Case Study: From Playroom to Theater

Re-purposing underused spaces into bespoke, high-performance theaters is one of the things we’re known for. So, when new clients recently approached us and asked us how we might re-imagine their playroom into a dedicated home theater, we had some ideas.

Playroom being cleared out for the start of construction.

The space had some challenges that had to be overcome, though. It had been an amazing space for young kids, so the walls and carpet were colorful, bold and bright. There was built-in furniture for books, toys and a TV. Sheetrock would need to be cut in order to run the cable necessary to transform the room into a theater, complete with speakers, projector and new sconces. In addition, the space was cozy, but it needed to be able to seat at least 6 people.

Working with the client on the design of the room, we decided first on a darker color palette. Then we were able to create a geometric design with acoustic panels that created an interesting look and also served to absorb some of the audio reflections off of the side and back walls.

The clients knew a carpenter who was able to quickly get to work. He built the back riser that would allow a second row of seating that had clear sight lines to the movie screen. He made sure the framing was solid to ensure there wouldn’t be any vibration when the subwoofer kicked in.

Riser Framing

Smart Systems has a Class 1 electrical license, so our in-house electrician ran power to the first row seating location of the riser in case it was needed for powered seats. Additionally, we prepared for sconces on the side walls, rear walls and, of course, the projector.

Front wall with cut outs for in wall speakers that will go behind the screen.

The client wanted a great sounding theater so we designed a Dolby 7.2.1 Atmos system. This system is comprised of 3 front speakers, 2 side speakers, 2 rear speakers, 2 presence speakers in the ceiling, and 1 subwoofer.

Back of theater during trim phase and before finish carpentry and final touches.

When possible, we like to place the front speakers behind the film screen. We believe the slight loss of brightness from using an acoustically transparent film screen is worth it to anchor the movie’s most important audio to the images on screen. Plus, screens of this nature have come a long way, and the difference really isn’t perceptible in a darkened theater.

With this in mind, we quickly decided to use the Episode 900 Series in wall LCR speakers for front and rears and the Episode 900 Series Surround speaker for the sides. These are full range speakers that accurately reproduce the highs and lows of each channel. Special features of these speakers are the fully enclosed back box and the high performance ribbon tweeters.

The projector is a Sony 4K SXRD projector with HDR. With 1500 lumens, the projector throws a bright beautiful image to the 120″ screen. These projectors are highly underrated when considering the value they provide at such affordable price points.

Finished Theater

The electronics suite is controlled with a simple-to-use Control4 remote control, which controls everything in the room, from lighting, to temperature, to source selection, to volume control.

After a few months of having the theater, the homeowners reported back that they use the theater nearly every night and that it is one of the best investments they have made in their home, not only to increase its value, but also in the enjoyment that it brings them.

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About the Author

Steve Nicola is the founder & President/CEO at Smart Systems. He is responsible for setting goals and defining strategies that help to grow our company. He lives in Chattanooga with his wife of 28 years and their 3 girls.

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