I'd kill a kindergartener for a soda fountain machine
for some reason, that really cracked me up.
that wood looks beautiful. i think if you went with a dark enough stain on it, you'd still see the character of the wood in the a/v wall, but minimize the potential negative impact on picture quality and presentation. i prefer projector screens against a dark background, but that's a matter of taste i suppose. my custom made a/v stand is stained black, looks awesome to me, but i have no wife acceptance factor to stand in the way of my color choices.
i know i'll be committing avs blasphemy by saying this, but it's actually kind of refreshing to see a build thread that's about making the room more comfortable for the family experience, as opposed to getting mired down in the technical details of hat channels, green glue, and REW measurements. i love reading that stuff, don't get me wrong! it's just nice to see a little less of that for once.
you should definitely, at a minimum, try the "sub crawl" method. as weird as it sounds, moving a sub even a few inches can mean the difference between something sounding awesome, and something getting swallowed up in a null, never to be heard again. my room has a HORRIBLE null right in the center (where my couch is, no less). i had to move and rotate the sub several times, as well as moving the couch, to finally find a balance i could live with, until i get up the courage to try building a bass trap.
looking forward to seeing how things turn out. i have no building skill at all, i can't even hammer a nail in straight, so i live vicariously through those of you who CAN do it.