Turn any room into a home theater

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How great would it be to watch next year’s LSU football games in your own home theater? That might not be quite as expensive as it sounds.

The fact is, you can convert any room into a home theater—even a small one.

Here are 10 tips for creating your perfect home theater in a less-than-perfect room in your house:

1. Buy a TV or screen whose size doesn’t overwhelm the room. TV manufacturers and technology gurus offer lots of different formulas for figuring out how big the TV should be, but they all agree on one thing: Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Figure out where you will feel most comfortable sitting in your new home theater. Tech company THX offers this formula: Measure, in inches, the distance between that seat and the wall where you’ll hang your flat-screen TV, and multiply that by 0.84. The answer will tell you the largest screen you should buy. Divide the distance by three to determine the minimum size.

2. Plan a budget. Decide how much you can afford to spend on your home theater. Like any remodeling project, you can go with the basic “Chevrolet” model or the super-luxurious “Rolls Royce” model. Start with the basics: a good TV and sound system, and then add more bells and whistles as you can afford them.

3. Consider building your theater in the garage. Most garages are a good size, but are full of junk. Clean yours out and make it into a useful room. Make sure to talk to you contractor about proper insulation and how to convert the garage into an indoor space.

4. Pay special attention to lighting. Light from lamps can create on-screen glare and make the colors on the TV screen look faded. Strategically add lighting that you can control with dimmers and a remote on-off switch. A fairly simple automated lighting system might have a button for barely-there “theater” lighting and another, brighter option for “setup” or “cleanup.” And think about installing a few long-lasting LEDs around the perimeter of the floor to serve as a guide for those who need to excuse themselves for a few minutes mid-movie without disrupting everyone else by flicking on the overhead lights.

Jeb Breithaupt Headshot5. A windowless room is best for a home theater. However, you can cover windows with lined curtains or solar shades designed to block almost 100 percent of sunlight from entering the room. A tip: Camouflage the blackout shades by layering softer, decorative drapes or blinds over top. Hang your TV on the wall opposite the windows.

6. Sound is next on the upgrade list. It might be fun to add surround sound to your TV by placing three or more speakers around the room for a movie-theater experience. Or, simply lay sound-absorbing carpet in your home theater, and caulk around windows, doors, electrical outlets and other openings in the room’s walls to keep the sound in. A bonus: Caulking also keeps the hot weather out. So does attic insulation, which will help soundproof an upper-floor theater.

7. Hide all wires and remove distractions from around the screen. Building or buying cabinets that fit the TV or projection screen you already have is a smarter way to furnish a home theater than to try to force your equipment into spaces that weren’t designed for it. It’s also smart ask your contractor to securely anchor your heavy screen to a stud in the wall so it won’t fall and break—or land on a little one who’s sitting a bit too close.

8. Make your room feel and look like a real theater. You can do this by building up the floor so you can place comfy recliners on two or three different levels. That way, the people sitting up front won’t block the view of those sitting behind them.

9. Protect your expensive equipment. Lightning and electrical surges can cancel movie night for good if they fry your equipment’s electronic components and stop them from operating. It’s a good idea to invest in whole-house lightning protection—in the form of lightning rods on your roof— and whole-house surge protection, which is more reliable than protecting each component piece by piece with strip-style surge protectors.

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.jebdesignbuild.com.