Beyond Dark Rooms
Between improved technology and evolving tastes, home theaters are not only changing – they are also becoming accessible to more people.
“The quality you can achieve for a lower budget is so much greater than in years past,” says Scott Weinstein of Audio Den, a 40-plus year business in Lake Grove that services the Hamptons and Manhattan. “A $15,000 projector you can get now is performing like a $50,000 projector from three or four years ago. It’s incredible.”
There have also been “huge leaps and bounds in accessibility,” he says. “Years ago installing a home theater was a several-day project; today you can do it in about a day.”
While costs are coming down, some people are still spending a fortune on home theaters. “We just turned a basement space into a gaming area and home theater with a seating capacity of 20,” says Punit Chugh of Aman Developers, a high-end Bridgehampton building company. “It’s almost like walking into a mini theater.” His clients spent more than a million bucks on items like BASWA Sound Absorbing Plaster on walls and ceiling and upscale speakers from such upscale manufacturers as Harman Kardon and Bose.
But with all the improvement in TV screen size and quality, do home theaters still need projection? The short answer is no. However, there is what Weinstein calls a “video emotion” factor. The larger the screen, the more your body reacts emotionally to the image. For full impact, he says, you need a 120-inch screen and front projection.
When Hamptonites started building home theaters a decade or so ago, the decoration of rooms was cinematically driven. But that Odeon style is fast disappearing. The folks at Farrell Building Company have transitioned from those “opulent reds and leathers,” says company spokesperson, Sara Goldfarb. Instead, the palette of home theaters mesh with that of the entire house. “We’re using nature-driven colors: beiges, grays. So, it’s no longer like you’re walking into a cave.”
That doesn’t mean they have gotten rid of all of home theater’s bells and whistles. Farrell still installs soundproof walls, a bar and, of course, a popcorn machine. And there’s still tiered stadium seating. But they’ve added luxe elements such as big pillows. “Even the chairs are more relaxed. Instead of rigid leather we use softer fabrics. “The whole notion is that it’s more than a movie theater; there’s a lounge element, it’s a space to hang out in.”
Martha Gundersen, an agent with Brown Harris Stevens, agrees. “Home theaters are less about leather seats with cup holders and have become more sophisticated designer-y rooms decorated with Venetian plaster, molding, comfy couches and tables to put drinks on.” Walls are soundproof, but they are covered with “the most expensive fabrics.”
Gundersen references a home theater in her listing at 70 Matthews Lane in Bridgehampton, a $12 million house by celebrated interior designer James Michael Howard. The walls are cushioned with velvet, “not only for soundproofing but also for effect,” she says. “The white faux couches are probably the most comfy couches ever.” There’s also a fridge and wine cooler for all comestible needs. And, naturally, all the latest top-of-the-line equipment. “When home theaters first started I wasn’t attracted to them, but now they’ve become more like living rooms surrounded by beauty and style instead of Bob’s Furniture.”