We recently spoke with Javier Llerena about his work at OneAdvantEdge designing custom home theaters. The project he chose to highlight is based in Miami, guitar-themed and features an impressive array of lights, as well as a low-ceiling. It is the first theater in our series that is in an above-ground-level room (basements are often the preferred room for a home theater).
Javier was full of helpful advice and had a lot to say about choosing the best theater seating. If you’re interested in designing a home theater or figuring out which companies are good to source electronics and lighting from — then this interview is a home theater design resource that can be referenced for hints and tips.
1. Can you give us some background about this custom home theater?
Sure, the client’s home is in Miami, Florida and they had a large empty room that they wanted to convert into a home theatre. It was to become the showpiece for their home, so they wanted something extraordinary with no expenses spared.
We sent our design team in to assess the situation and found that there wasn’t anything particularly problematic about the space. That gave us a lot of freedom to focus on the theme without having to contend with issues like unsuitable architecture.
Of course, we often deal with rooms that aren’t necessarily “right” and do need a lot of work before we can get started properly, but it’s always freeing when it’s not a concern.
2. Is there anything particularly unique about this design?
Every client we work with is entirely different, and we approach each project with an open mind. For this particular custom home theater, the client was in love with guitars; they wanted the whole space designed to that theme.
Everything about this particular home theater was unique. We had a lot of flexibility because there was no budget. The client trusted us to find the best possible solution for everything. Sometimes we get budgets that restrict what we can achieve, but with this project, we could invest in the custom theater seating, Savant lighting, and Lutron automation.
The room is beautiful; like a piece of art when you walk in. It’s always nice to get an opportunity to design a home theater as we would love to do it, rather than end up constrained by budget.
3. Were there any challenges with creating this home theater?
We have a fantastic team of designers, so although some of the elements might pose a challenge to a less experienced team, it was nothing out of the ordinary for us. We had to do all the electrics as the room didn’t have the electrical capacity for all the equipment and lighting.
We also had to treat the exterior wall for acoustics as it was concrete. In the grand scheme of things, these were minor tweaks though, and we had the experience to handle anything that cropped up.
4. What factors usually impact the design of custom home theaters?
Without a doubt, the budget has the most significant impact on the design. It’s essential to get the best out of the room – part of that is knowing how to balance the budget and prioritize which elements of the design will require the most investment.
It’s wise to approach the design in an order that makes sense. Rather than starting with a projector or rushing ahead and getting excited about speakers, let logic guide the design process. We begin with the dimensions of the room and use that to maximize the seating and size of the screen.
Comfortable theater chairs are usually the next element we decide on; they have to be right. The seating will occupy most of the room and people are going to sit in them for an average of three hours at a time. Neglecting this aspect could ruin an otherwise amazing home theater, as nobody wants to be uncomfortable even if it’s in a beautiful room.
Once we’re happy with the seats and screen, we get into projectors, acoustics, and flooring. One factor that some people neglect is planning for ventilation for the A/V gear. The equipment is expensive and can generate a lot of heat, so a good design must have adequate cooling taken into consideration.
6. What does “maximizing a home theater” mean?
That means making the most of the space by finding solutions where there are exterior walls, windows and doors, and making sure the room can comfortably seat the specified audience size. The two main things to address when maximizing a custom home theater are seating capability and screen size.
For example, in this project, we had a low ceiling, so we adjusted the screen size to accommodate that. We installed a 235:1 format.
7. What role did lighting play in this design?
There was a wide variety of lighting used which meant we had to redo all the electrics as the room wasn’t wired to handle that. We got to be really creative with how we lit the room, using fiber optic lighting in the ceiling, sconces, cove lighting, step lights, downlights, and lit up frames along the back wall.
8. What would you say are the four key elements to get right in a home theater?
- Acoustics – This has to be perfect, or the experience won’t be the same. Sound is one of the biggest factors when it comes to that feeling of complete immersion.
- Screen – The picture needs to be as big as possible and a high enough quality that the movie feels like it’s jumping off the screen.
- Projector – A lot of people get distracted by the screen specs and forget that the projector is just as important when it comes to a clear image and great display.
- Seating – Nobody wants to sit in an uncomfortable chair for an extended length of time, no matter how amazing the screen is!
9. How do you approach a custom home theater project?
We start with the seating 90% of the time and work from there. Our focus after getting the chairs right is to hone in on the acoustics and design in a way that won’t impact sounds performance. We do a full reading of the room, deciding where to incorporate elements like acoustic panels before we look at other aspects like color and pattern.
Our process usually involves meeting at the residence and getting a feel for what the client wants the room to be. Everyone is different, so we tend to take notes. After the meeting, we map out ideas where we explore different ways the room could work. We then have a second meeting where we fix the budget, present our ideas and decide on a direction. If the client is happy, we start to translate our ideas into designs and begin to roll out the project.
10. Which companies do you partner with?
We have a lot of partners when it comes to designing custom home theaters. Some of our trusted partners include Lutron, Sony, Elite HTS, ONKYO, TRIAD, Niveo, SAVANT, Stewart Filmscreen, Anthem, and Luxul.
11. What would you say is the most important thing to consider when choosing home theater seating?
The seating in your room needs to be durable because it will most likely outlive all the equipment. Invest in chairs that will stand the test of time and make selections that are child-proof where necessary — selecting fabrics and mechanisms that are suitable. For example, cream suede might be a poor choice if children are going to occupy the chairs occasionally.
12. Why did you choose Elite chairs?
The main reason we work with Elite is because of the sheer level of the craftsmanship. They make chairs like nobody else. The warranty is exceptional, and I can be confident that the chairs will last. We’ve worked with them for many years and have built up a phenomenal relationship with the team.
13. What is the project process with Elite chairs like?
The process is extremely fast, almost like a handshake! They know what they’re doing and communicate without hesitation. They do what needs to be done and make it easy to get approvals from clients so that the project can move forward.
Since 2001, OneAdvantEdge has specialized in turnkey integration & automation of audio/video and lighting designs for clients throughout South Florida and the Caribbean Islands. Their core process includes custom design, engineering, installation, programming, and maintenance for every project that is presented to their team.