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Custom Home Theater Design | The Roaring Twenties with BI Design Solutions

We’re excited to feature this stunning custom home theater with a ’20s vibe and all the functionality of a modern cinema. We sat down with Cynthia Brace of BI Design Solutions to discuss her approach to this theater design, and to get an idea of how much work goes on behind the scenes to make a room like this come to life. Her approach to project managing each design from start to finish is inspiring and serves as a great takeaway for those looking for a foolproof way to approach home theater design.

1.   What inspired you when designing this home theater?

The client! I use their influences and tastes to direct the design concept toward a particular feel. I always ask my clients to show me some pictures of what they’re looking for that gives me an idea of their style.  Do they want it modern, contemporary, traditional?  The images that they gravitate to give us a starting point for the design concept.

2.   Is there anything unique about the design?

The maple wood on the walls added that “Wow!” factor. We were working with an amazing company, which specializes in bars and woodwork, to create the look we were after. They were able to take the design and elevations provided to create the wood walls which included speaker covers, wallcovering feature and stunning silver trim. 

It was one of those elements that might not have happened if we hadn’t found the right person at the right price, but me and the client so glad we did.

We also had to be careful because you don’t want too many hard surfaces for the sound to bounce off. Getting the perfect sound performance in a home theater is complicated, so you’ll notice there are soft surfaces everywhere to help absorb some of that reflected noise.

Beautiful custom theater seating makes this design pop

3.   What factors did you need to take into consideration?

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to luxury home theater design, but the most important is figuring out the layout of the space including the shape of the room.

Mapping the layout right from the start of the project is critical; chairs, the screen, and speakers, all play key roles in the performance of the room. Deciding where all those things fit right from the get-go is essential. Otherwise you may end up with exposed speakers that look like an afterthought and chairs that can’t recline all the way because they bump into a wall.

4.   Do you have any guiding principles for home theater design?

The most important part of my job is knowing what my client wants. The theater is theirs, not mine, so I always spend time asking lots of questions.

Some of my go-to questions are:

  • How important is soundproofing to you?
  • How many people do you want to seat?
  • Are you going for a comfy-cozy feel or a modern vibe?  (this is where the pictures come in)
  • What kind of A/V system are you looking for?
  • Do you want gaming systems?

Usually, they haven’t thought about half the stuff I am asking, which is why it’s great to hire a professional to help you. You get a fully coordinated room with none of the “yikes! I never thought of that” moment after it’s done.

5.   What are the steps involved in a project of this scale?

I like to act as a project manager for the entire project.  By all the information from the other consultants flowing through me, I’m able to take the weight off the client’s shoulders. It’s important to me that they get the home theater they want, with none of the hassles.

  1. I always have a meet and greet, to establish their preferences, ask questions and get to know the scope of the project.
  2. It’s time to assemble a team. In order to design the details and trim in the right space, we need to know all about the A/V in the room, sizes and location of speakers, projector, screen. Getting the right woodworker, contractor all early on in the process makes it run much smoother. 
  3. I begin to plan the space, pulling together the look and feel and working with all of the other consultants to make sure all of the components fit properly. Once they’re happy with the plans, it’s time to get started.
  4. The next step is construction. If we’ve done our design and coordination work properly in the early stages, the building out of the space is an easy process with few questions.
  5. The finishing touches! It’s time to really get the design finished and start adding all the final details.

Recommended reading: 10 Steps to Installing a Home Theater Stress-Free

6.   What are the four key elements to get right in a home theater?

  1. Hire a professional designer with experience who is registered. If you’re going to spend a lot of money on a room, you want to make sure you get it right, and you don’t want to get halfway through a DIY project and realize you really should have put the speakers in a different location. This is where you end up with things looking like an afterthought.
  2. Get the shape of the home theater right! Even if that means constructing or knocking down walls. The room just won’t work if it’s a square.
  3. Hire an A/V consultant early in the process. Don’t bring them in at the end to install a screen and some speakers. Again it ends up looking like an afterthought. Getting them there on day one to coordinate locations and sizes will give you the best sound experience and hide it all behind the wall.
  4. Home theater lighting is trickier than you think. There should be more than one source, and it’s so essential to a great experience. You need to be able to black out the space, while having some ambient light for negotiating stairs and exits. Dimmable lights are also a must-have!

7. Anyone who worked on this project that you’d recommend?

Well, Elite chairs! But I’d also highly recommend two people who I partnered with on this project. All the millwork/woodwork was by thebarstore.ca. They are fantastic and responsible for those gorgeous wooden walls. I also worked with stevestv.com on the A/V, who was great working with the client on exactly what they wanted and coordinating all the necessary information to the team. Entz Architectural Woodwork is the contractor who provided his team to build out the space.

8. What do you need to get right with home theater seating?

There are a few things for seating that we looked for in this custom home theater.

  1. Size. Make sure the seating fits in your room and has the space to fully recline if it has that option.
  2. Comfort.  You want to be comfortable and make sure you have a spot to put your drinks and snacks. Most people think of cup holders and then struggle with where to put the popcorn and the remote control.
  3. Look.  Seating takes up a lot of room so it’s definitely a design component. The chairs you use can fit in perfectly with the design or clash with it and ruin the concept.

9. Why did you choose Elite chairs?

They had all our must-haves, but the main reason was the look of the chairs. They had exactly what we wanted, and it was customizable right down to the sheen of the wood arms.

10. What was the project process with Elite chairs like?

They were really great to work with.  Responsive, helpful and didn’t mind quoting us lots of different options so we could get the perfect chairs within the client’s budget. They were able to send samples of finishes so the client knew exactly what they were going to get. After ordering they were so professional and kept us updated at every stage of the chairs’ journey. They even sent pics as they were being built, which I thought was a great touch.