Kalomirakis Builds Biggest Little Home Theater in New York City
The famous home theater designer Theo Kalomirakis builds a masterpiece in his own New York condo.
Grant Clauser · July 22, 2014
Theo Kalomirakis has the biggest small home theater in New York City. For those who don’t know, Kalomirakis is one of the world’s most sought-after home theater designers (though I think he prefers home theater architect, as a way to differentiate what he does from interior designers). After years of working on some of the most extravagant rooms for luxury clients, he finally got around to finishing his own personal theater, and CE Pro’s sister publication Electronic House recently got a chance to tour it.
The first thing that struck me when walking down the hallway of his Brooklyn apartment building was the thought that there’s no way a TK home theater could fit in here. Actually that challenge is one of the most interesting parts of the story. His theater was an eight-year project, he says, because he wanted not only to get it right, but also because his business obligations always came first.
When he bought his Brooklyn condo, Kalomirakis knew he needed to design a state-of-the-art theater for it, but that would take some time, time his travels around for business wouldn’t always allow. On top of that, he needed to work within New York City’s building codes which put a lot of restrictions on what he could and couldn’t do in multi-dwelling building.
Anyone who’s familiar with Kalomirakis’ professional work will notice something different about this theater.
“The way I live is opposite of what I do for a living,” he explains.
Most of his clients want elaborately designed, ornate theaters (such as this one, and this one). For Roxy 2.0, the theme was “minimal, clean, orderly with no references to other architects or styles.” The walls are dark gray with no architectural elements to distract the viewer. A simple curtain (which wasn’t simple to install, due to the custom curve) closes over the 10-foot screen. When the screen is turned off, the red leather seats are the dominate elements. The space is also small—only about 220 square feet. He named it Roxy 2.0 in homage to his first theater in a previous home and the grand Roxy Theatre in Manhattan.
The first big challenge was a contest of wood vs. metal. Home theaters should be built with wood studs because they don’t transmit sound as easily. However, the building code in Kalomirakis’ building specified metal studs for fire safety. He appealed, and eventually won that battle. Another battle was over the sprinkler system. He didn’t want to put sprinklers in the ceiling of the theater because that would take up valuable ceiling space for the infrastructure. That’s a battle he didn’t win, and had fire safety sprinklers put in.
Another issue when putting a theater into an apartment is neighbors. While he’s lucky that the theater room only shares one wall with a neighbor (and no floor or ceiling), he still had to be sure that his eight subwoofers didn’t leak out of the room (too much).
“I couldn’t build a room within a room design because I didn’t have the space,” Kalomirakis explains.
Building a floating room is one way to isolate a theater’s sound, but it takes up extra space and is very expensive. Instead, he did the next best thing. He used kinetic isolators to decouple the walls, and instead of plain drywall, he used one layer of Quiet Wood (a kind of plywood) and one layer of Quiet Rock (an acoustic drywall). The Quiet Wood gave him a sturdy foundation for mounting the custom CAT speakers.
“I isolated 90 percent of the sound,” he says, adding he plays his theater very loudly.
Speaking of speakers, this room is loaded with them. Behind the acoustically-transparent wall fabric (and behind the Stewart screen) are 18 speakers custom built for this room by California Audio Technology (CAT), and eight custom subwoofers. CAT sent audio engineers to the room to take measurements, then built the speakers specifically for this use. CAT even designed and built the amplifiers.
Also behind the fabric walls is a network of acoustic treatments consisting of diffusers, absorbers and reflectors.
On the video side, the room has a Digital Projection M-Vision Cine LED 1000 projector. This model was just introduced at CEDIA in 2013. It’s an impressively bright LED DLP projector for about $12,000. The M-Vision projector lights up a 10-foot wide, 2.35:1 aspect ratio Stewart CineCurve screen, which includes a motorized masking system to ensure it’s the proper shape for whatever content Kalomirakis wants to show on it.
Kalomirakis is not only a home theater enthusiast, he’s a huge movie fan. That’s what eventually led to one of the most important components of the theater, the Kaleidescape Cinema One video server.
As you walk through the hallway leading to the theater, you pass several alcoves lined with shelves, 12 rows high, of movies, both DVD and Blu-ray. He’s meticulous about organizing his movies, but his collection of thousands is still hard to navigate. Until recently, he’d never used a movie server until a friend urged him to try a Kaleidescape. He’s says it changed his life, or at least the way he watches movies.
“I went back to movies I loved but would never watch because I didn’t want to get the ladder and climb up to find the disc,” he says.
Now he’s a Kaleidescape addict and spends evenings customizing the system by replacing cover art with rare movie posters and changing the metadata to conform to the way he likes to search for movies.
In addition to the Kaleidescape, he also has a Prima movie system which delivers first-run movies directly to his home theater. When he still wants to watch a movie directly from a disc, he has an Oppo Blu-play player.
A theater with this much going on has to have a control system to make all the parts work smoothly together. For that he had a Crestron home automation system installed. As soon as you pass though the theater door, a removable Crestron touchpanel lets Kalomirakis set the light levels (including color-changing LEDs installed around the ceiling), open the motorized curtain and start a movie.
“Crestron makes everything in the theater seamless. You can’t get that without an automation system,” he said.
While he’s only had the theater in operation a few weeks, Kalomirakis is already thinking of additions. He’s contracted an artist to create an LED-illuminated ceiling sculpture for the ceiling. He also plans to expand the Kaleidescape system so he can fit his whole collection in it. After that, who knows.
Grant Clauser is a technology editor, covering home electronics for more than 10 years for such publications as Electronic House and Dealerscope. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email at [email protected]
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