How to Plan for Home Theater Systems in New Residential Projects


What You Want to Know to Integrate Home Theaters 

As a design or build professional in Chicago, you keep up on the current trends in home design and lifestyles to keep your projects fresh and in demand. With all the time spent at home during the pandemic, few things are in more demand in Illinois than a home theater. With the plethora of content available over streaming services like Netflix and a lack of reasons to head out to an actual theater, a home cinema is an excellent investment for home entertainment. 

While almost any space can be turned into a home cinema, planning for one from the start when remodeling or building makes it far more manageable and less expensive to integrate a home theater system. Home theater systems involve many details, from seating to screens, projectors, speakers, sources and amplifiers, cabling, acoustics and more! Understanding what’s involved and how to plan a home theater space makes it much easier for your clients to get the home cinema they envision for their new home. Keep reading for more details below.  

SEE ALSO: Building a Home Theater: What Architects Need to Know 


Room Layout 

If you have the opportunity to dedicate a room to a home theater, the size and shape of the room are critical. Rectangular rooms work best for optimal audio performance. While theaters can be small and intimate to almost vast, the ratio matters. Plan for rooms with a size ratio in the range of 1.6 to 2.4; i.e., a 16 by 24-foot room as an example. Ceiling heights matter, too, as the latest immersive surround formats like Dolby Atmos, which depend on one or multiple pairs of ceiling speakers, work best at heights under 14 feet or so.  


Seating Capacity and Style 

Most home theater designers will tell you that figuring out seating first will drive many decisions, including the size of the room and the ceiling height. Does the client plan on cinema-style reclining lounges? Do they need multiple rows? In that case, you should consider adding risers for additional rows for clear sightlines. Will the room be a multipurpose room, with either recreational games in the back or a small kitchen/bar area? Do they prefer more casual sofa seating or a combination of seats for formal and informal viewing? All of these considerations will play into the overall design and the infrastructure that supports it.  


Screens and Lighting Control 

Managing light in a home theater is critical. Some home theater screens can perform well with ambient light, and some don't. There are tradeoffs for the types of screens; the ones with the best performance for movies might require almost total darkness. Consider how lighting – whether from windows or artificial – might affect the screen and the picture.  

How the room will be used and the content to be viewed will play a role too. A multipurpose home theater may have windows, as the client may want natural light when not in cinema mode. Consider adding the recesses (and wiring) to neatly integrate motorized shading with blackout material. Any theater should plan for automated lighting control, as a theater requires different layers of lighting for visibility during a show, when not in use, and when used for daytime watching. Automating lighting scenes makes a theater space much easier to use.  



A significant amount of underlying infrastructure supports a home theater. For example, consider the installation of the screen and projector. The client may desire these items to be hidden until the theater is used, where a projector may be encased in a back wall or descend from a motorized platform concealed in the ceiling. Likewise, a giant full front wall screen may be behind motorized doors or curtains when not in use. Careful planning is required for the electrical and control mechanisms needed to integrate these features seamlessly. 

Home theater systems require large amounts of cabling. Speaker wire, interconnects, control, and power for home theater processors, receivers, amps, projectors, media players, and more should be carefully planned for concealment, access, and upgradeability down the road. From a connectivity standpoint, home theater equipment should be hard-wired to the home network for the best performance with high-resolution video and audio streaming.  

Home theater sound equipment like powerful amplifiers for surround sound often draws significant current that goes beyond standard outlet/breaker ratings, so the right electrical underpinnings should also factor into the room layout and design. Finally, much of the equipment for home theater systems is rack-mounted, and appropriate space and access should be planned for an orderly, accessible installation.  


We’ve only scratched the surface of the planning required for a home theater.  Work with an expert like Barrett’s Technology Solutions early in your project to plan the perfect home cinema for your clients. Call at (630) 898-2850 or contact us here to get started. We look forward to working with you! 

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