Proper Balance

Photos by Michael Graydon Pictures

As we've demonstrated so many times, Home Theater isn’t just about the A/V products; it's about the entire design. This month's theater is an example of a project starting from the interior design and worked its way out from there. The homeowner hired renowned Robyn Clark from Toronto, Canada, to handle the classic-contemporary décor throughout the house, which was then translated into the design of the home theater and a special music lounge.

Systems integrator Remote Possibilities worked closely with the designer to ensure that the technical aspects fused with the room's design. It was necessary to conceal as much as possible, not just for the aesthetics, but because the designated theater space was relatively small and had low ceilings.

The below-standard ceiling height of 6 feet, 11 inches proved to be the biggest challenge for both companies. The client wanted six seats, and the only way to do this was create two seating levels. "We designed a low-rise step that maximized head room in the upper level. Moreover, we still needed to add an extra platform under the upper seats so line-of-sight was not obscured by the first row," explains Clark. "This forced us to place the upper level against the back wall, and we had to find a comfortable zero-clearance seating to fit our design scheme."

Triad Silver Monitor in-ceiling speakers proved to be the most flexible for the placement of all seven speaker channels relative to the seating orientation. "Due to the low ceiling, we had to position the speakers closer to the seating than normal to ensure excellent imaging," said Chris Popalis of Remote Possibilities. "The end result was a convincing soundstage. Even the dialogue is anchored as if it’s coming from the behind the screen. The enveloping surround field makes the room seem much larger."

In-wall speakers were never an option because Clark envisioned a sleek, LED-backlit ebony stone wall around the Stewart screen. The backlit wall and lighting on the steps create a theater-like ambiance. To further compliment the minimalist design, all components were placed in an adjacent closet outside the theater. While no formal budget was allocated toward acoustics, the upholstered and studded panel walls provided plenty of acoustical control. Celeste Keller painted the portrait on the right side of the theater.

The theater was equipped with one of the first 3D residential projectors, the Sony VPL-VW90ES. A Pioneer Elite AVR handles processing, input switching, and amplification for the surround back channels and is paired with a Cinepro MK-5 multichannel amp that handles the LCR and surround channels. A single Sunfire 12-inch True EQ Signature subwoofer creates the deep bass. Source devices include an Apple TV, Sony PlayStation 3 for Blu-ray playback, and a Wii game console.

The separate music/whisky lounge features high-end audio components such as the Music Reference RM-200 amp with vintage tubes and VPI Scout turntable, which is central to the authentic mid-century vibe. Digital audio is still allowed in this vintage high-end space using an Audio Aero Capitole Signature CD player. The mellow tones of the Merlin VSM-M speakers blend in perfectly with the space’s overall theme and décor, which features a collection of rare whiskies from Edinburgh and London.

Says Clark, "This room's décor was inspired by the retro tube amps. The accent wall is the focal point of the room, showcasing the audio components, which look like modern art. To create the loungy vibe, dim backlighting was added around the raised wall."

According to Clark, they’re seeing more of a demand for media spaces in existing homes. Rather than buying a new home, homeowners are investing in making better use of underutilized areas. So, she finds herself working side by side with systems integrators like Popalis on many projects. "The furniture layout or cabinetry design I have in mind doesn't always work well with the A/V equipment the installer thinks is most appropriate for the space," explains Clark. "So, it's necessary to work closely together to come up with a doable plan that is both functional and beautiful. Our design choices must accentuate the A/V experience, not detract or hinder it."

"This project perfectly illustrates how a small spare room can be converted into a high-performance home theater due to the equipment and integration technologies we now have at our disposal," concludes MPopalis.

Remote Possibilities Inc., (416) 805-9500,
Robyn Clarke + Co, (416) 653-9983,