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HOW STUFF WORKS / HOME CINEMA

Where To Place Your Home Theatre

By Smarthouse Team | Friday | 30/03/2007

So you want a home theatre but are not sure whether you should have a dedicated space for it or set it up in your living room, or master bedroom, or games room. Never fear - SmartHouse has all the ideas you need.

Where to put your home theatre? To find out, simply take a tour through your own home. A home theatre can fit nearly


Click to enlarge
anywhere, and for that reason, there's no need to stop at just the one.

It can be in a dedicated space, in an addition, or a basement. It can be in a living room off the kitchen or in the kitchen itself. It can be in a games room, bedroom, even a bathroom. It can be in a home office or on the patio or by the pool.

For those with multiple setups, you can have one system in one room or a home theatre in every room, with all of them networked together. What room or rooms you select for your home theatre will probably depend on your specific needs, and on how you wish to use those spaces.

Want the full-throttle, big-bang-boom home theatre experience? Then build a dedicated theatre room. These rooms are often created in an extension or a basement area isolated from the rest of the house. Dedicated theatres are the dream rooms you often see in magazines.

Dedicated theatres are usually for serious movie buffs who are willing to spend serious money - unless they want a challenging do-it-yourself project.  The spaces are meant to wow and are typically very expensive, often costing six figures or more for the design and the high-end audiovisual systems. Speakers are often hidden behind fabric walls, in columns or behind the screen, while a projector may hang from the ceiling, or be located in a room at the rear. Seating is typically theatre-style, with risers or steps for unobstructed movie viewing.

The main advantage of a dedicated theatre room is just that: it's a room optimised for home theatre enjoyment. Because it's often acoustically isolated from the rest of the house, it allows you to recreate a true theatre experience in your home. It's also a great place to escape to or to entertain guests. Disadvantages include the typically large investment, a lack of flexibility for using the home theatre for a wide range of purposes and (if the room is isolated from the rest of the house) the fact that it discourages spur-of-the-moment entertainment.

Perhaps the most popular room in the house for a home theatre today is the living room - a convenient and natural setting


Click to enlarge
for home entertainment. For one thing, the space is often in a convenient location and near the kitchen. Also, most living rooms already have a TV or home entertainment system, and the spaces tend to be comfortable, with kick-back casual seating. It's a natural place for your living and friends to gather to watch a movie or the big match, play video games or listen to music.

The family room is also the perfect location for a flat-panel or rear-projection TV and setting up a few surround speakers usually isn't difficult. The equipment is often housed in a cabinet or console. Speakers can be placed inside or on top of the cabinet, or you can get larger floor-standing models. A great choice for surround speakers are in-wall or in-ceiling units. Many people opt for these types of speakers to preserve the room's decor.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to the living-room home theatre. Finding space for a really big screen and speakers can be an issue. Open spaces and hard surfaces such as fireplaces and windows can compromise audiovisual quality. And with other rooms nearby, you may not be able to crank up the volume as much as you'd like.

I


Click to enlarge
f you're the consummate entertainer, then perhaps you want your home theatre in a large space that can hold a bunch of people, some of whom may be watching something on the video screen while others play games or sip drinks at a dedicated bar. If this sounds like just the ticket, you need a games room with a home theatre - and you need to invite us over as soon as possible!

Games rooms are an increasingly popular way to use a basement, a room over the garage, a bonus room, even a large living room. Seating is typically games-room casual, with thick padded sofas and chairs, maybe some stools and a bar in the back. They also often contain pool tables and other manual and video games.

Because the space may be large and not dedicated to audiovisual reproduction, theatre performance can be compromised. Chances are the room won't be acoustically perfect, so you should plan on being able to watch movies and sporting events with the lights on - especially if people are doing other things in the room. With proper planning, though, differences in the audiovisual performance should be mostly unnoticeable. For many, the small compromises in sound and image quality are well worth it, if it means having a multipurpose space that's perfect for doing so many different and fun things.

Now back to our earlier point: home theatre in the kitchen? Why not? It's where everyone gathers anyway. Whoever is cooking won't have to miss the movie, the big match or any of the other home theatre action. A kitchen home theatre can, of course, also be used for musical enjoyment. Here you should use flat-panel video monitors that hang on walls, are flush-mounted next to cabinetry, or that swing into view from beneath cabinets. Kitchen speakers are generally unobtrusive in-wall, in-ceiling or small bookshelf units. You may not want to watch a whole movie in your kitchen, but be sure to place the video monitor so everyone can see it, especially the cook. Just remember to keep the audiovisual equipment away from the business area of the kitchen and stove-top to avoid splatters and splashes. And if the kitchen opens to a living room with a home theatre, it's a good idea to tie the kitchen speakers into that system.


Click to enlarge

And why not the study? The home office isn't just for work any more. It can also be a great escape, equipped with a secondary audiovisual system so someone can enjoy time alone, watch sports on a lazy weekend afternoon or even take a nap to soothing music. A digital flat-panel video display can double as a big-screen computer monitor or show a channel with a stock ticker during the workday. And a busy workday is made much better with some soothing music played through the speakers.

What about surround sound lullabies? The master bedroom is an increasingly popular place for home theatre systems, even modest ones with a TV and a few small speakers. It's a great convenience being able to start watching a movie sitting up in your main home theatre and finish it off in bed. Bedroom home theatres allow this, and a good bedroom system is perfect for times when there's a disagreement about what to watch. No longer will one of you skulk off and have to tolerate a tinnysounding TV.

TVs and video monitors can be hung from walls or ceilings or placed in areas that conceal the system when it's not in use. Flat-panel displays can even be made to rise from furniture at the foot of your bed. Thundering speakers have their place, but it might not be in the bedroom. Ensure your speakers are suited to playing softly. A good set of headphones are often warranted when your better half is snoozing.


Click to enlarge

A bathroom might not seem an obvious place to install a home theatre and won't usually lend itself to a massive system, but a small to medium video monitor can be a very nice thing while you're soaking in the bath. Some small LCD video monitors can be placed behind a mirror so you can check the stocks, sports results and other news while getting ready for work in the morning. Add a couple of in-ceiling speakers for music and audio and you're all set.

 

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