Home Entertainment


Bright Lights, Cozy Home Theater

August 1, 2005 By Felicia Levine

Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like a night on the town in The Big Apple. Dramatic deep purple skies. Soaring skyscrapers. The spectacular, twinkling Brooklyn Bridge.

Homeowner Robert Coulombe, a professional bridge builder for 18 years, has always been smitten by the Brooklyn Bridge—so much that he made the 1883 engineering marvel the focal point of his new home theater. 

Robert Coulombe handled the basic construction of his home theater before turning it over to Howell & Associates. “I basically provided them with a blank room and said, ‘Do everything else,’” he says. (Click image to enlarge)

“I knew I wanted a home theater, and I knew I wanted to incorporate a famous bridge into the design,” says Ro-bert, who shares a two-story country home in Burlington, Ontario, with wife Dawna-Lyne and his young daughters Robin and Maygan. “One night while watching the Late Show with David Letterman, I noticed the backdrop with the Brooklyn Bridge and it hit me,” he says. “I just thought the whole thing would make a great scene for my theater.”

Charged with the daunting task of replicating the New York skyline in a 450-square-foot area of a basement was Burlington-based Howell & Associates Inc. “The client wanted something fun that wouldn’t break the bank,” says president and designer Clinton Howell. “He wanted a real showplace and I think he got it.”


The couple’s favorite place to sit in the theater is one of the back row’s love seats. “You can enjoy a great view of the skyline    and watch great movies all at once,” Robert says. “The high-definition sound rumbles—you can really feel everything. It’s like you’re in a real theater.” (Click image to enlarge)

Step inside the Coulombe family’s multilevel theater and it’s apparent why the space wowed the judges at the 2003 Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) expo. In fact, the screening room design won the best home theater award in the $70,000 to $100,000 category. Just as visitors of Manhattan are struck with the awe-inspiring view of the city’s towering, twinkling skyscrapers as they cross the Brooklyn Bridge, so are guests of the Coulombes’ home theater: Surrounded by a meticulously handpainted skyline mural that wraps from the back of the theater to the front and all the way to a three-dimensional Brooklyn Bridge, it’s the next best thing to experiencing New York firsthand. The mural, which took a month to complete, blends blue, purple, black, and red acrylic paint on vinyl canvases that are adhered to the walls.“One of our biggest challenges was to create something that felt classy and upscale rather than hokey, which is always a risk when you create a theme room,” Howell says. “That’s why the mural took that sort of impressionistic style. It helped to keep it tasteful.”

Robert built the family game room using bricks that were plucked from demolished buildings. “There wasn’t enough of the same color, so I placed them in random order throughout the wall,” he says. Instead of installing wainscotting around the room’s perimeter, he added a ledge for drinks. He describes the space as part sports bar, part old English pub. Benches and chairs are crafted from hockey and goalie sticks. (Click image to enlarge)

The three-dimensional bridge, which is modeled after a portion of the Brooklyn Bridge, stands to the left of the screen. The bridge is constructed of medium-density fiberboard, with steel rods to create the illusion of suspension. Fiber-optic lighting doubles as stars and bleeds into the skyline on the right side of the screen. Spotlights shine up the walls and reflect the skyline, lending another dimension to the skyscrapers. A sprinkling of recessed lighting tucked into the ceiling adds to the drama.

Howell says the room’s biggest challenge was installing the fiber-optic ceiling and the upper portion of the mural. “More than 600 strands of fiber were drilled through the drywall prior to its installation,” he explains. To accomplish that, Howell built a temporary structure that suspended the drywall from the ceiling. “It took longer to do the fiber than to build the drywall for the whole room.”

The DVD collection is accessible through the Kenwood Entre Entertainment Hub and 401 disc DVD changer. DVDs are retrieved via the Internet by genre, cover art or disc title. (Click image to enlarge)

Nine Acoustic Innovations Deco CinemaChairs—including three love seats—take up residence in two rows; all of the chairs recline and are equipped with drink holders.  The chairs’ deep purple and buff beige Mayfair suede complements the mural’s shadowy tints. Small side tables composed of wood and iron are anchored at the end of each row. Gray broadloom carpeting softly counters the bright lights of The Big Apple.

A custom bar, built by the homeowner, lies just beyond the theater doors. Constructed of cultured flagstone, the bar features a hardwood maple top, brass railing, and rope underlighting.  The “Coulombe Theater” sign in red and blue neon adds a touch of New York City theatrics.“We put the bar area into the floor plan to break up the space,” Robert says. “And it provides an area to entertain in while watching the game.”


“It’s not every day someone asks you to re-create the New York skyline. It was almost like designing a stage set for a play.” —Clinton Howell, custom installer and designer (Click image to enlarge)

To accommodate the family’s passion for sports, a game room was added to the entertainment space and was designed as a tribute to Robert’s beloved hockey. A die-hard NHL Buffalo Sabres fan and season ticket holder, he even incorporated four 20-inch Toshiba TVs into one wall, each with its own satellite receiver and Crestron touchscreen hookup so he can watch four games simultaneously. The sports-themed room also includes billiard and air hockey tables, and treasured sports memorabilia. (Click image to enlarge)

The theater and game room have been the setting for numerous parties and get-togethers, but what the Coulombes most enjoy is the quality family time the space affords. Thrice weekly, the family sprawls out with big bowls of popcorn and a DVD. “Our girls are crazy about it,” says Dawna-Lyne. “The novelty still hasn’t worn off.


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