We're all out to make the most of our living room spaces, but what if money weren't an issue and you could dream up a custom home theater? Many lucky people get to do exactly that. They work with professional designers and consultants to create and build their vision, from quirky golf simulators to indoor and even outdoor ultra high-end entertainment spaces that use the best TVs and best 4K projectors.
For Home Theater Week, we've compiled some of the best custom home theater installations we've come across in this article, some of which have been winners of CEDIA awards. Below, you'll find a selection of projects that suit different wants and needs. Perhaps they may not be all to your taste, but if you're looking for inspiration these are a great place to start.
Hahn Theater - Keith Yates Design
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This sizeable 15-seat theater was designed by Keith Yates for cinematographer Rob Hahn, who wanted to “build a theater that will properly showcase films in the manner they were meant to be seen - on a large constant-area screen, with powerful, intense yet delicate sound.”
The inspiration for the Hahn Theater came from a “vision of sitting under the stars at the edge of the Grand Canyon, legs dangling over the abyss and staring into the blackness,” according to the designer, who worked with The Projection Room to install the video and control systems.
A highlight of the system is a large custom baffle wall located behind the 19-foot wide acoustically transparent projection screen that holds the system's three JBL M2 loudspeakers and six subwoofers. The system’s emphasis on bass reproduction also led to the designer’s invention of the UberSub, a module comprised of dual horizontally opposed, force-canceling 24-inch drivers, with the 6-module array in the baffle wall generating 120 decibels throughout the 15-seat audience area down to 3Hz.
Sony VPL-5000ES projector
19-foot wide Stewart Director’s Choice screen
Kaleidescape media system consisting of a Strato player and Terra servers
Trinnov Altitude 32 surround processor
Three JBL M2 loudspeakers and 20 matching JBL surrounds
16 subwoofers, including 8 custom KYD/JL Audio SHOC-24 subwoofers at the side and rear walls, 2 custom 24-inch U-571 Uber drivers in custom enclosures below the audience, and 6 UberSub modules in the baffle wall
3 Mark Levinson amplifiers (front channels)
20 JBL Synthesis amps (surrounds)
Four Powersoft X4 4-channel amplifiers (for the 6 dual-driver UberSubs in the baffle wall behind the screen and the 2 x 24-inch subs in large custom enclosures just below the audience)
Lady Luck – Lisa Slayman, Slayman Design
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For designer Lisa Slayman, the inspiration for this opulent home movie palace came from the glamorous era of 1930s Hollywood. The theater, which seats up to 45 people, features both a balcony and main auditorium and is lined by Corinthian columns with silver leaf accents. Adding to the glitz is a bar/lounge area, along with a front entry façade, marquee, and separate bathrooms for male and female guests.
For a theater at this quality level, painstaking attention gets paid to details out of necessity, and the Damask silk wall panel fabric in reds, chocolate brown, and silver with Swarovski Crystals woven throughout provides evidence of that. The theater’s drapery trims were custom designed and handmade by SDA, and the A/V integration was provided by Cantara Design, with Sam Cavitt of Paradise Theater serving as acoustical consultant.
Stewart Filmscreen Cinemascope (20ft wide)
Digital Projection Titan Projector
Genelec 8.4 Speaker System
New Jersey basement open space – Dreamedia Home Theater
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This basement open-space home theater is a DIY project that the owner carried out using the installation and product advice found on AV retailer Dreamedia Home Theater’s YouTube channel. As Dreamedia’s Zachary Geringer says in his video demonstration of the space, the theater “is on-point” for 2021, the year the video was shot, with regular sofa seating and white wainscotting and trim, yet enough light control in the space to get the best from the system’s Epson 6050UB projector, which has a 2,600 lumens brightness spec.
A Denon AVR-X2500H AV receiver provides multiple HDMI outputs to feed both the main projector and a flat-panel TV located in the adjacent bar area. Bar-style seating is used in the bar area facing both the TV and the theater’s Dragonfly Ultra AcoustiWeave Acoustically transparent projection screen, allowing for plenty of viewing flexibility for small or larger gatherings.
Aside from the bar, another advantage to the basement theater’s open design is there’s lots of room for other forms of entertainment, with a Nintendo Ultimate Arcade game and card and pool tables located in the adjacent space. There’s really no chance of anyone ever getting bored down here, and money saved by going the DIY route just double’s the installation’s value.
Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB projector
Dragonfly Ultra AcoustiWeave Acoustically transparent screen
Denon AVR-X2500H AV receiver
Klipsch Pro-250RPW LCR speakers
Klipsch Pro Series in-ceiling speakers
Apple TV 4K
Harmony remote control
Gaming Room - Keith Yates Design
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The brief started out with a list of its intended uses – about 50% internet gaming with his kids, 40% movies, 10% music listening -- but not its theme or mood.
At one point I mentioned that I imagined a large, weathered old stone Buddha statuary. The client asked whether I knew that, in fact, he collected old stone Buddha statuary. I didn’t.
He asked what else I saw. I said, well, I saw a fairly large, dimly lit transition space for equipment racks etc., but something else as well, something sort of weird: A big, messy gash seemed to have been hammered and chiseled out of the concrete floor. There were old looking pipes and conduits running through it, and at the bottom of the gash, maybe 2 feet down, there was a partially exposed, ancient, bony, alien-looking creature with glowing, beady eyes. The excavated gash continued from the Rack Room into the Gaming Room. There was a plexiglass covering over the gash. On the wall of the Rack Room were hooks and hard hats that said “Stanford Research into Paranormal Phenomena” along with clipboards with hand-written, dated entries that told an unsettling story. Many notes described an eerie, low-level infrasonic hum that gave everyone the creeps, creating high turnover among the archeologists and technologists sent there. Within a few years they’d all fled in fear.
