Family Watching A Movie At Home Together On The Couch

DIY Home Theater Design Ideas For An At-Home Cinema Experience

Sidney Richardson8-Minute Read
December 10, 2021

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The home office has been a crucial addition to many houses during the pandemic – why not add a home theater, too? In the wake of COVID-19, many movie theaters closed for months before reopening, and in the meantime, some films began releasing digitally via streaming services and video on demand rather than in theaters.

While theaters have since reopened for the most part, many people are now taking advantage of the ability to watch new movies from the comfort of their home. For those interested in bringing the feeling of the movie theater home, there’s never been a better time to build your own private viewing paradise.

Whether you’d like a home theater to bring the movie-watching experience safely to your family or you’d just like a fun space for entertainment, a home movie theater can be a rewarding project. Read on for our home theater design ideas and suggestions.

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What Does Your Home Theater Need?

If you’re considering putting together a personal theater in your home, you have many options as far as what to include. Your home theater can be as over-the-top or as simple as you’d like it to be – and the project doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank, either, though it can be expensive if you want to go all-out.

So, what are the basic things a home cinema should include? Here’s a list of six things that you might need to make your home theater dreams come true.

 

Seating

When watching a movie, you probably won’t want to be standing for the full 1 – 2-hour run time. Comfortable seating is as important to your home theater as the screen you watch films on. For the optimal movie viewing experience, you’ll want to invest in some comfortable seating for your home theater room.

If you plan on watching movies or binge-watching shows with a lot of friends, consider adding multiple seats or couches to accommodate guests. With extra seating, you might consider buying riser platforms to place your seating on too, to mimic the stairstep seating often found in real theaters.

As for what exactly to buy in terms of seating, it’s up to you! A regular couch from any furniture store will do just fine – but if you want the true theater experience, consider getting a recliner or two – bonus points if it has built in cupholders. You can find suitable seating almost anywhere, even Amazon.

 

Acoustics

A big factor in elevating a media room to a personal theater is taking control of the room’s acoustics. Poor insulation can make your sound system, no matter how expensive, sound awful. Even worse, you might end up hearing whatever is being watched throughout the entire house.

To minimize the amount of sound escaping, you may want to insulate the walls of your home theater with standard wall insulation. To further keep sound where it’s supposed to be, you could also invest in soundproofing foam or carpet, which can be pasted on your walls. You can find it at home improvement stores like The Home Depot as well as many online retailers.

 

Screen

Your choice of screen will be the focal point of your home theater room, so it’s arguably one of the most important things you’ll purchase for your home cinema. For the best possible viewing experience, you could invest in an extra-large flat-screen TV. You can purchase large-scale TVs at sizes of up to 88 inches in 4K or even 8K HD resolution at retailers such as Best Buy.

For a less expensive and truer theater experience, you could also buy a projector and project your movies as large as you’d like on your wall or on a pull-down screen. Projectors are typically cheaper than brand new TVs and can give you a much larger picture, though this usually comes at the cost of sacrificing perfect HD quality. You can get a projector at most technology retailers or even on Amazon, where you can find a portable projector for as low as $60.

 

Sound

Having a good sound system can completely transform your movie viewing experience. To fully immerse yourself in your movies in TV shows, consider installing a surround sound system to your media room. The speakers placed throughout the area can make a film’s audio more engaging and exciting than hearing “flat” sound from just the TV speakers.

If surround sound isn’t your thing or is out of your price range, consider investing in a soundbar. A soundbar is a smaller and more affordable audio option but is still capable of delivering high-quality three-dimensional sound that’s superior to your TV speakers.

 

Media Players

In order to watch movies and TV shows, you’ll need something capable of playing or streaming media. There is no one perfect media player or streaming platform, so choose what works best for you. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Blu Ray or 4K UHD Player – good for those with physical/disc movie collections
  • Streaming devices (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick) – good for those looking to stream that don’t have a smart tv
  • Smart TV – built-in streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, good for binge watching your favorite shows and streaming movies

Putting Your Home Theater Design Plans Into Action

Now that you know the basics that you’ll need for your home cinema, it’s time to design the perfect space for you and your family. As you draft your own design plan, consider the following:

 

1. Choose The Right Room

It’s important to pick the right room for your home cinema. While you may be tempted to build your theater in the living room or family room, remember that your media room will be loud – and any natural light from windows will hinder your watching experience.

A room in the basement is probably the best choice, if possible. Minimal light from outside will help keep your home theater dark and true to the movie theater experience. Your movie room could be noisy as well, so keeping it far away from anyone’s bedroom or office is likely wise.

 

2. Draw A Floor Plan

Illustration of Living Room Home Theatre

Before hauling in any couches or painting any walls, you may want to draw up a floor plan of where you’d like everything to be. Consider where your screen will be placed and how you could arrange seating to assure all viewers have a good view of what’s going on. If there’s any natural light in your space, take that into consideration as well, since it will likely reflect on your screen. Thinking about these things in advance will save you the trouble of realizing something is wrong with your layout later on.

