When someone mentions a “Home Theater,” what do you think of? We often think of “movie-themed” rooms cut off from the rest of the house that we retreat to when we want a real escape. However, if you’re someone who wants the best picture and sound, but doesn’t particularly want to slip into a void of total isolation (no matter how cool it may be!), don’t despair. There is a solution for you.
Believe it or not, the trend is moving away from dedicated home theater spaces and more towards lifestyle areas that can provide both a great place to hang out and a highly immersive cinematic experience when you’re ready to watch a movie. Of course, it does require some careful planning and coordination with your interior designer, but in 2021 it’s entirely possible to have your cake and eat it too.
Make the best of a beautiful situation.
The reality is that most dedicated home theater spaces can’t be the “perfect room” anyway for one reason or another. In all but the most extreme cases, some spatial or budgetary constraints will get in the way of a textbook layout. Things are no different than with a lifestyle theater. What’s important is knowing the environment you’re working with and designing a solution that overcomes the decorative and acoustic challenges. If you commit to doing things right, high performance is very attainable.
You’ve probably seen pictures online of some unique multi-use spaces; one of our favorites is a combination bar/theater area by Tym Homes. It’s not drab or dark and offers plenty of spots for both conversation and serious stargazing.
Anatomy of a “Lifestyle” home theater
PSA : Due to the need to conceal wiring and hide speakers inside of your walls and ceilings, pulling off these kinds of spaces is much easier when you’re pre-wiring with new construction or when your remodeling a room. It can still be done when you’re not in the midst of a large-scale project, but you’ll probably at the very least end up with some drywall work.
Step 1. Analyze the Space
There are two gremlins to contend with when designing your home theater area. The first is ambient light, and the second is acoustics.
Ambient Light :
Ambient light is the light that is already in the room. You need to pay close attention to where this light is coming from, how much there is of it, and what type of light it is. Not only can it affect the picture quality of your home theater system, but it can also cause eye strain and even headaches. So, what can you do about ambient light? Our go-to solution is installing motorized black-out shades for dealing with sunlight flooding a room through windows and skylights. Shades let you keep your space bright and airy while still effectively controlling the light during viewing.
We also need to make sure we have control of the artificial light in the room. This can be addressed with a basic dimmer switch, but we usually like to take things a step further. For example, implementing lighting control that triggers a “movie scene” lets you create the kind of “magic transformation” most people are looking after.
Now onto the second gremlin;
Have you ever wondered why movie theater walls are draped in fabric or some other kind of soft cushy materials? We’ve come to associate that with the intrinsic charm of a vintage movie house and probably assume it’s an aesthetic that’s rooted in nostalgic tradition.
In reality, the choice of those materials is very intentional. Hard surfaces like drywall or wood flooring reflect sound, while soft surfaces absorb sound. When sound bounces from surface to surface, this is called a “reflection.” Reflections impact the clarity of the soundtrack, make bass thin and muddy, and generally rain on your parade. Lousy acoustics will make even the most incredible speakers sound anemic.
We tackle these issues with thick fabric walls and huge corner traps in a dedicated theater, but we have to get creative in a lifestyle home theater. Addressing the issue of acoustics is a great touchpoint to coordinate with your interior designer. Ask them to incorporate soft surfaces into your design. If your room has hardwood or stone floors, an area rug under furniture is a significant first step. Furniture soaks up lots of sound, and there is even one more sneaky trick.
If you plan to have any canvases hanging in your room, you can order artwork printed directly on a sound-absorbing panel. No one will be the wiser, but you’ll be effectively taming the reflections in your room.
Lastly, don’t forget to pay attention to the rooms around your lifestyle theater. If bedrooms are nearby, adding a backbox to your in-wall speakers will help keep sound from transferring to adjacent spaces through walls and floors.
Pro Tip: Your neck is calling. If this will be your primary display or TV, don’t put it over your fireplace. Most of the time, a TV mounted high over the fireplace spells severe neck pain, even during casual viewing. However, we do grant an exception for a TV that will double as artwork, like Samsung’s “The Frame.”
Step 2. Projectors & Screens
I think the true cornerstone of these multi-use spaces is employing a projector system and a retractable motorized screen. There are a couple of ways we can make that happen.
Recessed projector lifts
The biggest advantage of a recessed model is that it takes up the least amount of room possible. The projector is tucked away into the ceiling when not in use and gracefully descends into its working position when called. This really does provide the ultimate “transformer” moment and allows you to completely conceal your room’s dual personality.
Ultra Short Throw Projectors (UST)
Another option for an incognito projector installation is something called an Ultra Short Throw projector. A UST can be placed inches from a wall and even recessed into a custom furniture piece. Due to their close proximity to the screen material, a UST can produce a much brighter than a similarly rated traditional projector. Just keep in mind UST’s require a particular type of screen to make the most of the technology.
