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16 Home Theater Ideas to Make Movie Night So Much Better

Just add popcorn.

By Hadley Mendelsohn and Taylor Augustin
preview for How To Build A Home Theater

What's better than grabbing the gang and going to the movie theater? Enjoying a movie from your very own home! (Especially if it's one of our favorite design-centric movies.) If you have a home movie theater or you're in the process of designing your very own, you're in for quite the treat. Home movie theaters are a fun way to bring friends and family together, and we can't think of a better night in than bundling up under some blankets with popcorn and candy while a movie plays on the big screen—and they're more convenient than a backyard movie setup you might be able to use only part of the year. Whether you have room for one in the attic you never use or the basement that acts as a storage facility, with a little imagination you should be able to transform any room in your home into a theater worthy of a top-notch viewing experience.

When it comes to traditional theaters, we're sure certain things come to mind. From surround sound to large screens and all-you-can-eat popcorn, you might be thinking those are things you can enjoy only when you're not at home. But we're here to tell you that's most certainly not the case! If you have a vision of transforming your home theater into something that's even better than the theater down the road, you've come to the right place. We've put together iconic home media room design ideas, renovation tips, decorating examples, and even cinematic color palettes to help you create the at-home screening room of your dreams. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the feature presentation below. We proudly present 16 home theater design ideas that will make movie night so much better.


Take It Outside

outdoor movie theater setup

Why limit yourself to the indoors when you could watch a movie under the stars? It's all possible with a handheld projector and a white sheet, flat exterior surface, or a portable screen. Here's our full backyard theater DIY if you want more details on how to bring yours to life.

The Design Tip: Hang some string lights, pile on the pillows, and arrange some outdoor-friendly furniture for a magical movie experience.


Free Up Your Basement

home theater design ideas
PHOTO: Dustin Askland; DESIGN: Elizabeth Roberts

A basement is the perfect location to design a home theater since it's isolated and dark. This will make sound performance and lighting easier to control.

The Design Tip: Try painting your walls a dark color and install an extra-large flat screen, as seen in this home theater designed by Elizabeth Roberts Architecture & Design. Then bring in seating reminiscent of classic plush movie theater seats but with a modern spin and the ability to work in a variety of environments, like swivel chairs and plush ottomans.


Review Sound Options

modern home theater
Heather Hilliard Design

There's a lot to think about when designing your sound system, from how many speakers you'll need to whether or not to install surround sound. Some design choices will also impact the sound quality. For example, a carpet can help contain the noise and prevent echoing.

The Design Tip: Plush carpet, adjustable leather recliners with built-in cupholders, and a sophisticated gray color palette make this home theater by Heather Hilliard Design perfect for cinephiles and families alike. The moody color story makes it feel like a subterranean lounge.

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Scout Out Alternate Locations

media room ideas
Studio DB

If you don't have a basement or large enough space, there are plenty of other ways to make a home theater work. Transform a spare bedroom or a walk-in closet, where the enclosed nature minimizes natural light. Other options include converting a garden shed, pool house, or even an unused garage.

The Design Tip: If you can't design an entire room to feel like a black box theater, opt for built-in seating for a bite-sized version of the experience, as seen in this nook designed by Studio DB.


Optimize the Wiring

home theater with blue seating and concrete walls
Jamie Bush

Another important step is getting your wiring in check. You'll need the right wiring for lighting, sound, and your projector and/or screen. This is also a good time to mention that you'll want to keep equipment out of sight and hide your wires with discreet tubing.

The Design Tip: If your home theater doesn't have room for cinema-style stadium seating, replicate a conversation pit. Designed by Jamie Bush, this space feels like a private haven fit for big viewing parties thanks to the full carpeting and modular seating.


Think About Soundproofing

home theater with projector and sectionals
Fran Parente

Once you've selected the room you want to use for a home theater, you'll want to map out your renovation needs. Do you just want to decorate a media room that draws a little inspiration from a movie theater, or do you want to go all out? If it's the latter, you may want to insulate your walls with drywall to create a sound barrier and consider tiered seating.

The Design Tip: Make it ultra-plush. Comfy sectionals (or big love seats, depending on the size of the room) are perfect for romantic nights or family gatherings, and upholstered ottomans and stacking side tables that hang over the sofa, like the ones in this home theater by Dale Blumberg Interiors, are the perfect resting spot for your bowl of popcorn.

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Choose a Screen

pink upholstered walls in home theater
Ryan Garvin

There are a ton of options and things to consider when picking your screen. Most importantly, the room's dimensions. If it's shallow, you won't want to choose a screen that's too large. Whichever you choose, make sure it's equipped with all of the equipment you love to use to watch movies and TV—or play games, if that's your thing.

