DIY Home Theater Design Tips

Posted in: I'm Moving, Home Improvement

by Sarah Danielson

Perhaps you’d like to get to da choppa with Arnold and his muddy pals in Predator, make Don Corleone an offer he can’t refuse, or hear about Clarice’s dreams of screaming lambs. Unfortunately, you’re not a soldier, a mafia don, or a homicidal maniac (we hope). You’re also not a movie star (or are you…?). However, you can get up close and personal with your favorite legends of the silver screen when you opt to design a stellar home theater. Plus, if you decide to adopt a DIY attitude during the process you can get everything you want for a lot less.

So, here are a few great home theater design tips that will help you get closer to feeling like you’re right in the middle of the cinematic action:

For starters, you need to select a suitable space for your home theater and to pick out the foundational features. An unfinished basement is a great place to start, but even if you’re working with a small extra bedroom you can still make it work. You’ll want to begin by creating the theater aesthetic. There are a couple of ways to do this. First, you want to add the right colors – usually they’re going to be dark. You’ve probably noticed that theater carpeting is plush and comes in saturated colors with busy patterns. This is to hide the stains that come with tons of foot traffic and spilled sodas, so you may not necessarily need the busy pattern, especially in a small room. The plushness, however, helps to insulate and cut down on bouncing sound waves (harder surfaces can create an echo). Installing carpeting is easy and can be cheap if you buy remnants.

As for walls, you might not have the money to buy acoustic tiles in order to insulate against outside noises. However, you can easily soundproof with foam panels, although in all honesty you could probably get away with simply painting the walls a dark shade and calling it a day.

You’re not done yet, though; you also need appropriate lighting. Your best bet is to use the ceiling light but swap out the fixture for something art deco on a dimmer switch. You might also include a few wall sconces on a dimmer switch if you’re handy with electrical. Finally, be sure to install blackout shades so you can engineer full darkness at any time of day or night.

Finish the above and it’s time to decorate. You’ll need proper seating, storage, and equipment. Much of this can be found at a discount on Craigslist, where you can take advantage of great deals on electronics (flatscreen TVs, Blu-ray players, surround-sound speakers, and even projectors). Just try to match your equipment to the size of your space and make sure it works before you buy! Otherwise you can wait for major sales at electronics stores or check out online outlets like Tiger Direct or Think about using reclaimed cabinets and shelves for storage. Or simply make your own built-ins for that custom look if you’re any good with carpentry tools.

For home theater seating, you could go authentic by scoping out theater closures, but you might be more comfortable with some cushy recliners or even an average couch. Keep the aesthetic going by building a small platform for one couch and putting a second tier of seating in front at floor level (if you have room). This will give the feeling of graduated seating that theaters are famous for.

Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for where you can browse a variety of options for your home theater.


  1. tyler

    Good tips here. If you can afford to put in sound insulation you definitely should. It can be skipped, but will help with outside noise getting in, and cut down on the levels going out into the rest of the house, which can be equally important.

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