The client loved the general idea, asked if we could add an octopus/dragon-like Cthulhu theme in the Gaming Room, maybe a graphic representation embossed on the chairs or something. He explained that it came from an HP Lovecraft story in the 1920s and that I should read it.
The project was shelved for some years, then sputtered back to life. The new interior designer had other ideas, so the paranormal/Cthulhu theme was shelved. The machine-like feel of my original Game Room sketches and renderings remained more or less intact. In the end, the blotchy, polished concrete floor I’d spec’d was covered in gray carpet. Weirdly, it actually fits the story… the room is still waiting for another layer of its ancient story to be peeled back, exposed to the light. – Keith Yates
Loudspeakers: Genelec AOW-312
Subwoofers: KYPG (Keith Yates Products Group) QUAD 15-2
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen Vistascope custom 2-way masking 153 ½ x 64 inches, 2.40:1 native
Flanking displays: 50-inch TVs on motorized mounts
Seating: Cineak Saxon recliners
For the ultimate party animals – DPP design
Working with the integrator DPP Smart Home and Electrical Solutions, AWE Europe helped put together the ultimate home theater for party animals. The clients were self-confessed "non-techies" and so the space needed to be kitted out with technology that was straightforward to use.
The emphasis here was on a fun design and the colorful neon lights really nail this. “We were presented with two empty rooms - a blank canvas - which was a first for us,” says Dominic Parete, director of DPP, who was responsible for the design, layout and integration of the project. “The client explained that as he was very non-technical, a simple control solution was essential. We chose URC for several reasons. For the client, URC is high-performing, reliable and easy-to-use. For us, we like working with AWE because we get great technical support, and we know the URC platform and products provide a great control solution. They’re also always reliably in stock.”
Initially, the client was wary to install a projector but that was until they saw the Sony VPL-VW590 4K Projector, which we're told "was love at first watch" for them. DPP used a URC MRX-8 Total Control Advanced Network System Controller, which has the capacity to control up to 32 audio/video zones or areas of the home. The games area includes a Sony KD50X85JU 50-inch 4K TV, Definitive Technology speakers and an independent subwoofer that can be used separately or in combination with the cinema area to create an all-inclusive party space.
On top of this, there's a dedicated "party time" button that activates the client's custom settings for an instant pop-up party, with LED lights. It also has a "movie time" setting that dims the lights ready for them to stick in a movie.
URC home automation
High-end London living – The AViology
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Nestled in the former home of the London Fire Brigade along South Bank in buzzy central London, this residential home theater had to match the grandeur of the Grade II listed building that it was inhabiting.
AV specialists The AViology were in charge of turning this space into a dedicated ultra-high spec home theater, alongside AWE Europe, which assisted with the supply of equipment.
Because this theater was in a shared space it focused on delivering the best entertainment experience rather than appealing to specific tastes. AWE supplied a Sony VPL-XW7000 native 4K laser projector, along with a 7.2.4 Bowers & Wilkins speaker system and suitable amplifiers to run these off.
“I've used AWE for some time. I’d previously heard a Bowers & Wilkins cinema room and I was very impressed, so now being able to source through AWE is a real bonus. I was looking for the right opportunity to use Bowers & Wilkins in a cinema room and this came up. It was a bit of a no-brainer; I know and trust the brand and have a great relationship with the supplier," Dan Wheadon at The AViology explained of the setup.
“We've gone to the higher end because performance is crucial; we want the clients to be impressed and when they walk into the room and all systems are fired up for them to go, ‘wow, that sounds and looks great’.”
Sony VPL-XW7000 native 4K laser projector
Three B&W CWM7.3S2 in-wall speakers
Four B&W CWM7.5S2 in-wall speakers
Denon AVCX6700 AV receiver
Rotel RMB-1555 power amplifier
Two CCM7.5S2 in-ceiling speakers
Two ISW-4 in-wall subwoofers
SA1000 subwoofer amplifier
Sony UBPX800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player
Cooper House – Intuitive Designs
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The Cooper House was actually a custom home theater project that won 2022's CEDIA awards for best integrated home level III setup, best life lived at home, and excellence in lighting and technology meets design for the EMEA region.
The technology integrator on the job was Intuitive Designs, which is a company based in Kent, in the UK. They included a simple yet extremely powerful control system in the build, according to CEDIA, combining a Crestron Home and Lutron HomeWorks QSX System to integrate all the technologies used throughout.
It wasn't the home theater room that was high spec either, as the entire home had a total of 24 audio zones. These were made up of three Crestron amps, one Sonos amp, two Anthem AV receivers and three Sonos One standalone speakers. On the visual side, there were nine video zones.
Out of all the theaters showcased in this article, the Cooper House is one of the most integrated, which it owes to being a completely new build project. With seamless user experience and value for money as the two main objectives of the brief, Intuitive Designs managed to deliver this in a way that we can't help but keep coming back to.
Bang & Olufsen
Bowers & Wilkins
Thanks to Joshua Gershman at Kaleidescape, Stuart Tickle at AWE Europe and Stephen Nevison at Intuitive Designs for their help in preparing this article.