Home Theater Interior Design

Sally Painter
Luxury Home Theater

Before purchasing theater chairs for your home theater, take a moment to consider the overall room design and technical components that will make your home theater spectacular. The two biggest interior design challenges for a home theater are comfortable seating and audio/visual quality.

Home Theater Technical Considerations

The technical requirements for your home theater need to be addressed before you set out designing the room.

Choose a Video Projector or TV

First you'll need to choose what type of screen you'll be using in your home theater.

A video projector is best for viewing movies or sports events. The projector typically doesn't come with connections for an RF cable/satellite or antenna connections like your TV does. But, some satellite or cable boxes have a HDMI or DVI connection and other connections so you can use your video projector in place of a television screen.

The biggest drawback is that the projection lamp that typically costs a couple of hundred dollars or more will need replacing sooner if you do all of your TV and movie viewing via your projection screen. The quality of some TV shows may suffer since they aren't formatted for large projection screens.

The distance required between the screen and first row seating will also impact your seating choices and availability.

Optimal Viewing Distance and Screen Size

According to TheaterSeatStore, the Society of Motion Pictures & Television Engineers (SMPTE) advises that each theater seat have a view of the entire screen. The view should fall within a 30 degree field of view. You also need to determine the maximum and minimum distances from the screen that allows comfortable viewing. Too close or too far and those watching the movie will suffer neck and eye strain. If the seating is too far from the screen, the viewing quality will be greatly diminished.

Screen Size Recommendations

Crutchfield suggests that it's best to go with the screen size you feel most comfortable watching. However, they do have a chart that takes into account the minimum and maxium amount of space needed for different screen sizes. A few popular sizes and reccomendations from Crutchfield include:

Screen Size Minimum Distance Maximum Distance
40" 5 ft 8.3 ft
50" 6.3 ft 10.4 ft
60" 7.5 ft 12.5 ft
70" 8.75 ft 14.6 ft
80" 10 ft 16.7 ft

Easy Formula

Alternatively, you can use this simple formula to calculate both the minimum a maximum comfortable seating distance from the TV or projection screen. Simply replace the screen size used in the formula (84") with the one you intend to use in your home theater.

  • Screen size (84") x 2 = (168") Minimum distance
  • Screen size (84) x 5 = ( 420") Maximum distance

Accommodate Adequate Seating

The number of people you can accomodate in your room is determined by both the size of your room and your minimum and maximum viewing distances from your screen. If you're going for stadium seating, remember to allow for the 30 degree view field for each row of seats. Follow these recommendations to figure out how many people and seats will fit into your optimal viewing area.

Space Needed for Recliner Rows

Many home theater recliners only require three inches of space between the recliner and wall in order to fully recline. Your room might only accommodate three or four recliners placed three inches from the wall. If wish to use several rows of recliners, Theater Seat Store suggests using the normal seating of four to six people and allow three to four feet of space for each seat. You'll need at least two to three feet of clearance between the rows and four of clearance between seats.

Stadium Seating Needs

Home Theater Stadium Seating

HTmarket.com advises that the second row platform should be at least seven inches higher than the first row. The depth required is an average of 72 inches. The optimum number of seats per row is four and that is how most manufacturers sell theater seating groups. Be sure to leave a three foot side aisle for easy access.

Acoustics

Sound waves bounce off hard surfaces and resonate throughout the room. A room absent of wall or ceiling surface variations will sound differently than a room with a high ceiling or different wall lengths and heights. You may decide to install sound-proofing panels or acoustical ceiling and wall tiles to assist in minimizing the sound generated from your home theater. This additional surface material is usually designed to also enhance the sound inside the room by reducing echo and reverberation.

Sample 5.1 Sound System Setup

A general guideline for speaker placement is called a 5.1 setup. This is the average "out of the box" home theater speaker system and has a minimum of five speakers that are used to create a surround sound effect. The 5.1 systems provides three front speakers and two surround ones. To maximize the theater effect, a sub woofer of low frequency effect (LFE) speaker is included. So you end up with 5 full sound speakers and 1 woofer or a 5.1 setup.

