Lighting is integral to the overarching cinematic experience in your home theater. With the help of appropriate ceiling and wall lights, window coverings and other theater-like elements, you can achieve a cinematic ambiance in your dedicated theater room, a living or family room, or even a bedroom. After you've got the lighting down, all you have to do is grab a handful of salty popcorn, take a seat and hit "play" on the remote control.
For maximum control over your movie watching experience, install dimmable lighting throughout your home theater. "You must be able to control the lighting and, more importantly, the different zones of lighting in order to set the ambiance and mood of the room," advises Alessandra Wood, interior designer for Tastemaker.
Take your home theater experience up a notch by controlling all your lighting with a remote control. "Just like a trip to the movies, you’ll never have to get up to turn down the lights," says Wood. "To get in the movie mood, have two presets: pre-show dimmed lighting, while everyone gathers and the previews play, and movie mode with just enough glow to see your popcorn."
Recessed lighting, or lighting that "sinks" into the ceiling, keeps the room lighting soft and diffused. Wood recommends LED lights for all your home theater lighting. "They provide a soft, hazy light and don't produce much heat, so you can place them anywhere," she says. Unlike some light sources, including fluorescent lights, LED lights are also noise free.
Because wall sconces direct light upwards, they prevent dreaded light glare from appearing on your TV screen. They also provide enough light to illuminate any wall art or seating. While you'd think a pitch black room is ideal for movie watching, that's not necessarily true. "By reducing the contrast between the dark room and bright screen, it minimizes eye straining and actually improves the perceived picture quality," notes Wood.
When the faint glow of wall sconces or recessed lighting aren't enough, cue task lights. Task lighting typically comes in the form of table lamps, which not only serve the utilitarian purpose of providing light, but can also add to the appearance and ambiance of your room. Task lighting that provides just enough light for the immediate surrounding area is preferred.
Dark Walls & Blackout Curtains
"Even if you have a perfectly dark room, you will always have at least one light source: the TV or screen," says Gus Cueto, president of Advanced Premises Systems, a company that installs home theaters. "If you have a brightly painted room, the light emanating from the TV or screen will be reflected off the walls and back onto the screen." To remedy the issue, paint walls a dark color or line them with curtains. "Blackout shades are a great way to manage and control light," says Wood.
Another option for battling window light-and the resulting heat-is to tint your windows. Tinting forces light to bounce off your window instead of streaming inside and causing unwanted glare. "Even if your TV doesn’t catch much glare, window tinting will help control the contrast in the room, making it easier to watch TV during the daylight," says Wood.
Heavy Duty Blinds
If heavy curtains or tinted windows aren't to your aesthetic preference, heavy duty blinds are another option. Blinds allow you to direct light either upward or downward, which prevents TV glare and creates a darker room overall. They're ideal for rooms not specifically dedicated to movie or TV-watching since you can lift the blinds to allow natural light in when you desire.