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By Andrew Myers | Photo: Peden + Munk | January 10, 2013
Beige blahs and stadium seating are on the cutting room floor. With awards season on the way, screening rooms stage a stylish sequel.
Awards season is upon us and we’re taking a seat in several of the city’s most innovative screening rooms: spaces where the drama and production values are clearly in focus, and where the interiors and sound systems can easily start at $500,000 and advance to several million dollars faster than one can say “blockbuster.”
Stadium seating, ear-popping acoustics, art deco club chairs, automatic blackout curtains? Ho hum. To keep up with the Joneses—or the Spielbergs, Tom Cruise or Michael Bay—one needs more. Think an elliptical domed ceiling with fiber optics in facsimile of a starry sky (perhaps evoking MGM’s old billing, “More stars than there are in heaven”); full control of all appurtenances, from projection to popcorn machine, via an iPad’s touchscreen; and contemporary paintings worth an opening weekend’s grosses hanging from silk-paneled walls, both disappearing as the room fades to black.
In the case of restaurateur Michael Chow and his fashion designer wife Eva’s screening room, a subterranean space in the couple’s Holmby Hills house that Mr. Chow designed, an entire wall made of glass looks into the adjacent swimming pool. “It’s like looking into an aquarium if you open the wall panels,” says Eva. “It’s both beautiful and practical because it means the room needn’t feel like a dark screening room during the day, but somewhere we actually want to spend time when we’re not watching movies.”
Such spatial flexibility regardless of a home’s overall square footage is an attribute designer Jeff Andrews (whose clients include the Kardashians and Ryan Seacrest) sees as a major trend. “People want to screen movies in their living rooms, family rooms and game rooms, and home theater equipment has advanced to the point [where] this is possible technologically and aesthetically,” says Andrews, who has designed theaters with art-clad walls (that, at the push of a button, reveal mini-kitchens replete with popcorn, candy and sundae bars) and interiors ranging from ultramodern to Old Hollywood glam. “You name it, they ask for it,” he says. “People are traveling less and investing more in their homes, and for many of my clients, luxury and comfort are priorities for home entertainment.”
But not necessarily luxury and comfort as they’ve been previously defined. Designer Trip Haenisch’s favorite screening room is one he designed for himself, and as he points out, it’s not actually a room. “It’s the outdoor poolside screen in my backyard,” he says. “The biggest challenge of the project was finding comfortable seating, and I ended up designing an oversized ottoman covered in outdoor fabric that’s perfect for lounging and viewing the screen.” Call it the ultimate decorating double feature.