Installations: Great Plains Theater

For most of us, waiting for a plane at the airport is more of a nuisance than an opportunity. But that wasn't the case for Gordon Shackelford, owner of the Fairfield, Iowa-based custom-installation firm Absolute Home Theater & Automation, who turned a random meeting with some old acquaintances into a fairly substantial custom installation. During a 2-hour layover in the airport lounge, he sketched out the preliminary details of the couple's new media room and dedicated home theater on a cocktail napkin.

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"It was totally random that I bumped into them and that they were building a house about an hour outside Iowa City," Gordon recalls. "I used to work as a photographer for the husband, who runs an event-photography company. Reconnecting in the airport gave us time to discuss what they had in mind for their home."

There were several key elements to the project. One was that the wife and her interior designer, Lisa Lindley, had very strong opinions about how they wanted everything to look. Also, the couple wanted a dedicated theater as well as whole-house audio.

"The owners and I sat down and decided to make the installation as flexible as possible by putting in all the wires they might ever use," Gordon explains. "There's a lot of Cat-5e in there, and it's wired in such a way that it can easily be adapted to their needs." The primary demarcation area is in an equipment room behind the theater, with panels that allow the phone outlets to become network/Internet outlets, and vice versa. "It gives them a lot of flexibility."