Media rooms or home theaters have steadily gained in popularity, and it’s not surprising after lifestyle improvements have spurred demand for home remodeling projects. So, if a home theater or media room space is on your wishlist, we’ve compiled a list of essential design options to consider.
It takes thoughtful planning to make your media space turn out exactly as you had planned. With the right design, your media room can be an inviting gathering place even when the lights are on, and the sound system is off.
Lights! Camera! Action! Pass the popcorn, please! Here’s what you need to know…
1] Choose the Right Space
Carving out a section of your basement is an ideal way to make good use of an unfinished or underused space. Basements typically do not have large windows, multiple doorways, or high ceilings, making them ideal for transforming a room into a dedicated home theater. You might also consider utilizing a section of a garage or unused bedroom that is approximately 20 x 13 feet—an ideal configuration for a home theater.
2] Wiring for Sound and Light
Media centers require electrical wiring—and lots of it— to provide proper lighting, video, and surround sound. Even if you have to remove sections of drywall to reroute circuits, it’s better to hide the necessary electric infrastructure than to “make do” with visible cables and wires. Your design-build contractor and a qualified electrician will assist you with planning your media room, including proper placement of wiring for essential speaker locations, a receiver, A/V equipment, a video projector, and essential lighting.
Generally, you’ll want to consider wiring that allows speaker placement 1) above or below the viewing screen, 2) at either side of the screen, 3) on the sidewalls, 4) and on the back wall. You’ll also want to identify a location for the receiver and A/V equipment, which can be placed in a hidden cabinet or nearly closet.
3] Keep It Quiet — Soundproofing
Soundproofing a media room involves modifying the surrounding wall, floor, and/or ceiling to minimize the amount of sound traveling to other rooms or adjoining neighbors. To quiet the noise, insulation plays a huge role. An insulation rating of R30 is recommended for use in exterior walls, the ceiling, and floors. To keep rumbling movie sounds to a minimum, you’ll also want to consider insulating the interior walls with loosely-packed R11 insulation. The more soundproofing you can apply, the more functional the media room will be.
If permitted, you’ll also want to consider using specialty drywall such as QuietRock Soundproof as an effective sound barrier.
Other soundproofing techniques to muffle sound include hanging wool or velvet drapes on the outside of the walls, or quilt batting covered with decorative fabric. To minimize sound transmission between floors you can even use acoustic ceiling tiles.
4] Optimize Your Viewing Experience
Do you remember, as a child, sitting in the front row of the movie theater? By the end of the movie, your neck hurt, and you were squirming in your seat, right? You’ll want to prevent this from happening in your home theater. There is an optimal location and placement of your screen so that you can minimize neck and eye strain. A rule of thumb from media experts is that the seating area should be positioned 1.5 times the diagonal measurement of the television from the screen for optimal viewing comfort.
And, when it comes to the video display, bigger is not always better. Investigate the relative advantages of LED, LCD, and plasma technology, or explore innovative OLED that is reputed to be thinner, brighter, and more energy-efficient.
Understand that, whether you create a dedicated home theater or you plan a first-class viewing center in your living room or den, your screen, sound system, and lighting must work in tandem. Clarity and picture quality are vital, comfort counts, and you want the sound system to be as easy to operate and as attractive as possible. That means planning! Avoid skimping on the planning process.
5] Design Principles
Once you have identified the room’s location, the next step is to create the “shell” of your media center, select the specific equipment, and plan its installation. When that is done, move on to the aesthetic choices that will enhance your viewing experience and create the finished space of your dreams. Here’s the shortlist of priorities:
- TYPE OF SEATING: Your media room doesn’t have to have stadium seating, nor do you need reclining theater chairs, but if your room is large, it’s not too difficult to build in a raised section or two to hold overstuffed loveseats and plush lounge chairs. Room size and the number of people in the family will dictate your seating options. Consider flexible modular or sectional seating or a built-in banquette with plush cushions for children.
- BLACKOUT SHADES: If your room has a large window, roller blackout shades will darken the room and provide an authentic theater experience. Drapes of a plush fabric also serve as additional insulation and can help improve sound quality.
- LIGHT FIXTURES: Wall sconces add decorative appeal and eliminate the need for a central ceiling fixture or table lamps. Utilize dimmer switches or remote controls for safety and ease of operation. If you have different floor levels, consider low-voltage rope lighting at the steps or install step illumination to prevent accidents.
- FEATURE WALL: Even though a large-screen television will undoubtedly become the room’s focal point, consider other decorative design features. For example, frame the screen with decorative molding or add columns to side walls as architectural accents. Alternatively, install a cabinet or counter on the back wall to serve refreshments or provide storage. Use one wall as a gallery for poster art, or install shelving to showcase movie or entertainment memorabilia.
- PAINT COLOR: While most homeowners opt for lighter tones in living spaces, a media room will benefit from rich, darker colors: Navy Blue, Charcoal, Deep Wine Red, or an Earthy Terra Cotta or Forest Green are popular choices and will provide the perfect background for your media room. Darker upholstery or leather chairs work well in a home theater or media room. As an option for elevated seating at the rear of the room, consider pub tables and upholstered swivel stools.
- FLOORING: Carpet is the right choice for a media room. It not only helps soundproof the room, but it amplifies the richness of movie soundtracks. Consider carpet tiles that can be easily replaced should they become damaged or stained by use.
- CUSTOM BUILT-INS: Most media rooms are designed for viewing televised movies and DVDs and home movie films. You’ll no doubt have video games and other electronic equipment as well. Having a closet or specially designed custom cabinetry is a boon to organization and enjoyment.
When you’re ready to begin planning your home theater, call on Riverside Construction, which has experience in all things home remodeling. As the premier design-build contractor in Lafayette and West Lafayette, our team can help you determine the best location and the best materials, and the most economical ways to proceed with your media room project. Contact us or call 765.838.1644.
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