We recently sat down with Michelle Barone of Madison Hudson Design to chat about her work designing custom home theaters. The project we chose to highlight is in a family home-based in Connecticut, and the theater needed to flow with the décor she created for the rest of this beautiful family home.
We’ve included a before picture below, so you can see just how incredible a transition this home theater went through. The room was originally full of dumpy-looking couches and looked a bit cramped. By working with natural elements like wood paneling and warm colors, Michelle completely transformed the look of this home cinema. She cast out the old chairs and replaced them with custom theater seating to create an elegant home theater.
Recommended reading: You asked, we answered. A guide to luxury home theater design.
1. Can you give us a little background about this home theater project?
Sure. One of my Greenwich clients requested a remodel of their home theater. The original theater wasn’t up to scratch and needed a lot of updating for it to match the rest of the home interior. I updated everything except the lighting and the screen.
2. What was wrong with the original home theater?
It was dated and most of the A/V equipment was old. Technology has come a long way in the past 10 years. The theater had stadium seating, but the couches were awful and just thrown in with no thought for sound or design. Also, everything was brown. It had to go.
3. What inspired you?
Natural elements. I wanted greys and warm woods. I was immediately sold on the Elite chairs because they allow for design customization. I added warm oak panels and gunmetal cup holders.
The customized home theatre chairs drove the rest of the design. I focused on performance. The family has three young children, so spills are inevitable. The rugs are STG – so spills aren’t an issue. It was important that the room looked elegant while still being a kid-friendly home theater.
4. Was designing a home theater room different from designing the rest of the house?
Definitely, sound design is a critical element to get right in a home theater. This typically isn’t true in other rooms of a house. I researched soundboards and I hired verified A/V professionals to create an optimal entertainment package, which of course included surround sound. I believe a home theater needs to sound as good as it looks.
5. What were some of the unique factors impacting this home theater design?
The doorframes were narrow, so I knew getting seats into the home theater would be difficult. I spent time on the phone with Elite HTS discussing how the chairs could be taken apart and reassembled inside the room. A common design mistake is only measuring the room and not considering how the furniture will actually get there. I lived in New York City for a long time and I’ve seen couches cut in half and hoisted through windows. It doesn’t matter how you get the media room furniture in, but you definitely need a plan in place.
Coordinating with the rest of the house was another design element to consider. The home design has to flow from one space to the next. I’m currently working on their game room. It’s just down the hall from the movie theater. It will have old school cabinet arcade and pinball games. Oh, and a vintage popcorn maker! The hallway between the home theater and the custom arcade will be lined with benches, so the kids can wait for their popcorn before the movie starts. It’s so fun creating these wonderlands for children.
Furniture and carpets that could survive the onslaught of children. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as indestructible when it comes to interiors and kids, but the carpet is as close as you can get. It won’t stain if children spill soda as it’s a technology that pushes stains to the surface. The upholstery also needed to be soft and luxurious, as well as cleanable. We went for a beautiful buttery leather that exudes comfort while still allowing for some routine spill-mopping after the kids have watched a film.
6. Were there any constraints put on the design?
Usually, the budget is a big one, but with this home theater, there wasn’t really one. The emphasis was on getting the right look and feel, so I was able to select the best home theater seating for the room. Often, space can be a bit tight, but in this case, there was enough room for the number of theater chairs they wanted.
7. What are the 4 key elements to get right in a home theater?
1. Comfy theater seating
One of the most important elements is the seating. Chairs need to be roomy and soft, so sitting for a long time is a pleasurable experience. Oh – and the chairs need to recline with footrests. That’s a must.
2. Sound Design/AV
As I’ve already mentioned, getting the sound right is critical to the performance of a home theater. I think I’ve already stressed this point enough, so I won’t go into further detail.
3. Clear Image on the screen
Investing in updated AV equipment is a total must. Blue-ray systems have to go. Interfaces need to be easy and customizable for clients and their needs. Technology has drastically changed in the last ten years. Hiring a professional AV installer is definitely the right move.
4. Follow through and customer service
Things break. Especially equipment. Confirm agreements are in place for how the room is to be serviced when issues arise. Double-check that companies offer warranties, but more than that, home theater owners need to know who to call in the event of an unfortunate fault in the equipment. No home theater is complete without a file or folder of contacts for when things don’t go quite to plan.
8. Would you recommend any of the companies you worked with on this project?
Of course, Elite HTS was outstanding from start to finish, and they provided exceptional customer service. The A/V team was also extremely helpful, and I would recommend David Lawrence of Connecticut Electronics Group to anyone building a home theater in this area.
9. What was it like to work with Elite chairs?
I found Elite online and ended up chatting with them over the phone. It was easy; the communication and customer service were both excellent. They were responsive to every question and sent over immediate information. I trusted them every step of the way because they were so honest and open from the get-go. And I wasn’t disappointed when the seating arrived, the leather was soft and supple, almost like butter, and the chairs were so comfortable.
About Madison Hudson Design
Madison Hudson Design is an interior design firm based in Connecticut, specializing in residential, commercial, and retail spaces. Michelle Barone, the owner, started her career in fashion, working in visual merchandising and eventually store design. In 2014, she took her knowledge of textiles and vendors and launched Madison Hudson Design. She has since designed homes in NYC, Stamford, Darien, Palm Beach, and Greenwich. We recommend checking out her Instagram for a closer look at some of her fabulous designs.