The expression “All the world’s a stage” has come home—literally. A new use for motorized window treatments is now within the walls of residences and it’s found in media rooms.
Virtually every upscale new home has a media room and these sometimes elaborate and indulging spaces have become a prime remodel project for many existing homes. These rooms are achieved by converting a bonus room, a spare bedroom or an unused family room into a space where the family and close friends can say, “Lets go to the movies,” and it’s just down the hall.
HOME MEDIA THEN AND NOW
Why this foray into the world of entertainment? Well, because it’s achievable! The first well-known media room was created for William Randolph Hearst in his castle at San Simeon, CA. There he invited politicians, wealthy patrons, movie stars and producers to his “ranch” where many early Hollywood movies were screened in his private theater for the first time. An invitation to San Simeon was a coveted experience. You can view the Hearst theater as part of the San Simeon historic home tour, and if you do, perhaps you’ll agree it is a prototype for today’s home theater rooms.
The differences between early Hollywood home theaters and today are that we have more electronic gadgets to do more things at the touch of a button than ever was dreamed of before, and luxury is possible for anyone who has the means to have it created for them. An increasingly large number of middle- and upper-income Americans fall into this category.
Technology has enabled the boom in at-home movie viewing where the company of friends and family means a safe and happy experience loaded with convenience. While a flat screen and perhaps surround sound are all that is really needed for a home theater, here we focus on creating a total look in a room that is dedicated to the movie aficionado.
A complete interior can be created by a general contractor or by a company that specializes in home theaters, such as Feature Presentation (www.featurepres.com), that provides a selection of pre-designed theater interiors and the ability to customize any style.
CREATING THE HOME THEATER INTERIOR
What goes into a home theater interior? Here is a checklist of preferred items used to create a well-appointed space:
• Quiet, Please! Acoustic (sound-absorbing) fabric wall panels with a variety of wood trim seen as columns or paneling. These might include mahogany, cherry, maple or woods stained or painted—colors can be rich or light. Fabrics may be upholstered and might have padding beneath. Textiles also can be applied as a direct glue-up with a wall covering lamination. Typically these textile panels are framed in wood. Sound-absorbing walls also help to keep the sound within the room.
• Mood Lighting. A variety of light columns are incorporated into home theaters: indirect lighting such as wall sconce or back-lit panel or column lights, up-lighting, cove lighting, down-lighting and accent lighting, even floor usher lighting. These should be controlled two ways: by a panel on the wall and, more importantly, by a remote control device where a variety of lighting methods and moods can be produced. Both should include the slow bringing down and bringing up of the house lights before and after the movie.
• Quality Carpeting. Easy-care carpeting such as that seen in movie theaters—the design can be subtle or bold, but generally in a level loop tufted nylon that can be cleaned easily after those inevitable soda, popcorn and candy spills. Custom-designed Axminster or Wilton carpeting also might be specified for very upscale interiors, particularly where a theme or motif can be enhanced through dramatically beautiful flooring.
• Luxury Seating. Popular seating pieces include individual chairs, connected (shared arm) chairs or perhaps loveseats or sofas with features such as pop out cup holders, wood trim and reclining seat backs. Items such as vibration and built-in warming devices are optional. Fabrics for these ultra-comfortable pieces are the preferred luxurious top grain leather as well as commercial-quality nylon or blend tightly woven textiles, both appreciated for their easy-care qualities.
• Special Features. As many home theater interiors are luxury entertainment centers, a wet bar, snack bar or refreshment stand is often built into the space. It may be stocked with cold drinks, a wine cooler and even candy in a glass cabinet. A wet bar usually includes a sink, a dishwasher, storage, a refrigerator (usually under counter), a microwave oven and small appliances as desired—a blender and a popcorn popper, for example. In addition, small stand-up tables with tall chairs, or those at a dining table height, provide spaces for movie goers to munch and mingle.
Signage is a relatively new concept in special features. These might include entrance signs that mimic an Art Deco theater marquee. The signs can announce the feature presentation by name. Ticket booths are fun, tongue-in-cheek cabinetry that can double as storage. Custom cabinetry may be built for speakers and to house the movie screen. Murals from famous movies can also be incorporated into cabinetry, and interior cabinet lighting may be used in the wet bar area to show off items and provide low-level background illumination. A galaxy dome is a round ceiling fixture that illuminates with night sky constellations. Doors are often glamorous or whimsical.
• Draw the Draperies. The thrill and excitement of the theater is complete when one enters not to see the bare screen but to heavy drapery, often a luxurious cotton velveteen, nylon velvet or a textured fabric. These fabrics are can be selected in dramatic colors such as garnet red, theater gold, dark emerald green, royal blue and charcoal black. Printed fabrics in an Austrian shade pattern or another rich fabric such as single-color damask also can be visually rich. A more natural texture is often seen in neutral colors. Color schemes can vary widely according to the style of the interior and the need to either expand the space with light colors, or to visually close in space with dark or profound colors.
Some theater owners plan dual reasons for the draperies — anticipation and luxury before and after the feature presentation and also as a backdrop for a small stage in front or behind the drapery. These are used for live performances and serve a wide variety of ages in friend and family performances, or in some cases, paid professional performances for small gatherings.
Windows may or may not be an architectural part of a home theater. New homes likely will not include windows, as the ability to completely darken the room is best for the theater atmosphere. Where a remodel is accomplished in a windowed room, blackout-lined draperies or blackout shades behind draperies might be the first choice.
• Dim the Lights. A true home theater interior will include dimmable lights. Where the lighting plan is simple and dimmers are wall mount only, the process is only a matter of installing a dimming control switch and assuring that the lighting is compatible. The direction of lighting and window treatment mechanism is moving rapidly toward total control through a system that allows for wall or remote control.
The more a home theater interior can be motorized, the more impressive and convenient it becomes. Companies that focus on motorization of custom window treatments are listed in the D&WC Website Directory on page 72 under the heading of Motors/Systems. In addition, major manufacturers of alternative window treatments offer motorization via switch or hand-held remote as an important selling feature.
The direction for both lighting and window treatment control that offers the most reliability is a totally integrated system. Companies such as Lutron Electronics Company, Inc. offer systems that use low radio frequency (RF) remote control devices typically used in one of two methods: the fixed network system and the mesh network.
• Fixed Networks rely on dedicated sending, receiving and computing stations in predetermined locations to provide RF systems coverage to all system devices. These stations are known as wireless access points or WAP’s. Sometimes they are referred to as repeaters. Messages move quickly up or down through this system and are especially effective in larger homes.
• Mesh Networks utilize any participating device to relay a message. The components must all be able to communicate with each other. This works best when one company installs proprietary devices and is able to service all the components rather than to hire several companies each with their own systems for different RF components. The devices in the network form a matrix of possible delivery routes. When a source device needs to send a message to a destination device, it uses a routing table to figure out how to get the message delivered.
RELY ON THE TECHNOLOGY COMPANY
It is not imperative that the window treatment consultant know all the details concerning motorization. (For what you do need to know in fabricating a motorized drapery treatment, see also “From The Workroom,” page 42.) The manufacturer whose products you sell and specify will offer training that will assist in building general knowledge and competence in the selling of the products so that the customer will feel assured that the decision to use motorization is soundly conceived.
The confidence that comes in knowing the best products are installed under your direction gives assurance that customers will be satisfied and will recommend you to others who also may become your customers. No matter how much advertising you budget for, the best advertising is free word-of-mouth recommendations. Your ability to recommend, sell, and oversee installation of motorization can be a defining difference between you and your competition.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She has authored several books including Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.