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Light Fantastique

May 17, 2008 By Louise Farr

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Light Fantastique home cinema
equipment rack

Noted home theater designer Theo Kalomirakis has learned that a snooty attitude can sometimes accompany the celebrities who hire him.

“They think everybody else is below them,” he says, with a chuckle. So he was surprised, not to mention flattered, when on a first meeting a Hollywood movie star client asked him to autograph a copy of his book, Great Escapes: New Designs for Home Theaters by Theo Kalomirakis.

That down-to-earth beginning set the tone for the project. “The client was against anything that has to do with ostentation or showing off,” says Kalomirakis, who designed the nine seat theater conceived for entertaining family and friends—not impressing industry bigwigs. “He doesn’t care about status. He is who he is. He’s defined by his personality and his movies.”

Light Fantastique home cinema

After the autograph session, Kalomirakis hunkered down with his client, who asked to remain anonymous, for a lengthy conversation about style. “What he wanted to accomplish was something that was 1960s cool,” Kalomirakis says. “So we started throwing buzz words around: Rat Pack. Silvery. Bluey. Cool. The things you associate with Elvis Presley.”

The theater, minimalist yet glossy, fills a nearly 1,000-square-foot, free floating, shock- mounted space within a 12,000-square-foot house. Anthony Grimani— who developed Dolby Surround at Dolby Laboratories, and went on to become director of technology at Lucasfilm THX—designed the layout.

Gruen Construction lowered the floor and pushed back the proscenium wall 6 feet. “We were working in a purist environment,” says custom installer Murray Kunis of Los Angeles’ Future Home Media. “You couldn’t put subwoofers wherever they would fit.”

While the rest of the property was under renovation, Kalomirakis collaborated closely with interior designer Bethe Cohen of Silicon Valley’s Bethe Cohen Design Associates. “The rest of the house is very masculine, as is the theater, but it has a warm, elegant contemporary feel,” says Cohen. “You get a sense of drama from the moment you step into the lobby.”

That, of course, was Kalomirakis’ intent. “I always try to persuade the client to break down the area into small spaces that lead into the big space to create a sense of anticipation, of process, of arrival,” he says. Columns in the main lobby, foyer and theater glow from inside—their facades created from perforated, translucent metal that allows light to shine through. “You see the light before you see the metal,” says Kalomirakis.

The client’s favorite color is blue, so Kalomirakis and Cohen settled on a blue and gray palette, with stainless steel accents: Then they leapt forward in time and considered that there may be a day when the client might want to change the room’s color scheme without changing the design.

“I brought in the idea of using Color Kinetics, the technology that allows you to change color at will,” Kalomirakis says. “So the whole lobby, and the whole theater, can be totally cool with white light, or it can be fire engine red, with the lights turning green to red, or blue or green.” The system rotates through the entire color range in 10 minutes—or it can connect to a CD to unleash light that pulses with the music.

Vitralight glass panels, backed with lacquered color, cover the walls: The effect mimics oversized tiles. “That gave it a very cool, antiseptic look. But it was also a technique that has its origins from the Deco era,” Kalomirakis adds. “The ’60s had a lot of retro elements from the ’30s, so you can mix styles if they are compatible.”

The main foyer, which sits just beyond the entry lobby, serves as a focal point and is complete with a bar and sofa for pre-movie indulgences (drinks and snacks). Smoked glass doors enclose an air conditioned equipment booth that’s tucked away in the lobby area, while the Runco projector hides in a soffit.

Past the lobby, an equipment room and wine cellar picks up the ’60s cool design theme. If guests decide to duck out of the movie for a moment, a 32-inch Panasonic plasma screen drops from the bar’s ceiling, allowing them to keep current with the film at hand.

It’s unlikely, though, that guests will feel the need to stretch their legs. The client, who is more than 6 feet tall, wanted seats he could lie down in. After test-driving many models, he chose a custom-made CinemaTech Ferien theater chair in bluegray leather. “It’s very risky,” Kalomirakis says of selecting theater seating, “because the comfort level varies from person to person.

“In one of his visits to New York, he came to the office to play around with the seats and select the one he liked the best. That [chair] what we used.” Kalomirakis acknowledges that he and Cohen held several meetings in order to establish territory. “A lot of the time designers feel very threatened by someone else who does a section of the house that they’re not involved in. And I want my space to reflect my ideas,” he says. “But unless we put down our egos and work together, the client suffers, the project suffers. There has to be continuity.”

In this case, agree Cohen and Kalomirakis, they successfully set territory aside, with the result that the client loved their work.

“You do a project and they forget about you, and you forget about them, because you move on,” says Kalomirakis. “But this is a very special client. He sent me a card for my birthday.”


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