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Design and Layout

Just as important as which components to buy is deciding where to put them. There are several things to consider when designing a home theater including personal preferences, physical requirements, and budget.

Where to Put a Home Theater System

A basement is one of the best places to install a home theater. Controlling light is usually easier in a lower level because there's less outdoor light interference. And the ability to insulate the ceiling and walls makes it possible to keep out a lot of distracting sounds and avoid disturbing other areas of the house.

Another factor to consider is the size of the equipment. This is particularily an issue with the larger rear and front screen projectors. The basement often has extra space for equipment and avoids using valuable living space upstairs.

Placement Problems

Many times there are features to a room that dicate where a home theater can go. Built-in shelving, wall length, size and shape of the room, windows, etc., can eliminate an entire wall or half the room as placement possibilities.

The equipment itself often dicates its location. The larger the screen, the farther the distance must be between it and the sitting area. As the layouts below illustrate, larger screens require more distance from the viewing area.


Keeping the "Home" in Home Theater

One of the most common problems in designing a home theater system is how to incorporate large equipment into a room's layout. Subtle design features can easily become overpowered by big equipment, especially small detailed items.

For instance, there is an optimum height range for a seated person to view the screen to avoid strain or uncomfortable viewing positions. This height may or may not fall in line with other elements in the room like a shelf or soffit line.

A system installed in a large, open space with no adjoining spaces to put components will likely need a custom-built cabinet to house it. Hiring an architect to draw up such plans to fit the decor of the room is probably a good idea if you have the money.

Wood cabinetry constructed of plywood with a wood veneer is a good choice. It is easier to match woodwork without breaking the budget. Plywood and veneer cabinets are also structurally stable and don't warp as easily as solid hardwood.

How Everything Fits Together

Most components of a typical home theater system will sit in cabinetry against one wall in the room -- with the main three speakers to the side, under, or on top of the cabinets. The surround speakers often mount on walls, on stands, or rest on furniture.

Finally, consider these four major elements when putting together a home theater: ease of use, ease of set up & maintenance, optimal performance, and appearance.