Screen Rapture: The Joy of Home Cinemas

by Kate Burt in Designer style at home

A home cinema sounds like the stuff of millionaire country piles; a luxury reserved for homes with plenty of spare square footage to convert, and the necessary cash required for all that specialist technology.

Cinema room in an eco hunting lodge in Gleneagles

But the cost of having your own screening room might not cost as much as you think – either in space or in hard cash.

A spare room or a basement extension could, of course, make excellent celluloid themed snugs – but you could also think outside the traditional box: do you have an attic filled with junk you really could get rid of? A garage in the same state? Or even enough lawn for a garden room or posh shed?

These are just some of the spaces people are converting into home cinemas – proving that, even in space-strapped London, your own personal Odeon or Curzon may not be out of reach.

“In the last few years it has become possible to have an immersive state-of-the-art cinematic experience with an integrated system in your home from around £10,000,” says Simon Evans of The Design Practice by UBER which provides architecture and design services as a package with their specialist home automation partner Sensory International. “Hunger for the latest gizmos inevitably means that prices drop as they become mass market.”

“We just didn’t want it to feel like a cave. We wanted to create a relaxing space you might want to spend time in during the day, too.”

The technology has also become much more user-friendly, Evans also believes. “Thanks to forerunners such as Apple’s iPod, manufacturers now take note that the key to clever technology should be in the simplicity of how the user controls it. Gone are the days when you need a plethora of remotes and a lab coat technician by your side.”

And even if you don’t have the space for a dedicated cinema room, there are also clever things Evans and his team can do with your existing sitting room. It is possible, he explains, to have a home cinema you won’t even need to notice when it is not in use.

The Design Practice by UBER recently made several clever and hide-able adaptations to a compact living room, meaning it now becomes a spectacular cinema at the touch of a button. Evans explains: “More and more customers are happy to use a current sitting room for a dual functioning cinema; the technology elements can be practically removed from view once not in use, leaving a only a harmoniously designed living space.”

Some of these tricks are illustrated in the living room/cinema below, specially built at the UBER Interiors’ showroom, where a 50-inch screen and rear surround-sound speakers are concealed with artworks printed onto transparent fabric screens, and iPad controls that “in true Bond style”, says Evans, do everything from drawing the curtains to exposing the screen.

And this multi-functional approach, says Samantha Morgan, head of design at Concept Interiors, which also installs and designs home cinema systems is good, too, if you are on a bit of a budget: “Something that could be used as a living area or playroom during the day but, through the press of a button, can morph into a cinema room at any time.”

“This system would consist of speakers flush mounted in to the ceiling, painted to match the ceiling finish and a subwoofer housed under an occasional table giving maximum audio effect without losing the looks of the room,” Morgan continues. “For the viewing side of the system, depending on the budget, we would install either a large wall-mounted TV or, for greater effect, a ceiling mounted projector with a screen which motorises down from a thin slot in the ceiling. All of the electronics would be housed in an existing cabinet or joinery, and all would be controlled from a single remote even when the cabinet doors are closed. The result is that you’d still get a full cinema experience – but with no loss of living space or style.”

She continues: “We consider both the aesthetics and the acoustic properties – so, for example, higher quality speakers may not be to every client’s visual taste, but can be hidden away behind fabrics, and built into walls without disrupting the visual impact of the room. A large fixed viewing screen can be hidden by heavy curtains that motorise out as the film starts, the projector can be concealed inside a ceiling hatch and descend only when required, while lights can be designed to dim to a soft glow as you settle in to your favourite movie. And all of this controlled through the latest touch-screen controls or iPad… so all you have to do is chose the film, the friends and press play.”

There are of course all sorts of ways to decorate your cinema room. And perhaps the most important element to get right is the seating. A Google image search on home cinemas throws up a lot of leather and chrome – which can look a little ‘bachelor pad’ and impersonal. If that’s not your style, search out some warmer modular seating, such as the informal and slouchy, yet super glamorous Voyage Immobile or Mah Jong sofas, both from Roche Bobois.

Or go for minimal black, but with soft curves and panache: B&B Italia’s sexy Tufty-Time sofa by Patricia Urquiola or silvery glamour of the Charles Sofa by Ascension Latorre, pictured above.

Alix Lawson, a director at the architecture and interior design practice Lawson Robb, agrees. Her firm has designed and installed several home cinemas, including the one pictured below in the lower ground floor of a private house in Knightsbridge. In it, they deliberately avoided cinema seating; Lawson explains: “Cinema seats are great if you’re at the Electric or something, but at home you want to stretch out, put your feet up and be able to cosy up under a blanket. So instead we chose this soft, golden velvet sofa. It’s more relaxed if people can all pile on.”

Interestingly, Lawson Robb also avoided the more traditional dark and womb-like feel that home cinema design often follows: “We kept the colours light but kept the luxurious feel by using layers of different textures and a fireplace for added cosiness,” says Lawson. As well as the velvet sofa, there are cream leather side-tables that double as trays and the walls are clad in silk that has been lined with acoustic lining for soundproofing. Another nice touch is the clever LED lighting which glows at the edges, giving the impression that the suspended ceiling is floating.  It really opens up what is in fact a fairly small space. “We just didn’t want it to feel like a cave,” Lawson continues. “We wanted to create a relaxing space you might want to spend time in during the day, too.” Yes please – pass the popcorn then.

The Design Practice by UBER
UBER Interiors
Concept Interiors
Lawson Robb

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