The Seattle Craftsman Basement Home Theater Thread - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 94 Old 04-02-2013, 01:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi Folks,

I'm trying to build out a dedicated home theater in the basement of my home. I'm hoping to build a room of around 23'x15' with a small sink/counter for food drinks, and a small adjoining 3/4 bath (maybe 4x6'?) connecting to it. I have most of the equipment needed already barring a projector and screen, and am hoping to do the whole project for 50-60k or so. I live in Seattle, Washington.

The challenge I'm facing is that I'm seeing a wide range of pricing for building out a home theater, with pricing guestimates from $100-200 a square foot. So, to try and tighten the ranges I'm working on getting a layout drawing done (which I can share with you all in the near future), and will be working from that to get some quotes from contractors. What I would like to do when getting bids is give them the plans, but also a detailed list of the specific work that is expected to be done when building the space.

So far, I have some basics for that list:

Staggered stud framing (help with sound proofing)
Double sheetrock on walls and ceiling
Something to cover concrete floor
Carpeting
Conduits for all electrical and wiring
New sub-electrical box dedicated to theater
Possibly a riser
Sconce lighting, possibly a few can lights as well
Install MA Slim 5 Rack in wall
Install simple kitchen sink/counter for food nook on wall

As I was brainstorming, I realized that this is probably a pretty common question here on AVS. So I was hoping someone has either done something similar, or could point me to a thread, document, spreadsheet, or other resource so I can have the right comprehensive list together for getting bids. Note that I have purchased and printed the Home Theater book previously suggested on AVS - it doesn't seem to include that as a resource.

Appreciate any suggestions or additions you might be able to provide!

Thank you!

Andre
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post #2 of 94 Old 04-02-2013, 04:55 PM
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What's the condition of the basement now?
Ceiling height?
Don't skimp on the details with soundproofing. It takes more than staggered studs and doubled gyp board to make it all work. www.thesoundproofingcompany.com
Post plans when you can - we are visual creatures around here. Pictures too!
Are you up for some DIY or are you looking for a turn-key build.
Have you found contractors with experience building out home theaters?
Don't automatically take the low bid.
Does your designer specialize in home theater? If not, I would recommend hiring someone who does. www.erskine-group.com
HVAC is a big deal - needs to be one of the key design points.

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post #3 of 94 Old 04-02-2013, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi Petew,

Thanks for the questions!

To answer:

Basement is unfinished, with 6'9" to bottom of joists, and 6'3" to the bottom of the main support beams. I may be able to get a couple of inches back from the beams when I replace with steel (in order to be able to remove some vertical support columns in the space.)

I definitely plan to do some soundproofing, but hope to get feedback on the highest-benefit things to do. I'll go as far as I can, but fear that might not be able to go as far as some of you have on my budget. However, that'll all come down to total cost and making the right choices (I hope!)

I'm a semi-DIY sort of guy, but also trying to be realistic with my current time. So I think I'll likely try to find a contractor who can do the majority of the work, and I might plug in in a few small places as appropriate. That said, I also recognize there's a point of diminishing returns, and it might just make sense to not muddy the waters.

I have not found contractors yet, other than some of the bigger HT places in town who all claim they can help. I'm sure they can, but my dream would be to find a Seattle contractor who knows his stuff and I can work with directly, instead of adding another middleman layer.

I can attach some early space sketches.

The first is a sketch of the basement with dimensions. I have a challenge in that I have stairs coming down into the basement on the left side, and I either need to work around that (on the left of the stairs), or actually move the stairs entirely. But that obviously adds cost.



The more accurate basement drawing is this Visio sketch. Note that the stairs now don't connect to the side of the house (which was a brainfart in my original sketch).



Finally, here's an early potential plan which involves moving the stairs (which might be out of scope, depending on how costs come out). This one tries to move the stairs to a different area, then come down into a sort of hall/landing area, and then have the bathroom to the side, and enter straight ahead into the HT. Being realistic, this might be too much work for the cost, and I might need to try and constrain my thinking to the left of the stairs. Focus on the blue sketched area for the HT, and the red border for the bathroom.



Love everyone's thoughts!

-Andre
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post #4 of 94 Old 04-02-2013, 07:25 PM
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Just a couple questions - sorry, I don't have any good ideas about your punch list question, at this point. It sounds like you're considering moving/removing the posts under the rear of the house (left of the stairs) - is that right? How do you come up with the 23' length?
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post #5 of 94 Old 04-02-2013, 10:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi Fred,

Yes, I'd need to move some of the posts to get clear line of sight. I'm not sure exactly which ones yet as it depends on which where the best place to put the theater space is, and which way it might be aligned. I'm also trying to figure out if I need to excavate a foot or two (which could also be a budget buster). I know a higher ceiling is very nice to have; I'm not sure if it's required in this scenario.

