Viewing Pleasure

A glimpse into the design process of three luxury home theaters


In this home theater by Gramaphone, the screen is lowered
onto the stage for viewing, and features four-way masking
to adjust to the format required for optimal viewing.
Photo by Kevin Kelley/Gramaphone.

At what point in the home-building process do you need to plan for a home theater? The best time to nail down the specs is actually before you break ground, according to several area home theater designers. While it is possible to install a theater into a flex space after construction, to truly create the theater of your dreams, it’s best to start early—or at least have a lot of flexibility in the space to be converted.

When Gramaphone was hired to design this home theater (above), the foundation of the home had just been dug. However, one of the major design features of the space—a staging area where the homeowners’ three young daughters can perform—required a ceiling height of 18 feet. This factor meant that the builders had to re-excavate the foundation down several more feet. “Being involved early made that easier,” says Gramaphone’s Lance David, who supervised the installation.

A successful home theater involves careful placement of wiring and the built-in cabinetry that will house speakers, controls, televisions and more. Given that most home theaters these days are part of a grander whole-house integration system, the sooner the automation team is brought in to work with the builder, the better.

David worked closely with Neil Griner of Pine Crest Builders to complete the shape of a 16-seat theater, designed by Louis DiCrescenzo of Gramaphone with finishing touches by the home’s interior designer, Jeannine Freeney. An automation system runs throughout the home, incorporating lighting, heating and air conditioning and security systems. All of it can be controlled from a single location in the home—or from a remote location via the Internet.

When a home theater is installed in a completed home, having some flexibility with the space is helpful for installation experts. In the case of the home theater that Sound Images, the Home Entertainment Company, designed in McLean, Virginia, the residence was already complete, but there were several potential spaces for the theater/system.

Sound Images designer David Neumaier determined that a former exercise room was the best location for the home theater. Working with Windsor Design Build, they removed the glass doors, built-in mirrors and chalk boards that were in place, and built out on one side to offer hidden access to the electric panel and other necessary technology. Finishing details such as columns, sconces and acoustical panels, plus plush seating, were added to give the room the elegance that the homeowners desired.

The technology was chosen to blend tasteful appearance with high performance. They selected a JVC 1080P high definition projector—the Electronic House Expo’s 2007 product of the year—for its whisper-quiet fan and almost life-like, high-contrast picture. The home theater was then integrated into the home’s family room media center and whole-house music system.

Sight & Sound Systems, Inc., of Dulles, Virginia, works with Camberley Homes on model homes to create fully-integrated home automation packages. In one recent project, they equipped the house with the latest technology in a straightforward package that’s easy to install in any of Camberley’s homes—and can have more bells and whistles added upon request.

In addition to offering packages that fit both high performance and set budget parameters, Sight & Sound’s focus in custom design is to educate the consumer, says president Kris Kaymanesh. They encourage homeowners to find reliable integrators. “You can buy products anywhere,” he says, but warns that this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get customization, full integration or the support system needed to keep your technology up to date.

“We ask clients, ‘Would you consider buying even a modest automobile that has no nice sound system or even power windows? Why wouldn’t you want a certain level of automation in your home?’” says Kaymanesh. He points out that a home is an investment that, properly handled, will grow in value. Having up-to-date technology in the home makes it more competitive in the market—and more enjoyable now.


Architectural detailing and plush seats lend this home theater by
Sound Images a sense of elegance. Transparent acoustical
panels hide high-end speakers.
Photo by Bob Narod.


Sight & Sound designed a whole-house automation system for this
model home by Camberley Homes, including a home theater featuring
the latest technology.