Step 3. Speakers for your home theater
You have two choices when it comes to selecting speakers for your lifestyle theater. You can opt for very low-profile speakers that blend away into your design, or you can incorporate options that become a part of your design. (We’ve covered that in greater depth in our post “Top 4 In-wall Speakers Your Designer Will Love!“) Whatever you choose, there are options available that are sure to complement your design.
It’s always best to install your front speakers either directly beside or behind your projector screen. If space or materials don’t allow for that type of setup, When a wall install is not an option, we’re big fans of Focal’s “Invisible Speaker System.”
These are in-ceiling speakers that fire at an angle to very effectively create the illusion of sound coming from the screen rather than above. They also incorporate backboxes as standard and have a sexy trim-less bezel. Yes, please!
Step 4. Home Theater Seating & Furniture
I think most of us aren’t looking for colossal movie theater recliners in the middle of our living room. That would kind of defeat the whole purpose of a convertible space. Fortunately, several seating companies have stepped up to the plate and now offer home theater seating that’s virtually indistinguishable to even the most discerning taste. Look for “Media Room Furniture”.
Step 5. Bringing it all together.
Elan makes everything easy.
If you’ve made it this far, the pieces are all in place, and now it’s time to tie everything together. Here is where an Elan home automation system can take things to the next level. At this point, if you’ve followed our recipe, you have a Projector, Motorized Projection Screen, Receiver, Motorized Shades, and then, of course, the lights and climate in your room to control. My math tells me that it would require no less than six remote controls.
When a customer requests this type of setup, we create a “Movie Mode” button that simplifies this entire ballet into a single button press. From their Elan remote control, touchscreen, or smartphone, the projector lowers into position and powers on, the screen drops down, the room’s lights dim, the sound turns on, and you’re dropped straight to your favorite channel or streaming service. That same Elan remote can control your Apple TV and even adjust the temperature in the room. This is a killer app for home automation—no switching inputs, no modes, and no digging remotes out of the couch.
When movie time is over, press that same “movie time” button, and everything disappears. Finally, the lights fade up, and you’re ready to make memories with your friends.
Taking control of your home’s lighting systems is a great way to provide both security and convenience for your home. Automation can set the mood, enhance safety, make things accessible for those with disabilities, and more!
Automating your lights also gives you effortless control of when they’re on and off for example, during peak energy hours, you could have them turn on at dusk or dim during the brightest parts of the day. In my home, we automate the step lights installed for our stairs. In practice, they fade on at sunset and turn off thirty minutes before sunrise. It offers great peace of mind with young children walking around in the middle of the night.
These are a few reasons why you might want to automate your lighting, but what’s the best way to make that happen for your home? There are several types of automated lighting systems available on the market today. Which one is right for you?
When you are planning and pre-wiring your new smart home, you have the most choices available to you. Automation can be included in lighting fixtures, light switches, smart bulbs, and even panelized lighting systems.
This article will serve as an essential guide to help you start the conversation with your home technology integrator about which lighting control system might be right for you.
THE THREE TYPES OF LIGHTING SYSTEMS:
1. SMART BULBS
Back in 2013, Philips introduced a product line that changed the game in intelligent lighting forever. They called it “Hue,” and with its release, your lights weren’t stuck being a shade of white; if you could dream up a color, Hue was happy to set the mood.
Philips’s Hue system is a good starter for those who want to dip their toes into the world of automated home lighting.
The lights are controlled via an app on your phone or tablet, and can be programmed with different flash patterns and color schemes to make it feel like Christmas all year long; they also work great when synced to your TV.
Hue is still the dominant force in the consumer and DIY lighting space, but plenty of more affordable alternatives are now available.
There are a few negatives to opting for individual smart bulbs, one being their significant price premium. Also, if you choose bulbs using wi-fi technology, they’re notorious for slowing down wi-fi traffic and crowding your network.
Our take: If you’re going to DIY, stick to Hue or LIFX branded fixtures. Between the consumer systems available, they perform the best, have the most significant app support, and seem to be more reliable than other brands.
2. DIMMERS & SWITCHES
Z-Wave or Zigbee dimmers can be an economic middle ground. They offer all the core functionality necessary for automation but can suffer from lag as the system grows. So as your device count starts to climb higher than 25 dimmers or switches, It’s usually best to start looking at more robust offerings fromLutron, Vantage, or Ketra.
One of the significant advantages of these types of dimmers is they work using standard light bulbs. So you’re only paying for technology in one dimmer and not in every bulb. But, of course, you also miss out on color options and some of the more novel features of smart bulbs.
3. PANELIZED LIGHTING
The last type of lighting control is the most intensive but also has a few very distinct benefits.
Panelized lighting is the gold standard in custom lighting control.
In a typical home, light switches are installed directly in each room, and the individual fixtures or loads connect directly to them. This traditional approach is simple and does offer savings on wiring costs.
