place where the family of four would prop up their feet, relax, and burn very few calories.
 
“We had been in our house for 20 years and we were doing a remodel,” says the wife, adding that what started as a renovation turned into a major addition after they learned that the city wouldn’t allow them to add a second story to their pool cabana.

No strangers to the audiovisual world, the family has several “home theater-type rooms” in their 1923 Italian Revival/Spanish eclectic home outside of San Jose, Calif.—from a mini media setup in the meditation room to the medium-sized media system in the family room, and a plasma TV in the office that’s wired into the home’s audiovisual system and the computer. They also have five DVRs in the house. This time, however, they were ready for a big screen. “We decided to do the real thing,” she says.


“We started using the theater before it was ready,” says the homeowner of the screening room. “We were in there every night watching HDTV and doing karaoke. And the acoustics are great.” The theater is one of the first to feature a Runco VX-5C projector that’s fitted with a special anamorphic lens. The projector, which is the size of a small jet ski, is built into a soundproof enclosure that’s positioned behind a piece of projection glass to minimize ambient noise. (Click image to enlarge)


The homeowners called on Jay Miller, president and owner of Acoustic Innovations, for design advice. Although the homeowner declined the 12 predesigned theater packages that Miller’s company offered at the time, the wife and Miller quickly put their heads together and concocted a grand plan. “We have an old house, so I didn’t want it to look high tech,” she says. “I wanted to go for that ‘old’ feeling. I always liked going to the movies as a kid in those period theaters that had velvet curtains.”


“The owner had vision. And she was really focused on getting it perfect. It was exciting working with her to develop it all.”
—Jay Miller, theater designer

Without much thought, the wife started to sketch a series of arches, which led to several drawings of floor-to-ceiling windows—architectural touches that make appearances throughout the grand home. “The windows tie the architecture together,” she says. To further enhance the grand old theater theme, Miller added a grid-patterned, arched ceiling.

“She wanted a Moorish style to complement the home’s historic bent,” Miller says, adding that his inspiration for the home theater came from two columns at the home’s entryway, which he embellished extravagantly in the theater.Next came the color scheme—a deep, rich green accented with crimson and gold, colors that mirror the home’s color palette, which was orchestrated by interior designer Nader Gawargy of Art Designer Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.  The theater’s carpeting is bright red with an elaborate floral pattern. Deco CinemaChairs, from Acoustic Innovations, are bathed in a hunter green and gold Windsor velvet. The theater curtain is red velvet swathed in gold fringe and swags.  Gawargy found all the fabrics for the curtains, valences, and chairs, and oversaw the production of each item, as well as all of the home theater’s finishing materials.


While the system is wired for DVD, HD, cable, HD satellite, laserdiscs, and video games, it’s also equipped with wireless microphones so that the kids can perform on the stage and sing through the system. The stage can accommodate five performers comfortably. (Click image to enlarge)


Like bold, proud Roman gladiators standing guard, six grand columns, which were inspired by the spiral columns in the home’s entryway, flank each side wall. Each of the tapered columns, crafted of maple and painted in a Chinese red, is adjoined by an arch. A vine decorated in an elaborate gold leaf winds up each column. The decorative foliage was individually hand-applied and faux-painted by Buena Vista Painters. “It was hard to find the columns and moldings that were true to the theater,” the homeowner says of the custom woodworking, much of which they referenced from a book of old-fashioned theaters. “At one point the gold finish made the space look too Las Vegas, so we brought in another painter to tone it down.” Miller, working with his team in Boca Raton, Fla., designed and fabricated all of the woodwork and ornamentation. Miller even custom-dyed the fabric for the acoustic wall panels in a color they jokingly named after the homeowner. It’s now an official color used by Acoustic Innovations.

The request for a curved ceiling posed some acoustical issues in the rectangular-shaped room, which is 25 feet wide and 40 feet long. “The ceiling was a challenge because it reflects sound to one pinpoint location in the rear, giving poor acoustics,” Miller says. As a solution, Acoustic Innovations built a ceiling frame shaped like an upside-down boat made of curved staves, which are connected with acoustic fabric. Diffusers and absorbers were installed behind the fabric in the ceiling, as well as within the walls. Decorative gold embellishments dot the ceiling’s contour.

Another pre-existing element Miller had to work around was a bank of windows on the left wall. “Sonically, it was a nightmare,” he says. To address the issue, his team installed motorized batting-lined drapes within each window. Faux-bronzed gates front each arch and feature a rice paper of swirled colors. “We tried to make it look like an old stained glass pattern, but not like something you’d see in a church,” the homeowner says.Custom installer Rick Bronner of Century Stereo in San Jose, Calif., says the barrel-vaulted ceiling required some creative positioning of the surround-sound speakers. “It wasn’t an obstacle since we were in on the job early in construction.” Two pairs of Revel Embrace surround-sound speakers are tucked into the ceiling at the bottom of the ceiling’s barrel.

“They’re low enough so they work as the side and rear channels,” he says, adding that he chose not to place speakers in the side walls. The front speakers (three Revel Salons) and two Revel Sub15 subwoofers stand behind the acoustically transparent, triple-roller screen that allows viewers to select from four different aspect ratios—1.33:1 (4:3), 1.78:1 (16:9), 2:1, and 2.35:1—from the touchscreen. “Having four different aspect ratios to choose from is very unusual,” Bronner says. “No matter what they are watching, the screen matches the picture size. They never have the complaint of ‘why doesn’t the picture fit the screen?’—and that’s way cool.”


“The homeowners’ goal was to get the ultimate picture quality and they did that with this very high-end $30,000 lens option.”
—Rick Bronner, custom installer


The other interesting aspect about this installation, Bronner adds, is the projector: a Runco VX-5C with a special anamorphic lens that lets the homeowner enjoy the full vertical resolution of the projector at all times. “The lens essentially turns the rectangular image projected from a 35mm or 70mm film into a widescreen image, enhancing the resolution of the DVD or HDTV broadcast. It’s a way of getting more picture onto the screen.”

“It’s really a nice velvet cocoon—very soothing and quiet,” the homeowner says. “Our son goes in there to do his homework and shuts out everyone. It’s great having the keyboard in there because my daughter can go nuts and we can’t hear her.” Other uses for the theater include mini documentary showings for the annual school auction, Super Bowl and Survivor gatherings, slide shows of recent travels, and dinner parties. “We hand everyone a blanket as they go in and they can pick something from the candy drawer,” the homeowner says. “Most everyone lies down and falls asleep in the first 30 minutes. It’s a really good mood place, and at night it glows.”

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