Watch in Style

Customize your home theater with technology, furniture, accessories

By Jenn Willhite

Customizing your home theater space doesn’t have to be a daunting task that breaks the bank. Today’s trendiest home theater spaces are the epitome of stylish convenience, comfort and theatrical ambiance that simply require a little planning, budgeting and vision, say area experts.
Starting with the basic elements of furniture and accessories to define and flesh out the space, Suzanne Sherman, co-owner of Martin Fine Furniture, says convenience and comfort are front and center for most shoppers.
And, although, the majority of shoppers are looking to kit out their entire home theater space from top to bottom, Sherman says it is essential to start with the basics, and that means measurements.
“You really need to lay it out,” Sherman says. “One of the old-school ways is to lay newspapers or somehow otherwise mark off measurements on the floor, including how deep and long the furniture elements will be and where the turns will go. Lay it out and have your measurements before you go out shopping. Most people forget that. The furniture pieces look a lot smaller in the showroom and then when they put it in their house, it is too big.”
From consoles, USB charging outlets and cup holders, to patterned or plain cloth versus leather, today’s home theater seating includes an array of choices including sectionals, Barcaloungers and recliners that offer a little something for everyone. Sherman says it is simply a matter of personal preference.
“It is about 50-50 for us,” she says. “We get a lot of leather requests and a lot of cloth ones, too. It is really a matter of personal choice as some think cloth has a warmer feel, but leather offers less worry.”
Shoppers are choosing to power-up some of their furniture purchases, Sherman says.
“The biggest thing selling now is power headrest, power lumbar and power recliner,” Sherman says. “When power first came out, everybody thought it was for old people. No. Everyone loves to get comfortable.”
If you want an old-school option, you can still get manual recliners, Sherman adds, but should you choose to power-up, bank on adding a likely $200 or so to the base cost of the item.
“The expense isn’t huge, but it is worth the comfort,” she adds.
Chris Johnson, owner of Galaxy Home Theater in Greenwood, says the home theater industry continues to build, expand and improve.
“Think of the wheel, invented eons ago and it has undergone many iterations,” he says.
Designing a home theater space involves much more than seating and deciding how big the TV should be. There’s a method to the madness and science to the reasons for choosing certain sound systems over others, Johnson says.
“It’s all about the science of engineering the room based on the client’s audio-visual perception, the room acoustics and visual presentation,” he says. “It is scalability. We do everything from IMAX down to general media; it is still a unique experience. The federal government defines home theater as anything 50 inches or larger in a television.”
Among some of the elements to keep in mind when shopping for a home theater system includes what the system will be used for and the layout of the room, including lighting and furnishings.
“You don’t buy a television designed around cinematography if you are just going to watch TV,” Johnson says. “We look at the acoustical environment and lighting conditions and apply the science to the need.”
Surround sound is no longer confined to speakers of varying size placed strategically throughout the room, Johnson adds.
“We can put sound transducers into seating,” he says. “It is the experience. It’s like going to theaters. They are all different in shapes and sizes, like going from a small theater all the way up to IMAX. Some people want a general, large-scale sound system.”
According to Johnson, everyone makes a decent speaker these days. It is simply a matter of finding the right one to fit your needs.
“It is not a right or wrong answer; it is apples and oranges,” Johnson says. “If you listen to a lot of orchestra music, you would want to buy a musical speaker system. If you wanted to do just movies, you would want more of a theatrical speaker. Will they play music? Sure. It is about coming at it from a different angle.”
Not only is it a matter of getting the right speaker system in the right size, but getting quality of experience.
“Ideally, we want to have the consumer point and shoot,” Johnson says. “It is about escapism. Watching a great theater production, or whatever it is, it is about escapism in the comfort of your home. We are very scientific when it comes to the audio-visual and we look at it solely from the science in terms of audio and visual presentation.”
When it comes to TV size, the consensus has always been the bigger the better and that remains unchanged. Today, it is simply a question of how big could be too big?
“I think the general consensus is about every American home has a 65-inch TV these days,” Johnson says. “The affordability of these have dominated the market. People want to go big, and maybe they don’t have room for a 120-inch or a 150-inch TV, but ideally, an 85-inch TV can deliver exceptional video quality these days at an affordable price.”
Regardless of all the current hype surrounding screen resolution and the advent of 8K, the source material just isn’t quite there yet, Johnson says, and that leaves 4K as still offering all the magic right now.
Another part of making the home theater magic happen is blending the audio-visual experience with refreshments.
Mike Richardson, manager with Bishopp’s Appliances in Columbus, says beverage centers, wine coolers and air fryers are the top three most sought-after home theater appliances.
Beverage centers offer not only convenience, but are aesthetically-pleasing, he says.
“They’re basically an upgraded dorm fridge, that size,” Richardson says.
Starting in the neighborhood of about $800, and available in a variety of finishes, including stainless and black, beverage centers are about 24 inches in size with a vented front and have glass shelves and lighting that offer a built-in look, Richardson says.
Wine coolers offer similar ambiance with two front doors that work like a French door refrigerator with dual zones for red and white wines, Richardson says.
“The thing people ask for most is an air fryer in something, whether that be a range or microwave,” Richardson says. “Microwaves these days have air fryers built into them, so if you want a little countertop unit, that is a way to go.”
Richardson says most small appliances such as these are available for purchase off the showroom floor, however, there are still some that may need to be ordered. The process isn’t nearly as frustrating or stressful as it may have been one year ago.
As kinks and lapses in the supply chain continue to resolve themselves, it is becoming easier to make your home theater vision a reality. Shipments that would once take months are now enjoying a much shorter turnaround, Sherman adds.