 

3. Make A Budget

As with any home addition, a personal cinema will cost you some money. Making a budget for the cost of your home theater will help you plan for every expense in the project to make sure you have enough money to cover any renovations – or surprise costs.

You should jot down the costs of any technology or furniture you’ll be purchasing for your room, as well as the costs for any paint or remodeling.

 

4. Gather The Essentials

Once you’ve got your budget in order, it’s time to buy the essentials. Your screen, seating and any sound system additions should be your first priority. Tech-centered retailers such as Best Buy will likely have what you’ll need in terms of screens and sound systems. As for your furniture, you can likely find seating at a furniture store or even an online seller. As for things like risers or soundproofing foam, home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot will likely have what you need.

 

5. Choose The Best Lighting

When deciding on lighting for your home theater, consider adding dimmable lights. The ability to adjust the brightness of your lighting can be very useful if you don’t always want to watch movies or shows in total darkness.

As for where to put your lights, the ceiling and walls are obvious choices, but you might also consider floor lights for an authentic movie theater feel.

 

6. Wire Your Lighting, Sound, Etc.

Setting up your lighting and sound – especially if you decide to install floor lights or a surround sound system – can be a headache. For this step, it’s recommended that you work with an electrician to make sure everything is safe and in working order.

 

7. Pick The Right Paint

While the color of the walls in your home cinema may seem like a trivial detail, the right paint color can completely change the atmosphere of your room. The best colors to paint a theater room are black or any very dark shade, such as deep navy or dark brown.

While painting your walls black might make you nervous, a dark wall color helps cut down on light from the TV or projector screen reflecting around the room. White and other light wall colors should be avoided for the best movie-viewing experience.

 

8. Find The Perfect Viewing Angle

While you may have decided the best wall or area to place your screen when drafting a floor plan, you should also think about the height you want your screen to sit at. Consider your favorite place to sit in the movie theater and what angle you prefer to view films at.

It’s recommended that your screen should be placed at eye level so you can comfortably watch from your seat without craning your neck to see the screen properly. The exact height of “eye level” varies, so be sure to place your seating before the screen so you can get an idea of where the optimal viewing zone is located.

Popular Home Theater Designs

Need some inspiration for your home theater design? Here are a few popular and trending designs to help get your creative juices flowing.

 

Dark And Modern

Dark And Modern Home Theatre

Dark walls, simple dim lighting and a huge screen give this design a classic movie theater feel with a modern yet comfortable vibe.

Bold And Unique

Red Bold Home Theatre

If you want your home theater to look like a scene out of the movies, a bolder design might be for you. Bright colors and unique furniture fit right in here – don’t be afraid to get creative.

Simple And Comfy

Simple Home Theatre that is super comfy

If you’re not interested in fancy projectors or movie theater lighting, a comfy couch and a big screen will do just fine.

Mini Theater

Mini Theatre in Home

If you really miss the movie theater, this design has got your back. Reclining seats, riser-style floors – this home theater has it all.

Futuristic

Futuristic In Home Theater

This design might look like something out of a spaceship, but never fear - you can achieve similar results with LED strip lights and some determination.

Build your dream home theater.

Take your viewing experience to the next level with pro installation.

Design Ideas For A Small Home Theater

Going all-out on a home cinema can be expensive. Working with a smaller space or smaller budget? Here are some ideas for home theaters that might be a little kinder to your wallet.

Projector And Fairy Lights

Family Watching Projector Decorated With Fairy Lights

A projector and twinkling fairy lights make this home theater design feel warm and cozy – perfect for a night in watching your favorite show.

Attic Theater

Dark Room with Home theatre in attic

If you have ever wanted to do something with your attic, a theater might be great idea. This miniature movie room may not have the space for riser-style seating or a massive screen, but it’s certainly unique.

Walk-In Theater

Family Watching Walk-In Theatre Outside Like a Drive-In

Who said your home theater had to be indoors? Recreate the magic of outdoor drive-in movies by taking a projector outside with some friends.

Simple And Cozy

Woman Sitting On Couch Close to Large Tv

Even a tiny room can become a great home theater with somewhere cozy to sit and a screen to show movies on. Add a colorful lamp or some LED lights to spice up this design.

Transformed Living Room

Regular Living Room With Soundproofed Walls and Dark Curtains

A home theater usually functions best as its own room, since it’s usually soundproofed and has darker walls. If you don’t have the space to make an addition like that, however, adding a screen for a projector and some blackout curtains could transform your living room into the home theater of your dreams.

Build your dream home theater.

Take your viewing experience to the next level with pro installation.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve always wanted a home theater to kick back and relax in, now is a great time to get started on your dream. Regardless of your budget, there are plenty of options to turn a corner of your home into your own personal cinema.

For more design ideas and inspiration, check out our guides to popular home renovations and how to increase your home’s value.

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Sidney Richardson

Sidney Richardson is an intern writer covering homeownership, mortgage and lifestyle topics. She is a senior at Oakland University pursuing a degree in journalism and advertising.