Initial Design Work
With the involved process of home design, construction and financing, time passed quickly. Note: builders and contractors do NOT nickel and dime you - they only work in $100 increments.
The house was finished on April 1st, 2009 (my project manager called me that morning, just as I left closing, telling me my financing wasn't clearing. I still owe him for that one...). But with my previous home still on the market, with about one showing per month, I was happy at this point to just not be eating cat food for dinner. So the theater would have to wait. Plenty more time for CES and CEDIA trips, which if you're planning one of these projects with some percentage DIY - a trip to CEDIA is invaluable. (CES not so much anymore, although it is in Vegas)
The entrance to the unfinished theater space, with someone's smart-ass comment who was hopefully not invited to the Grand Opening
LESSON: At the time, Dennis' AVS-special design service wasn't available, and having shopped for other design services (which I deemed too expensive at the "basic" service level for the amount of additional expertise I would gain), I didn't use any of them. Having seen Dennis' design work here, and for the price he offers the AVS service, I *HOPE* that if I was starting from scratch today I would be smart enough to send him a check! I did get a lot of free advice from industry experts and manufacturers by visiting them at CEDIA, and of course, reading lots and lots of AVSforum threads.
With that, I planned the space using dimensions I *thought* would be "big enough". My original goal was 3 rows of 5 recliners, for a seating capacity of 15. Why 15? No idea. I decided on a room dimension of 16'x22', with two 12" riser levels, based on some seating dimensions and the belief that I didn't want or need an aisle on the 'far side' of the room.
LESSON/MISTAKE: Look at more than one chair manufacturer's dimensions. I have no idea where I got the dimensions that would have allowed for 5 recliners in a 16' room width. I can't find anything that would fit that we would consider "recliners". I should have planned for "any" recliners since it was going to be a while before the room would be complete. Also, 5 across is an odd number - most folks come as couples...
MISTAKE: Having the risers built-in as part of the structure means it's not possible to undo the theater and turn the space into something else. Not that I would ever do that, but it could be a turn-off to potential future owners. While it would be possible to fill in the front of the room, lowering the rear riser would be a huge challenge.
MISTAKE: I also made the risers 5'9" deep, also using some chair dimensions (see LESSON above). In the final theater, there's just enough space for the Berklines to recline fully.
Here's a shot of the unfinished room - the official "before" shot. And I always shook my head at folks that posted images of their rooms with piles of crap and boxes in them - well, ok, I can't go back in time to clean the room out now. So my apologies for thinking that y'all should have cleaned the room first.
The full room depth it turns out is nowhere near enough for three rows of recliners. I figured that out early in the design process, and quite frankly, looking at the prices of the 'high end' seating manufacturers, re-thought the seating arrangement. First, the quantity - 15 recliners, I could be looking at $15-20k just for seating. Um, no.
And I liked the idea of using a bar for the back row seating, which solved a number of problems:
1) Bar stools are much cheaper than recliners
2) Bar with seating takes up considerably less depth (which was fixed by this point)
3) Bar seating pulls the rear row away from the back wall, allowing proper rear surround placement.
Since I intended to keep/use/add large floorstanding speakers for the fronts, was looking at a masking system to go with a CIH setup, and didn't have a lot of space up front, I didn't intend to use the false wall and screen arrangement. For the same reasons, I didn't plan on having a stage.
IF I DID IT OVER: I'd have made the room 17'x 24', adding a foot of width (6" to each aisle), with at least 1' longer to the front, and 6" more on each riser. But I would have stuck with my final seating plan. If I had the room up front, I might have put in a small stage, but I don't consider the lack of a stage as a mistake, either.
This is the final design, although there are changes here from the original plan that I haven't discussed yet.
Next up, re-framing... (yeah, it's a brand new house)