As to the 23' length, it's an arbitrary stake in the ground based on a demo HT I saw at a dealer that felt like a comfortable size. Other than trying to make sure I land on something that suits the "golden rules" of dimensions (for audio), it's pretty open right now.

Thanks for your thoughts!

AV
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post #6 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 05:42 AM
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I don't want to rain on anyone's parade as they march toward a home theater. But, those low ceiling heights are really bothersome. In my county the building code (based on national codes) for a finished ceiling is a minimum of 7 ft. At 6' 9" before drywall or whatever else you intend to do to the ceiling you aren't even close. Moving posts is not a trivial task and should only be done with guidance of a qualified engineer. Lowering the floor has been done in a few other projects documented here over the years and is an expensive proposition. I wonder if the money you intend to spend on getting this space reconfigured would be better spent selling and moving to another house with a suitable basement. Just a thought.
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post #7 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 06:05 AM
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If he's lucky, he's somewhere where that low ceiling makes the room not apply as livingspace for tax purposes.tongue.gif

Under construction: the Larch theater
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post #8 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 06:15 AM
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But then it also doesn't figure into the houses appraisal/resale value, so every dollar spent on the basement is gone forever.
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post #9 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 06:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

But then it also doesn't figure into the houses appraisal/resale value, so every dollar spent on the basement is gone forever.

That would be up to the people bidding for it, I would think.

Under construction: the Larch theater
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post #10 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 08:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade as they march toward a home theater. But, those low ceiling heights are really bothersome. In my county the building code (based on national codes) for a finished ceiling is a minimum of 7 ft. At 6' 9" before drywall or whatever else you intend to do to the ceiling you aren't even close. Moving posts is not a trivial task and should only be done with guidance of a qualified engineer. Lowering the floor has been done in a few other projects documented here over the years and is an expensive proposition. I wonder if the money you intend to spend on getting this space reconfigured would be better spent selling and moving to another house with a suitable basement. Just a thought.

Not rain, just a cleansing shower. wink.gif

You list some concerns I also have. As a part of this exploration I've spoken to some excavation and engineering companies. It sounds as though I can get roughly the space I described excavated by two feet for around 25k. However, that cost would include the digging, new concrete, engineering, new structural posts and steel beams. It would also include framing of the basic room shape.

An architect friend of mine is suggesting building the room and bathroom with a bedroom in mind, if not reality. In other words, build the space to include the basement door (egress), and build what I think of as the equipment/rack room large enough to be a reasonable closet in the future if needed. That would allow me to sell the house as having an extra room if needed down the road. I was previously exploring trying to sell/rebuy somewhere else, but between dropped values, agent fees, and a competitive market here it didn't make sense. That's why I'm exploring doing things in this house that I'll enjoy using for 10+ years or so, but that might help the value down the road (or at least, not negatively impact it.)

Makes sense, I hope!
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post #11 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 09:04 AM
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I think spending the money to make the basement capable of qualifying for a legal bedroom with a bathroom makes a lot of sense for a possible return on some of your overall investment.
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post #12 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 09:04 AM - Thread Starter
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[Punchlist below edited to take into account feedback from thread.]

To the punch list question, I found some threads here where people have done similar work and cribbed from them. So here's my first take on the work that would need to be done and the stages it would occur in. Appreciate feedback, as I imagine giving a version of this to contractors so the scope is very clear when they bid.

All contractor work unless otherwise stated.
Projects laid out in estimated correct work order.

