An inside look at what's hot in the world of home theater design from design expert Lisa Slayman.
Advances in technology have transformed just about every space of a home. Kitchens have become communication hubs, bathrooms have blossomed into spa-like retreats, outdoor areas have turned into popular entertainment destinations, and bedrooms have become private luxurious refuges. Technology has influenced not only how these spaces function but how they look. While kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and even the outdoors have been impacted by progressively smarter technology, it's the home theater that's undergone the most monumental change. Brighter, bigger displays; smaller, sleeker speakers, and completely new ways to consume and enjoy entertainment content, as well as socioeconomic forces, have altered the home theater landscape. In the business of home theater design for more than 20 years, Lisa Slayman, principal of Slayman Cinema, recognizes the shift, with each new year and with each new crop of technology influencing her designs and creations, making home theater one of the most dynamic areas of a household to decorate. So, what's in store for 2020? Bold colors or neutrals? Huge videowalls or smaller screens? Speakers that stand out or ones that hideaway in the walls? Which elements of design should be incorporated today to stay on trend? Here, Slayman identifies 10 of the biggest trends shaping home theater design:
Historically, a home theater was designed as a room dedicated to one thing and one thing only: watching movies. While this particular approach is still practiced today, what's become increasingly common are home theaters that facilitate other forms of recreation. For many families, a multipurpose entertainment area makes a lot of sense. They may not have the free space or the funds to allocate a large chunk of their homes to movie viewing, so designing the room to accommodate other activities—watching sporting events, playing video games, listening to music, practicing yoga, you name it--offers more bang for their buck. As forms of entertainment become more and more multifaceted, so must the design of the room. Rather than outfit the space with stadium-style seating, for example, it's become more important to provide a large, open floor space for exercising and interactive gaming. Lighting, as well, needs to be more multifunctional—bright during sporting events, soft and serene for music listening, and completely dark for movie viewing.
Large-Scale Lounge Seating
Coinciding with the multi-purpose entertainment movement is the growing popularity of lounge-style seating. Families are spending more time at home than ever before, so comfort is crucial … right down where they rest their backsides in a home theater. Individual seats that flip down certainly evoke the look and feel of a commercial cinema, but today it's more in vogue to complement these traditional home theater seats with large, plush, luxurious couches, ottomans, and sectionals similar to what you'd see in a lounge. Together, the traditional and modern seating styles are the perfect marriage of form and function.
Modern Design Elements
A home theater should reflect your tastes and style. If that's traditional, by all means, go for it. Outfit the space with ornate, indulgent furnishings and architectural details. These days, however, contemporary, modern design is resonating with more homeowners, and that's carrying through to the home theater. Clean, subtle, and with softer lines, the contemporary design concept evokes a sense of comfort and peace—an environment that befits a multi-use entertainment space of which home theaters have become. Practicing yoga or hosting a Superbowl party might feel awkward in an opulent, richly appointed home theater, but completely appropriate in a modern media space.
Light, Neutral Color Palettes
Complementing the contemporary home theater design trend is the application of lighter, more neutral color schemes. Paint, fabrics, and furnishings follow suit, giving home theater owners a space that feels open and airy rather than dark and cavernous.
The contemporary influences, the neutral tones, the accommodation of comfortable seats and other modes of entertainment—it's all led to the demise of the once-popular "man cave." Home theaters of yesteryear used to be the domain of the man in the family—where they escaped to unwind from a hard day at the office. Those days are over, and, today's home theater designs reflect this evolution. Environments that cater to the interests and tastes of everyone in the household is now deemed most desirable.
Hobbies, past-times, and passions come to life in home theaters. Usually set apart from the rest of the home, the space offers an open canvas on which to paint the portrait of your life. It's a chance to let your imagination and creativity run wild. Love Westerns? Turn your theater into a "saloon.' Into skydiving? Ask your home theater designer to paint puffy white clouds on the ceiling. A favorite vacation destination, a penchant for coin collecting—just like your interests, theme theaters never go out of style.
Bigger screens, Brighter Images
As technology continues to advance, so does the form and function of a home theater. Screens, for example, have grown increasingly larger and projectors increasingly brighter. It's an ideal situation for home theaters, as the objective during movie viewing is to evoke a similar visual experience as that of a commercial cinema. Total immersion and engagement of the presentation are trending, and big screens are leading the charge. Concurrent with epic screen proportions is the application of screen materials to ensure the reproduction of bright, vivid images regardless of the room lighting. Ambient light rejection screens are a blessing for multipurpose home theaters, as the image retains its brightness in all viewing situations. You can keep the lights on while hosting a Superbowl party or completely off during a movie and the image is always crisp, clear and bright.
Now that screens and projectors can perform optimally under any lighting conditions, home theater designs are incorporating more light fixtures than ever before—and not just standard white light, but colorful LED lighting that evokes mood and ambiance. With the addition of these lights, and an easy way to control them, the atmosphere transition from that of a relaxing getaway with blue lighting to an energetic disco with yellow and orange hues. When the Packers play, get the whole room into the spirit by washing the walls in a bright green hue; add splashes of red during the holidays.
LED Video Walls
LED video wall technology offers a new, exciting option to the traditional projector-screen setup. Video walls suit a more dynamic home theater environment, where one minute you're using the screen to watch YouTube videos, the next to gaze at a stunning piece of artwork, and the next to take in the scenery along a hilly Tuscan bike trail as you jump onto your connected stationary bike. Or, maybe you're like to do two things at once: view the landscape while peeking in on the news. Images on video walls can be scaled to any size or shape so that multiple pieces of content can be displayed at the same time.
Decorative Acoustical Treatments
Lifelike, three-dimensional audio in home theater environments has taken off, thanks to technologies like Dolby Atmos. The processor and speakers do much of the work to create the effect, but the audio quality can be optimized further through the application of acoustical paneling and other types of treatments by a professional acoustician. To raise no visual conflict with the room design, acoustical treatments had been largely concealed in specially constructed wall cavities covered with acoustically transparent fabric. This approach if falling to the wayside, though, as acoustical treatments are being professionally engineered, fashioned, and installed as decorative elements within the room, exposed to be admired for their beauty rather than banished to behind the wall.