According to Dolby, the best way to set up a 5.1 speaker system so that the speakers are at the same height as your ears when seated. A simple configuration for a 5.1 setup would be:

Home Theater Surround Sound
  • One front speaker directly centered either above or below the TV or projection screen.
  • Place remaining two front speakers on either side of TV or projection screen. Slightly angle speakers to point to center of room.
  • Place surround speakers on the left and right sides of the main seating area.
  • Set woofer in center back of room, opposite and if possible on the same level as the front center speaker. Some people prefer placing the woofer by either the left or right front speakers.

You can buy other setups, such as a 7.1 or 9.1, as well, which include additional speakers and are best for larger rooms.

Basic Design Options

Once the technical questions are answered, you're ready to design the interior of your home theater. Whether you're remodeling an existing room, adding a room or building a new home with a home theater, there are some very basic design elements that will make or break your room design.

Home Theater Seating Furniture Choices

Some people opt for sectionals or sofas when using staium seating, while others prefer rows of recliners.

Chair Selection

There are two things to consider when selecting chairs:

  • High-backed chairs can interfere with the sound path throughout the room.
  • Recliners lower the person so that speaker heights are above ear level.

Many people find a reclining position with their feet elevated more comfortable when viewing television or a movie than stationary seating. A recliner is versatile and gives you both seating options. A solution for fans of recliners is to adjust the speaker heights to accommodate ear level when in a reclining position.

Other Seating Options

Many home theaters are much smaller than those using a stadium design. While you may prefer home theater chairs, your space just might not be large enough to accommodate everyone. There are a few creative solutions you might prefer.

Home Theater Stadium Seating Option
  • A break-away sectional can be moved and re-configured to accommodate viewers.
  • Bean bag chairs can be stored when not needed for additional seating.
  • Floor pillows can be stacked and stored when not being used.
  • Small chairs with an end table between them make it easy to set snacks and drinks down in a smaller room without theater seats.

Special Additions to Your Home Theater Design

You may want to incorporate specific features in your bucket list ideal home theater design. These might include:

  • Bar area: Include stools for dining while watching movies
  • Concession area: Provide area for keeping snacks, such as candy, popcorn, and drink machines
  • Special equipment: Ice maker, refrigerator, microwave

Wall Treatments

If you don't opt for acoustical walls and ceiling, you can still enhance the sound in your home theater with wallpaper and draperies.

  • Paint: Dark colored paint won't reflect light from your TV or projection screen the way lighter colors will.
  • Walls: The best theater designs avoid straight parallel walls due to how sound bounces off the surfaces. Add columns or other wall features to break up long walls.

Lighting Options

Art Deco Lighting Sconce

Many home theaters have windows and natural light can be an issue. Invest in blinds or shades that can be closed and add a pair of draperies or curtain that can also be closed.

Suggestions for lighting:

  • Avoid glare emitted by fluorescent lights and table lamps.
  • Wall sconces and recessed ceiling lights placed on dimmer switches are good options.
  • Fiber-optics or LED rope lighting can be used on crown molding, aisles, and steps.

Flooring

The best choice for your home theater flooring is carpeting. Opt for a saxon plush or a berber weave. You may decide to go with a customized carpeting or a commercial style. Be sure to use high density foam padding for optimum sound absorbency.

Themed Home Theater Styles

Choose a theme style and color scheme that fits your home décor and family's tastes for creating your home theater design.

Ideas for Décor Themes

Ornate Luxury Home Theater
  • Leather fabrics, ornate wallpapers, and detailed wood paneling offer a luxurious theme to your theater room.
  • If your style is modern, then go for a minimalist look.
  • You may want to recreate a 1920s ornate theater with red velvet draperies, thick gold braids, and ropes and art deco wall sconces.
  • You might choose a soda shop decor with 1950s style barstools or booths.
  • If your family members are Disney fans, you can design a Disney theme theater complete with posters, character cups and other types of furnishings.

Color Combinations

Keep colors in mind when selecting a theme for your theater. Choose medium to dark colors for the best results for light reflection concerns. Suggested color schemes include:

  • Red and gold
  • Purple and black
  • Green and red
  • Orange and brown
  • Blue and black

Accessorizing Your Home Theater

The small touches are what bring room décor together in a cohesive design. Pick what fits into your overall theme. For example:

Layout Your Home Theater Design

Take advantage of an online layout tool to see if the design you have in mind will adequately accommodate all your needs. Play around with different furniture configurations for you home theater before committing to any furniture purchases. Be certain that you have explored all of your options, then go for your dream home theater design.

Home Theater Interior Design