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Roman Holiday

October 24, 2008 By Brooke Lange



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Roman Holiday home theater
Roman Holiday home theater
Roman Holiday home theater
Roman Holiday home theater

Every time the owners step foot into their golden home theater, they feel as if they’ve traveled back in time to their Italian honeymoon.

Consider this: A regular everyday person—not a big-name, highly-in-demand interior designer—masterminded every single detail of this elegant private screening room outside of Los Angeles.

While the wife doesn’t have any formal interior design training, she bravely orchestrated all of her home’s interiors from top to bottom.

Roman Holiday home theater

“I know what I like,” Kim Banducci says. “It’s in my head, and sometimes it’s difficult to verbalize, but I know it when I see it.”

At first blush, the theater’s aesthetics appear utterly simplistic with its monochromatic color palette and minimalist embellishments.

The look of the space is so easy on the eye that none of the carefully crafted architectural detailing or design flourishes will cause any guest to do a double take—nor do those flourishes distract from the film at hand. Even the streamlined leather theater seating melts into the background instead of competing for a second look. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s clear that the room’s visual artistry is as complex and ornate as Florence, Italy’s famed gilt-bronze Baptistry doors.

Even the intricately stitched acoustic wall fabric echoes the stunning craftsmanship of the handmade gowns worn by those who passed through the historic doorway. The owners of this theater admit that last year’s Roman Holiday in Italy influenced their theater’s design deeply.

“Everything in Italy is in the molding and the details,” Banducci says, adding her company provides security services to the largest commercial movie theaters around the world, including the Kodak Theater, which stages the Oscars.

“Italy’s streets are literally lined with marble,” she says. To that end, Banducci found a way to re-create Italy’s stone-laden vias in her screening room in the form of backlit onyx marble panels, each of which strategically lines the bottom portions of the theater’s side walls.

Roman Holiday home theater

A soft light blushes through the marble slabs, lending a romantic glow to the space while illuminating the tiered theater aisles for ease of movement. In a nod to Italy’s richly decorated villa and palace walls, the panels of goldstitched, flora-patterned acoustic fabric— which Banducci found after scouring L.A. Mart’s showrooms for several days—are framed by multiple layers of gold-gilded crown molding.

Each hand-selected layer of crown molding, as well as the perfect arrangement of crown molding for each area, took an untold number of hours. “Just the chair railing itself has eight different pieces of molding,” she continues. After the molding company J.P. Weaver carefully placed Banducci’s custom-cut pieces for the baseboard design, she realized the intricate detailing of the elaborate woodworking was lost, so it was back to the drawing board.

“Luckily the general contractor was patient with me,” she says, adding that she worked with professional colorist Phillpa Radon (who also works with Ralph Lauren) to ensure the palette of more than 20 paints work together seamlessly to complement all of the architectural elements.

“We created mock designs on one wall and changed them if I did not like them,” Banducci says. “We did not want the whole room to look the same.”

The owners’ beloved memories of Italy’s grand villas and duomos came into play when designing the theater’s “sundown” ceiling of bronze, brown, taupe and gold.

The famed celestial ceilings in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas also contributed to the theater’s heavenly ceiling scene. “We didn’t want it to be gaudy,—we wanted a classic, breathtaking look,” Banducci says. “We wanted to be able to walk into the theater 20 years later and think that the design is timeless.”

Roman Holiday home theater

The theater’s original rooftop design called for each corner to be punctuated with a medallion-like, carved-wood cornice. Banducci decided against those concentric accent pieces in the end, fearing they would overpower the cloud scene. Numerous layers of recessed lighting, which spills over much of the room’s crown moulding, cast a warm glow on the sundown scene. The wall sconces are from Fine Art Lamps’ catalogue. What started out as a simple space evolved into a much more involved design, both from a visual and a technological standpoint. In the beginning, the husband envisioned building a living room-like environment that revolved around a wall-mounted 71-inch plasma TV.

Knowing such a setup wouldn’t deliver a bonafide theater experience, the wife and custom installer, Los Angeles’ Future Home owner Murray Kunis, quickly talked the husband out of that media room design approach. Soon enough, with the guidance of Kunis, the couple was learning about high-end projectors and automation possibilities. Once they saw how much fun they could have with the technology, the theater system grew in sophistication.

“They love the Kaleidescape,” Kunis says of the movie and media management technology. Kunis’ team wrote the software for the touchscreen’s video overlay, which allows the homeowners to select a movie by touching the DVD title on the touchscreen instead of having to cursor through a list. “It’s much easier to use instead of having to look up at the screen and use the up/down/left/right touchscreen button,” says Kunis, a classically trained musician who has been installing highend home theaters and doing Crestron programming for 20 years.

“We’ve been designing THX theaters since 1991,” says the music engineer who graduated from the University of Miami—one of the top music-engineering programs in the world. “It’s a given that the room has to be easy to use, a given that it provides a theatrical experience, and a given that it has Dolby sound that’s encompassing.”

Roman Holiday home theater

Working within the framework of a 425-square-foot room with an 8-foot ceiling—one of the lowest ceilings Kunis has worked with in a theater of this scale—was a challenge, especially when the ultimate goal of creating a “theatrical experience” translates into fitting a 10- or 11-foot video screen into a space that’s less than 23 feet deep—all while carefully executing the perfect seating plan to accommodate the perfect sightline to the screen.

“The coolest thing,” he says, “is that we were able to create a very comfortable room in a limited space with a low ceiling for six to 10 people. The logistics of the room are very comfortable with no compromise of performance.” But Kunis did more than deliver a jawdropping theater system: He saved the couple’s marriage.

“When my husband was laid up after having ankle surgery and was ordered to stay off his foot for at least four weeks, he set up camp in the home theater and barely left the room,” Banducci says, adding that her husband, a retired LAPD and SWAT Team member, typically exercises two to three hours a day after working a 12-hour day. Not exactly your sit-still-for-long kind of guy. “He could recline and watch movies and Fox News,” she says. “He brought his office into the theater so he could work. It was a godsend.”

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