The Design Tip: Though the silver screen in this viewing room by Tracy Lynn Studio is set against a dark backdrop, the rest of the space feels decidedly light and upbeat. That's thanks to the blush tufted wall panels and white leather recliners. You can still create a media room that feels like a home theater even if you don't have the perfect basement space to do so (blackout curtains to the rescue!).


Set Up a Control System

how to design a home theater
Catherine Kwong Design

Consider setting up a control system like a universal remote, iPad, iPhone, or a whole-home automation system. This will help you control lighting, sound, and everything else in one place.

The Design Tip: This media room designed by Catherine Kwong is perfect for cozy family movie nights, but it's also the perfect backdrop for entertaining, afternoon naps, and casual get-togethers.


Think About Bells and Whistles

home theater interior design
PHOTO: Kenya Bravo for Homepolish; DESIGN: Paula Guzman for Homepolish

Do you want 3D capability? Professional-level audio performance and high-resolution picture? A hidden projector that drops down from the ceiling? There are plenty of little add-ons that will make your home theater a truly immersive experience.

The Design Tip: If you have plain white walls, a projector is going to be your best friend. You'll be able to watch your favorite movies on a big "screen" without actually having to install one on your living room walls, as seen in this apartment designed by Paula Guzman.

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Consider the Layout

home theater design plans
Studio Ashby

And now for the fun part! Once you've worked out all the technical elements, you can think about the layout. Go for cinema-style stadium seating with reclining loungers or loveseats, or keep things one level with a sectional.

The Design Tip: The layout of this home theater designed by Studio Ashby is a nod to the real cinematic experience, but it has a sophisticated spin. The Art Deco sconces and tiered seating evoke the golden age of Hollywood, while the olive green seats and ottomans are fresh and contemporary.


Make It Kid Friendly

 home theater photos gallery
Regan Baker Design

Choose a theme the kiddos will enjoy and run with it, whether you want to channel the setting of your favorite film, make it sophisticated, or feature a repeating motif.

The Design Tip: If your media room is also a playroom, choose a dark wallpaper that will absorb light during viewing parties but also speak to the space's other uses with a whimsical print. Adding floor cushions is also a good call, as this media room by Regan Baker Design proves.


Create a Lounge Slash Theater

black media room with skylight
GRT Architects

If you don't have a spare room, give an existing one a second use. You can do so by painting it dark colors, installing sound-absorbing carpeting in the same shade, and outfitting it with plush furniture.

The Design Tip: This lounge by GRT Architects is optimized for meetings and after-dinner drinks, but it also has a projector so it can be used as a theater when the mood strikes.

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Create a Concession Stand

home theater concession stand with popcorn machine, mini fridge, and candy bar
Vanessa Rae Home Design

If you want to make your home theater to feel like the real thing, we can’t think of s better upgrade than a concession stand. It’s perfect for movie nights and will set the mood.

The Design Tip: The star of the show should be a popcorn machine, and depending on how much space you have, you can get one that rests on the countertop or a standalone one. A mini fridge with beverages would be a nice touch too, and you can’t forget about the candy!


Choose Comfortable Seating

home movie theater with big couches, pillows, blankets, and a bowl of popcorn, and leather recliner seats in the back
Photo: Jason Sandy; Design: Renee deVignier Biery

Have you ever been to a luxury theater where the seats recline and you feel like you're sitting on a cloud? Why not bring that to your home theater? Comfortable seating will change your viewing experience for the better.

The Design Tip: We can't help but obsess over the seating in this home theater designed by Renee deVignier Biery. The deep couches offer tons of room to chill, and there are roomy individual recliners in the back.


Use Cinema-Style Lighting

home theater with big movie screen, sconces on walls, mini table lamps, and couches
Photo: Matthew Millman; Design: Jay Jeffers

When you step foot into a traditional movie theater, one of the first things you notice is the lighting. From fun neon accents to sconces on the wall and even lighting on the floors to guide the way to your seat, there are all sorts of cinematic lighting options you can implement into your home theater too.

The Design Tip: Add sconces on your walls to give off a real movie theater vibe, like this room designed by Jay Jeffers. You can even include mini table lamps if you have end tables for an lounge-worthy viewing experience.

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Offer Blankets

home theater with drapes on the walls, large grey couch with pillows and blankets
Photo: Julian Abrams; Design: Laura Hammett Interiors

If you want to set your home theater apart from the rest, we highly suggest stockpiling luxurious blankets. Not even the best theaters can compete with that. They'll give the room a cozy vibe and keep all of your guests comfortable and warm.

The Design Tip: We suggest draping blankets on your seating arrangement, whether it's a large couch or a grouping of recliners. You could also store spare blankets in a basket so your guests have the option to grab one.

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