Two for the Show

For married couples or any two people who live together, life always seems to be a series of compromises. When this Omaha, Nebraska, homeowner built his dream theater, he not only put on an addition to the house for his theater, but he added a room right above it for his wife.

Jim Wichita, of Omaha-based The Sound Environment, handled the install. “Mr. homeowner wanted the ultimate home theater, and Mrs. homeowner wanted a gathering room,” says Wichita, with a laugh.

Directly above the 680-square-foot home theater, the homeowner built another 680-square-foot room that his wife uses for entertaining, socializing, and as a private viewing space of her own. The room includes a 50-inch Marantz plasma positioned on a lift, which can drop down right in front of the fireplace. Her biggest caveat with the whole project: The downstairs home theater had to be silent and not disrupt anything going on in her gathering room, or anywhere else in the house. “Her room above is a formal gathering place,” echoes Wichita, “and the lady of the house stipulated that no sound should be heard while she entertained her friends upstairs.”

According to Wichita, isolation was the biggest consideration with the installation. The room, he explains, is essentially suspended within a larger room, acoustically isolated from the formal room above. Installers suspended the ceiling with acoustically isolating elements. They also used a recording-studio-quality door (at a cost of $6,000) for the entrance to the theater. The theater can now play at 120 decibels, and no one can hear it from upstairs.

Since the home theater is not a room for occasional use, soundproofing was critical. The client has more than 3,000 DVDs that he enjoys on a regular basis. He conceals the DVDs in a walk-in room, behind one of the fabric panels in the theater.

Before you enter the theater, the lobby area (the homeowner’s idea) welcomes you with a marquee and lighted theater posters. Wichita says the goal was to have an entrance as elegant as the interior. The lobby also conveniently serves as the place to hide the front projector, a $120,000 Runco VX-6 three-chip DLP. Its companion piece is a 96-inch Stewart film screen.

Once inside, the theater’s traditional, plush look with dark, rich colors enhances the viewing experience when a movie is on and the lights are off. The walls between the vertical columns are covered with a woven black fabric that hides the acoustic treatments by RPG Diffusor Systems. The ceiling combines black fabric between the beams with tarnished-gold wallpaper that covers the larger ceiling areas.

Wichita divided the theater into three levels with two rows of seating that have motorized recliners for seven. The three-seat front row is positioned on a D-box Odyssey motion platform that was recessed into the floor. These seats allow viewers to tip, shake, and groove along with the low-frequency effects of a movie. The Wilson Audio 5.1 surround sound system—a work of art in itself—features MAXX Series 2 left and right front speakers and four individually amplified surround speakers (two surrounds are dedicated to each row of seating). Wichita positioned Wilson WATCH Dog subwoofers in the front corners of the room behind the fabric wall. The center speaker, subwoofers, and front amplifiers are on a raised stage covered in black carpet below the screen. A Crestron touchpanel controls the entire system.

A Vantage lighting-control system assures that the lights automatically adjust to the viewers’ needs. For instance, when the homeowner pushes the Play Movie button on the Crestron remote, the drapes open, all of the lights slowly fade to off, and the step lights turn on. If the viewer pushes the Intermission button, the lights come up slowly to half brightness, and movie trivia displays on the screen until someone pushes the Play Movie button again. Finally, when someone pushes the Off button, the drapes close, the equipment turns off, and the lights come up slowly to full brightness.

The system can also do a few other interesting things. For example, when someone rings the front doorbell, the Crestron touchpanel automatically switches to a view of the front door. There are also 10 other cameras around the property that the homeowner can view on the touchpanel.

Maybe the whole “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” idea is true. For this couple, they both now have a room of their own they can appreciate and an impressive home theater they can enjoy together.