Home Theater Design:
Top Considerations to Create a Room You’ll Love

Home theater design guru Lisa Slayman gives Kaleidescape tips from her experience designing home cinemas that bring the best in performance, design, comfort, and inspiration.
Article by Lisa Slayman, Slayman Cinema
Nowhere are emotions closer to the surface than when we are watching our favorite content with loved ones. The thriller that gets your blood pumping in anticipation. The comedy that makes your face hurt from smiling. The tear-jerking drama. Having the ideal place to enjoy that content makes it all the more memorable. A private cinema is an environment carefully engineered to create the best audio and video performance possible—a space where you and your loved ones can escape and be entertained while enjoying each other’s company.
It takes more than performance to create a fantastic home theater space, however. The best home theaters are those that are inspiring in their own right before you even press ‘play’. In these high-design rooms, the environment itself makes an impression when you walk in, instantly exciting the audience and priming them to have an emotional reaction that carries them into another world. Design accomplishes all of these objectives, creating an environment that is special, even when the AV is off.
The marriage of technology and design is therefore extremely important and takes significant expertise to accomplish. In a home theater, tech and design go hand-in-hand to create unparalleled wow factor.
Working with an interior designer who specializes in home theaters and knows their particular technical requirements can help you create a better outcome. At Slayman Cinema, we have devoted ourselves to the art of home theater for more than two decades with the goal of creating designs that transport, uplift, and captivate. Here are some of the tips I’ve learned over the years that I find helpful to mention to clients embarking on their home theater journey.

Imagination Is the Only Limitation

At Slayman Cinema, we take the time to really get to know our clients. It’s about more than simply choosing colors and fabrics. I try to draw information and feelings out of my clients that they may not have even been aware of, getting them to go beyond the limits of their imaginations to something greater that manifests in the design.

Build Trust with Your Designer

Getting to know a client doesn’t happen overnight and certainly can’t be accomplished in one cursory consultation. It requires trust between the designer and client, which takes time and ultimately fosters an ongoing relationship.

Find Inspiration in the Things You Love

I was chatting with a client who was telling me about his travels in Italy. He spoke of a huge cathedral with a stunning oval ceiling and showed me a picture. This ceiling was a revelation, and it served as the inspiration for his home cinema residential theater, in which we created a similar sense of awe by designing a striking home theater ceiling that serves as the centerpiece for the room.

Themes Are Fun

Sometimes inspiration happens in a different order. For our Lady Luck theater, we started with a theme. My client wanted to re-create a 1930’s Hollywood movie palace, and as I got to know her better and we began collaborating, I discovered this beautiful fabric with Swarovski crystals embedded in it. That fabric ended up serving as the impetus for the design of the entire theater. Themes can be fun when done tastefully and accurately.

Hire the Right Folks

To steer a project to a successful outcome, it’s important that your interior designer at the very least ‘speak’ technology. It’s also important that you hire contractors that know how to coordinate a high-tech project. Does your technology integrator have experience working with architects and interior designers, for example? The Home Technology Association is a great resource for finding integrators in your area that pass their rigorous vetting process. CEDIA is also a great resource for qualified smart home integrators. It’s impossible for a designer to keep up with the pace of technological advances, so we must rely heavily on collaboration with the AV integrator. Their work impacts the design and direction. If the designer doesn’t work closely with them and understand the technology direction, it jeopardizes the outcome of the project.

Get Your Integrator Involved Early In the Process

Getting an integrator involved early in the process is imperative for success. If you don’t have an integrator at the planning stage, it might look a lot like tearing down drywall to install wiring and speakers. Planning for technology from the blueprint stage eliminates changes and conserves the budget.

Design Materials Affect Performance

A lot of what makes a home theater perform well is the room itself, and that goes for its furnishing and design elements. We work with acoustically transparent fabrics and consider each surface’s effect on the audio in your theater, working with your integrator to create the ideal space for audio and video to shine.

Performance Is a Design Goal

The goal of all of our designs at Slayman Cinema is to enable the components the AV integrator specifies and installs to optimate optimally. We understand there is a strong relationship between room dimensions and the audio quality of a surround sound system, for example. While home theater designers certainly strive to create visually stunning spaces, we actually place more emphasis on performance of the AV equipment than anything else!

Design Drawings & Renders Bring the Vision to Life

The most challenging part of theater projects is creating a design and documentation for a one-of-a-kind space that is complicated and expensive. That means integrating the AV, Acoustics, Mechanical, and Electrical, then producing a set of drawings that are a road map for the contractor to execute. You will always have the best result when you put together a great team of consultants with the goal for everyone being collaboration. This results in a the theater that a client has dreamed and fantasized about. Throughout the entire process, your designer should be crystalizing the vision with artistic renderings of your theater, as well as design and engineering documentation. Having a paper trail helps to manage your expectations and avoid surprises.
Ultimately, home cinema environments strike a harmonious balance between inspirational design and high-performance audio and video. Whether you are a first-time home theater owner or have experience creating these rooms of magic, the process can be as interactive or hands-off as you desire. As long as you have the right contractors on your team early on, the process should be smooth and the outcome successful, resulting in a space that you don’t just like, but love.
Slayman Cinema is a premiere home theater design firm that understands the importance of collaboration with AV integrators and acousticians to create aesthetically elegant and high-performing entertainment environments. Company founder Lisa Slayman and her team oversee home theater projects from inception to completion, ensuring that every technical and design detail is executed perfectly. With more than 25 years of experience and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and International Interior Design Association, Lisa and her team have developed an exceptional understanding of the relationship between home theater technology and interior design. Learn more at slaymancinema.com.