• Excavate?
• Frame HT walls facing foundation with 2x4 studs, build one inch shy of required wall height. Attach the top plate of walls with IB3 clips. Used staggered stud walls for sides adjoining living spaces.
• Frame HT walls with staggered 2x4 studs
• Frame bathroom and equipment rack/closet room
• Install isolated ceiling isolated with RSIC (Resilient Sound Isolation Clips)
• Rough in plumbing to bathroom and HT sink/counter
• [HVAC] Heating system ductwork rough in
• Install floor insulation/isolation pads (covering concrete)
• Install equipment rack flush to wall
• Install surround speaker in-wall brackets (side/back of theater)
• Run conduit for speaker wires, electrical
• [Electrician] Install electric sub-panel for home theater space (with new circuit)
• [Electrician] Electric rough in: electrical plugs to projector, equipment rack, and sink/counter area (taking into account drywall thickness – install 2x2 blocking?)
• [Electrican] Install boxes/wiring for sconce lights
• [Electrician] Install can lights (in boxes) if needed
• [Electrician] Low voltage rough in for lighting
• Seal electric boxes with putty
• Caulk all air openings in electric boxes, can light boxes, etc.
• Frame soffit around existing utilities (heating ducts)
• Install false soffits (if needed?)
• Stuff false soffits with insulation for bass traps
• Hang doors
• [Andre] Take pictures to document location of wires, cables, pipes, etc.
• Install insulation
• Install first layer of drywall on ceiling and walls
• Install second layer of drywall ceiling and on walls placed horizontally using green glue and overlapping seems
• Install acoustically transparent screen wall with rolls of batt insulation behind it for bass traps (triangles in corner — do these get covered with drywall or fabric if behind screen wall?)
• Install riser, stairs (if needed, depending on excavation?)
• Paint walls, ceiling
• Install carpet pad, carpet
• Install wall fabric
• Install sound treatments (fabric wall panels)
• [Andre] Install sconces
• Install hardwood trim (crown, base moulding, equipment rack)
• Install screen, projector, speakers (screen/projector TBD on room size, throw, etc.)
• Install couch(es)
• Hope everything works and flip the switch!
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post #13 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 09:28 AM
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Attach the top plate of the walls with IB3 clips. build one inch shy of required wall height
staggered stud walls are only for walls with adjoining living spaces, walls facing the foundation do not require.
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post #14 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 10:45 AM
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I'd separate "construction" from "theater".

The local HT guys can't do the construction that's involved.
Construction contractors will "pad" the theater part big time.

I'd use a good local architect to design the whole package. They'll work with a theater designer who will design the actual theater. Your architect will specify the interface between "theater" and "construction" in terms that a contractor can bid comfortably. A chat with www.erskine-group.com would be very productive at this stage.

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post #15 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petew View Post

I'd separate "construction" from "theater".

The local HT guys can't do the construction that's involved.
Construction contractors will "pad" the theater part big time.

I'd use a good local architect to design the whole package. They'll work with a theater designer who will design the actual theater. Your architect will specify the interface between "theater" and "construction" in terms that a contractor can bid comfortably. A chat with www.erskine-group.com would be very productive at this stage.

Great feedback. I will give them a call and figure out if they'll be able to help out!
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post #16 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 05:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Can anyone comment on how to think about Erskine Group versus local folks? Don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to speaking with them and seeing whether there's a fit. But I'm also trying to understand how "much" someone can do remotely (ie, not in Seattle), and how that interacts with my ability to find local talent (both design and contractors) to actually get the work done.

Has anyone done something similar?
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post #17 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 05:43 PM
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The Erskine group specializes in Home Theater. That is going to be the big difference between them and a local designer.. There may very well be some locals who can get you in the right shape.. A lot of people on this very forum have done exactly what you are asking. They can provide referrals for days.
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post #18 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 06:02 PM
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In addition to the Erskine folks, I recommend Bryan Pape from GIK acoustics. I have built a number of theaters so have some knowledge and have talked to folks from Erskine and Bryan. If I knew nothing and could afford Dennis, I would actively consider him. But I will be using Bryan for this (my fourth) theater.

Erskine has quite the portfolio.

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post #19 of 94 Old 04-03-2013, 06:03 PM
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You might also want to check out Madrona Digital or Definitive Audio. They're both local and quite good.
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post #20 of 94 Old 04-04-2013, 09:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks guys! I'm looking forward to talking with Erskine, as I am impressed with their portfolio as well. I am aware of Madrona Digital and Definitive Audio as well — I expect I will also chat with them. Pretty much the only folks I've been warned to avoid (in the Seattle area) is Magnolia. Apparently most of their HT design folks left and went to Definitive after the Best Buy acquisition. However, take it with a grain of salt as I have no way of verifying myself.

Asbestos abatement is wrapping up today, so I'll be able to go down and take a few pictures of the proposed location to share. More soon!
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post #21 of 94 Old 04-04-2013, 06:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Chatted with Warren from Erskine, and got some good insights. Helped me land on not trying to move stairs, and working with the space to the left. We also discussed ways to try and reduce the cost of the excavation, and with that in mind I took a stab at sketching out a rough layout.

