What do the words home theater mean to you? A big screen TV in your living room with surround sound speakers hidden behind the couch, or a custom designed room with every possible high-end audio/video equipment and dedicated theater seating? The choice comes down to your level of use . . . and your pocketbook.
Start with the room you plan to use as your home theater. If it’s your multi-purpose living room, think about mounting a flat-panel LCD HDTV on the wall and finding one of the many artistic solutions for hiding the screen when it’s not in use. Make sure the furniture that houses your audio/video components has a cable management system to hide power cords and sufficient ventilation. Rear wheels on the cabinet make accessing your connections much easier!
There is a large range of possible entertainment centers: a plasma console or wall system, an entertainment center with bookcase or storage, cabinets to hold a large screen display. Be sure to measure your room accurately to know what will fit best in the space you have available. If you’re redoing a room or moving to a new place, now is a good time to prewire the room for audio, video, security and communication needs, including cabling for future technologies. It makes for an elegant, nearly invisible installation of equipment, with more leeway in the type of furniture you choose. Another possibility — if your “home theater” room also includes your computer desk, think about using your PC to store and play your favorite MP3 files, patched through an amplifier.
There are so many choices — media stands, audio stands that hold 5 to 10 AV components, TV stands for any size television (some loaded with features like wire management systems, adjustable shelves, open ventilation, tempered glass) — as well as choices in styles and finishes, from the beauty of natural hardwoods to contemporary design elements. With such a broad variety of audio/video and other furnishings, mounts and accessories, even the most demanding A/V enthusiast or home decorator will be satisfied with the way your home theater looks.
Once you’ve housed your components, the next most important choice involves your seating. Do you prefer watching movies in your home theater from the comfort of a recliner, cuddled with someone special on a couch, or from dedicated custom theater seating? Do you prefer seating covered with micro fiber fabric, microfiber suede, faux leather or premium leather? Does a home theater conjure up visions of kids with large tubs of buttered popcorn, beer and chips for the guys watching the big game, or romantic glasses of wine? Choose an easy-to-clean surface, and have sturdy tables close at hand to your seating.
As long as you’re visualizing your perfect home theater set-up, remember to connect the lighting and the home theater system to a master remote control. With a few taps of your finger, the DVD spins, the lights dim, you sink into your seat, and enter a galaxy far, far away . . . right from home.