When a panelized lighting system is employed, all switches and dimmers are located in a central panel (usually in your home’s mechanical room) and then remotely controlled.
This configuration does require a little more wire and planning, but the payoff is huge.
Panelized lighting offers the unique opportunity to automate your entire home and significantly reduce the number of switches on the wall. While this may sound like a trivial upgrade, in a large estate with complex lighting layouts, moving from a bank of twelve light switches on a wall to only one or two has a substantial impact on design and aesthetics.
If you want to take it a step further, you can forgo the physical switches altogether and control the lights along with the rest of your home’s systems from a single touch panel in each room. In addition, lights can be grouped for easy control, offering the pinnacle of clean design and convenience.
COLOR RENDERING INDEX
When you’re trying to gauge the quality of a light source while shopping, the easiest way is to look for a metric called the “Color Rendering Index,” or CRI for short, this number refers to a light’s ability to display a full range of colors accurately. Look for bulbs or fixtures with a CRI of at least 90. A high CRI is not only better for the brain but also goes a long way towards making people look their best in photos or videos.
Human-Centric Lighting can improve your health & wellness.
Human-centric lighting or HCL is a splashy term used to describe lighting that complements the human body’s natural circadian rhythms. In 2021, a modern human now spends over 80% of their time indoors and under artificial light.
Before the invention of the light bulb, routines were largely dictated by the availability of natural light. The rise of the sun signaled to the brain it was time for work. This bright white light naturally had an energizing effect on the human body. Conversely, the warm orange light of the sunset signaled an end to activities for the day.
HCL seeks to replicate that naturally occurring change using tunable LED lights. It accomplishes this goal by matching color temperature indoors to be similar to the light from the sun outdoors.
WHAT IS COLOR TEMPERATURE?
At its simplest form, color temperature refers to the frequency at which light is emitted. It’s expressed as a value in “Kelvin” or “K” for short. You’ve probably noticed some light bulbs cast a bright blue light, while others, like candlelight, have a soft orange hue. Generally speaking, 5600K is considered to be “daylight” balanced lighting while 2700K is Warm White or Tungsten.
HUMAN-CENTRIC LIGHTING IS NOT JUST ABOUT IMPROVING OUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS, HOWEVER; IT ALSO BENEFITS YOUR PRODUCTIVITY.
The NIH conducted a study in 2012 which verified the positive effects of higher color temperature on both alertness and individual performance. HCL assists our bodies by naturally aligning with sunlight during the day, thus helping us get more sleep at night.
If you’re looking for lighting control or home automation in the Nashville, TN area, please don’t hesitate to REACH OUT. We’d love to help!
Want to find out more about Home Technology for your new home?
Over a number of years, lured by the magic of “DIY” technology, I tried nearly every DIY system: SmartThings, Wink, Hubitat, OpenHAB, Home Assistant, Home Kit and probably a few I’m forgetting. I would spend days configuring lights, TVs, and speakers, and just when it came time to show things off for my family, something would break.
I would fix it, and then it would break again. We’d “upgrade” to another system, rinse and repeat.
This led me to one very simple realization: Home automation that’s not reliable is just not worth having.
The Importance of Local Control.
Another thing that’s not quite right is the delay you experience with most DIY systems. You flip a switch, wait five or six seconds, and THEN your light finally turns on.
In an effort to keep costs down, commands are sent out to the internet for processing, which creates a delay and unbeknownst to you keeps most of your system from functioning if you ever lose your internet connection.
DIY MEANS A SepARATe APP FOR EVERYTHING.
Finally, that brings me to the greatest DIY rub of all, nothing is centralized. Yes, you CAN control everything with apps, glorious apps, but the problem is you end up with fifteen of them, none of which bother to talk to each other.
If you lose your cell phone, good luck controlling anything.
If you’re looking for a better way
At Audilux, we proudly design systems with Elan. Here’s how things are radically different than DIY.
You’re not alone. Since Elan is only available through certified dealers, you’ll sit down with a pro and explain what you want to accomplish. We’ll build a solution that does everything you want and nothing that you don’t. Would you prefer not to give the kids access to security cameras? We can do that.
Do you want the lights to come on when you pull in the driveway way? Not a problem.
Everything you want is tied into one interface and ONE app, and almost everything is processed locally without ever leaving your home.
This is inherently more secure, and dramatically faster.
But there have to be cons….
Of course, there are always cons, but there are only two real negatives to a well-configured system from an integrator.
1. Cost – This may seem obvious, but if you place any value at all on your own time, this objection quickly starts to disappear.
2. You’ll need to call your dealer to make some changes, but after all, do you really want to have to mess with it anyway?
If you’re interested in taking the first step to finding out what a real smart home is like or looking for a certified Elan Dealer in Nashville, let’s talk. We’d love to hear about your project!