Couple of key points:

1. Am trying to reduce places where excavation needs to go flush to a basement/foundation wall as that will be more expensive. Right now have only one wall on the left needing that sort of work.
2. Am hoping to stop short of foundation walls when excavating at the front and back of the theater. My thinking is that my JBL Synthesis FCR vertical speakers can stand "elevated" about two feet above the lowest part of the room, and that I would still have room to run plumbing for the back sink between the counter and "floor" (or original elevation).
3. Roughly imagining two tiers, with the entry area being a foot or so below the main level of the basement, and the front being two feet down. Hoping that also equals less excavation and cost.
4. Center two support beams would be removed and replaced with long steel support beam (otherwise they'd be dead center and blocking LOS to screen).
5. Bathroom isn't imagined to be built out at this point due to cost, but wanted to rough out space for it.

Finally, you'll note I'm imagining couches. I entertain somewhere between 5-14 folks weekly with a movie/TV show night, and so am going to avoid the traditional theater seating. Couches will be more flexible and cost effective here. I might also imagine a few bean bags in front, that sort of thing.



Really appreciate any thoughts or input you guys have on the (very) rough layout and design. Am really trying to bottom out on the "box" where this will fit, so I can start the process of getting bids for excavation as well as getting the theater designed. Thanks!
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post #22 of 94 Old 04-04-2013, 06:32 PM
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This is a nice design, in that it allows you to use the full length available. That puts you at 26'9" by 15'10", before walls right? Obviously that includes the back counter and sink, but that's okay - it still get's you into the "two rows plus bar" length range. I think this is a practical use of the space, since it gets you a plenty-big theater without putting you into the range of sizes that will necessitate much larger expenses in speakers and projector. Moving the stairs may have given you more flexibility, but probably not a nicer space in the end.

I personally like the idea of couches, but my other half is less keen on the idea for our space. She says that if we go to the lengths I have gone (and you will go) that anything short of nice recliners short-changes the endeavor. Also, I bet you could fit 8 theater seats in there, which might fit 8 viewers for comfortably that two couches. Either way, I suppose my point is explore your options and talk them over with the rest of the house before you commit to that.

Did you guys discuss going even deeper? I don't know the costs and code logistics, but it would seem to me that getting the crew out there to work is most of the expense. The actual cubic volume removed is probably pretty affordable, as a marginal unit. More head-room is one of the most often wished for items, so I'd consider that carefully.
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post #23 of 94 Old 04-04-2013, 07:16 PM - Thread Starter
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That's a great point on going deeper. I'm hoping to talk to the frontrunner guys tomorrow about excavation — I'll definitely ask whether there's a huge delta between say 2 - 2.5 feet or so. Right now I have 6'9" to the top of rafters, so I think a tich over 2 feet should work well.

The other thing I'm trying to figure out is screen size and ratio. I'm sort of hoping to get a 130' diagonal screen into there (fixed), maybe a tich larger. But, am at the very beginning of understanding the total cost of this project, and so have no idea if that (and the appropriate projector) will fit or not.

I won't even touch the constant height/ratio topic just yet — I have to read some more threads here before I can ask an intelligent question there. Especially since I'm a digital entertainment consultant who does a lot of work in the video game field (16:9) but also loves movies — the wider ratio the better! Yeah, I'm probably screwed. wink.gif

Am processing some photos right now of basement pre-asbestos abatement. Will put them up to start helping people visualize space soon.
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post #24 of 94 Old 04-04-2013, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avrignaud View Post

... at the very beginning of understanding the total cost of this project, and so have no idea if that (and the appropriate projector) will fit or not.
I'd suggest reading about reading about ftL (foot lamberts) and lumens (this one's a good start), and using the projector calculators at sites like this one. Calibrated lumens aren't cheap - the newer Panasonics and Epsons are among the brightest in their price ranges, as I understand it.
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post #25 of 94 Old 04-05-2013, 02:24 AM - Thread Starter
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I'd suggest reading about reading about ftL (foot lamberts) and lumens (this one's a good start), and using the projector calculators at sites like this one. Calibrated lumens aren't cheap - the newer Panasonics and Epsons are among the brightest in their price ranges, as I understand it.

Thanks for the links... I can see playing with the interactive calculator being pretty addictive!
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post #26 of 94 Old 04-05-2013, 02:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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This is a nice design, in that it allows you to use the full length available. That puts you at 26'9" by 15'10", before walls right? Obviously that includes the back counter and sink, but that's okay - it still get's you into the "two rows plus bar" length range. I think this is a practical use of the space, since it gets you a plenty-big theater without putting you into the range of sizes that will necessitate much larger expenses in speakers and projector. Moving the stairs may have given you more flexibility, but probably not a nicer space in the end.

I personally like the idea of couches, but my other half is less keen on the idea for our space. She says that if we go to the lengths I have gone (and you will go) that anything short of nice recliners short-changes the endeavor. Also, I bet you could fit 8 theater seats in there, which might fit 8 viewers for comfortably that two couches. Either way, I suppose my point is explore your options and talk them over with the rest of the house before you commit to that.

Did you guys discuss going even deeper? I don't know the costs and code logistics, but it would seem to me that getting the crew out there to work is most of the expense. The actual cubic volume removed is probably pretty affordable, as a marginal unit. More head-room is one of the most often wished for items, so I'd consider that carefully.

Thanks for the feedback! Didn't get a chance to completely respond earlier, been a crazy week.

Yep, I'm thinking it'll be around 26x15 feet once walls are in, give or take. As I start to dial in plans (and costs), I could imagine the back counter/sink and the mid-counter being reduced or removed if necessary. Don't want to let the project creep into building an entire new kitchen down there as well, especially since the extra bathroom will be more useful and add value in the long run.

As to the couches, I'm aiming for sort of a hybrid media room/home theater/second living room. Am looking to have some comfortable couches, small end tables, coffee table in front, that sort of thing for folks to be able to put drinks and food on. As I mentioned earlier, I entertain a bunch of folks regularly, and we do a hybrid potluck dinner/drinks/movie things every week. So the ability to have spaces for plates, drinks, and counter space to pull it from would help a lot.

I think it might help if I shared some snapshots I've collected on other home theaters I like, with elements I'm aiming for. Let me do that in a new post, next!
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post #27 of 94 Old 04-05-2013, 03:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Wanted to share a few sample pictures of home theater designs I like, so people have an idea of what I'm mentally aiming for. Of course, this is all pending professional help and design, but at least it's a starting point. As always, love feedback and suggestions!

This build is a really good view of what I'm imagining. I like the colors and overall design, as well as the counter/sink behind. I also like the clean lines and wood trim. For reference, all of the shots can be found in context at this Houzz link: http://www.houzz.com/projects/56316/Home--Theater--on-the-Farm





Same build, but a view of the rolling barn door and stairs down. I really like both, but am not sure if the rolling barn door gives up too much in sound proofing. For the record, since I'm the sole owner I'm aiming for "good" but not necessarily excellent sound proofing in the hopes that can help with costs. Am more worried about neighbors being bothered than the occasional roommate, though I also would like to have the ability to sleep if they're watching something late one night.



Different build now. Little too ornate for me, especially the table/ottoman, but it gives a sense of multiple tiers of couches.



Liked the couch, as well as the clean lines of the "modern craftsman" home. Not necessarily enthused with the lighting shown, though.



Another example of tiered seating with a counter behind. Little more ornate than I'd be aiming for - for example, I don't necessarily feel I need columns in the room or a starry ceiling.



Like the multiple tiers, though I'd imagine using couches instead of recliners. Also thought the little drink rail behind the first set of seats was interesting.



Another two tier solution, curved. This one also has a few side tables scattered in there, and also matches the sort of visual look I'm imagining as far as simple and clean.



Finally, stealing from the awesome "Bacon Race" theater thread, I really liked the design of the tier steps.

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post #28 of 94 Old 04-05-2013, 07:07 AM
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Wow you are well on your way. It's probably worthwhile to go ahead and do the bathroom rough-in as long as the floor is dug up. No sense in making another mess later.

High Desert Theater - work in progress
Building Bass - Subs

Surrounds - Easy as Pi

Storage - unRAID unDELL

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post #29 of 94 Old 04-05-2013, 08:31 AM
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Here's a really nice living room that does double duty - just looks so comfortable.



And another fabulous theater that Erskine Group designed:

High Desert Theater - work in progress
Building Bass - Subs

Surrounds - Easy as Pi

Storage - unRAID unDELL

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post #30 of 94 Old 04-05-2013, 09:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Great examples - you're dialed into what I'm thinking, for sure. Thanks for sharing!

As to roughing in bathroom, definitely agree. I realized late last night that I should probably rough in plumbing for a new master bath I'm hoping to do one day as well, since it'll be sitting above part of the screenwall area. Will want to hide in ceiling or soffit with designer's help.
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