Rayva Tag

Theo’s Corner: If We Build It, They Will Come

In a typical home theater—at least the way most people understand the term—a TV is surrounded by speakers placed in strategic locations around it. In such a setup, people usually don’t care all that much how the speaker boxes look or how thin the bezel of the TV is—they care about the performance.

 

High-end home theaters—especially those in dedicated rooms—are a different animal. Performance and design play—or should play—an equally important role. Of course, the balance isn’t always even. Depending on the person, sometimes design is the primary concern and sometimes it’s the performance.

 

The irony is that it’s not too hard to have your cake and eat it too. It just requires a tighter collaboration between a designer and an AV integrator. But the mutual distrust between the two trades has resulted in an unfortunate erosion of the popularity of dedicated home theaters. This isn’t just a loss for the trades but also for people who may never know what they miss when they watch TV in the family room instead of—when they have money and the space to get the best—inside a dedicated space.

 

My friend Vin Bruno of AllTecPro told me a couple of years ago something that still rings true: It’s a matter of education—people must witness firsthand what a true home theater is. Once they sit on a reclining seat with their peripheral vision occupied by the images on the large screen and their ears surrounded by good sound, they will know right away how exciting the experience can be. To borrow the line from Field of Dreams and apply it to what all of us home theater professionals do: “If we build it, they will come.”

 

While George Walter, the president of Rayva, and his team of technical advisors—Steve Haas, John Bishop, Joel Silver, and Peter Aylet—work on technical performance standards and specifications for Rayva theaters, I’ve been focusing on curating designs from sculptors, painters, photographers, and mixed-media artists from around the world for the next generation of Rayva design themes. The experience has been richly rewarding. The perspectives on the world and art of the talented artists I’m working with has expanded my understanding of art. It has also brought a breath of fresh air to home theater design, which, for the most part, is still dominated by the repetition of design clichés.

While we are working to finalize at least six new designs for Rayva, I would like to share with you two design themes by Marina Vernicos, based on her award-winning photographs. Marina introduces us to her exciting world of marine life and leisurely summer activities around drone-photographed swimming pools. You can “smell” vacation in these images, and you can relax by just looking at them. Marina’s photos become the bridge between the concerns of life outside the theater and the excitement that is about to spill out of the screen once the lights go down.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

One Size Fits All . . . Almost

home theater design solutions

Strange as it may sound, the most exciting challenge in theater design isn’t the design of the room per seit’s fitting whatever the design concept is into a particularly hard-to-tame space. Low ceilings can make the theater look oppressively compressed, very narrow spaces can make it look like a New York City railroad flat, and columns in the wrong places can block the view of the screen. Properly addressed, seeming handicaps like these can actually become opportunities to enhance the design.

 

A standardized design, like the ones I’ve created for Rayva, can be as difficult as a custom design to adapt to a difficult room—unless you embrace the challenge. That’s exactly what happened twice this month when I had to customize the design of two theaters to fit them into challenging spaces.

 

Both projects use the “Origami” design theme (shown above) and have Wisdom Audio speaker systems. But each provides a different design challenge: Theater 1 (a project near Phoenix, Arizona) has an unusually high ceiling while Theater 2 (in Westchester County, New York) has windows all around.

 

Since the design templates for these rooms are inherently flexible, I was able to come up with solutions that both respect the existing room conditions and maintain the look and feel of the design. For Theater 1, adding additional Origami “triangles” to the grid of acoustical panels comfortably filled the room’s 12-foot-high walls.

home theater design solutions

The windows in Theater 2 will eventually be covered by blackout shades, but their outlines could be distracting, even when covered. The generous width of the room, though, allowed me to add wall segments that define the seating area while blocking the windows, creating a room-within-a-room effect. (See the artist’s rendering above.) This actually enhanced the design by creating a better sense of three-dimensionality in the theater.

 

I’ve found that being able to rely on a set of standardized, pre-engineered designs that can be customized when needed allows me to be creative in ways I never could when I had to design each new theater from scratch.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

My Trip to Greece, Pt. 2: Antonis Kastrinakis

Nikos Vernicos is one of my favorite clients. He and I go back many years. In 1996, Nikos saw an article about me in Architectural Digest and invited me to design a home theater for his house in Athens. I accepted gladly, and we became friends. That theater—the Sifnos—was the first of many projects I did in Greece. In 1997, it won CEDIA’s Best Home Theater award.

Antonis Kastrinakis

theater photos by Phillip Ennis

Nikos is an avid collector of modern art. A year ago, I visited him at his house in the suburb of Glyfada to see if anything in his collection could be adapted for Rayva. There were many exceptional art pieces everywhere the house. But what drew my attention was a piece of sculpture by Antonis Kastrinakis. It was a stylized boat—a simple cutout in primary colors that I saw right away as something that could be developed into a design for a Rayva theater.

Antonis Kastrinakis

A few words about the artist: Antonis was born in Athens in 1958. In 1976, he started participating in painting workshops and in 1978 he entered the Vakalo School of the Arts, from which he graduated in 1981. Since 1988, he has had sixteen solo exhibitions and has participated in many group shows in Greece and abroad.

 

I finally met Antonis during my recent trip to Greece. His studio is in the Keramikos neighborhood of Athens, and his work fills to the brim the entire space. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I had a hard time figuring out what to choose and what to leave out.

Antonis Kastrinakis

I now need to select one or more of Antonis’ pieces and develop 3D renderings of a theater featuring the artwork. The renderings will help me adjust their scale to the size of a typical Rayva interior.

 

Following this introduction, I will describe the process of developing specific Rayva design themes featuring the work of this exciting artist.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

My Trip to Greece, Pt. 1: Marina Vernicos

Marina Vernicos

I came back from Greece last week, where we printed the latest brochure for Ravya and I supervised the shipping of Antonia Papatzanaki’s light sculptures to the U.S. The trip was eventful for another reason as well: I met Marina Vernicos, an accomplished artist whose creative photography is about to become a great addition to Rayva’s growing library of designs.

 

Marina’s accomplishments as an artist spread across many continents. She was born in Athens, Greece and studied Communications and Photography at Emerson College in Boston and Business Administration at the Harvard Extension School.

Since 2001, her work has been featured in a number of solo and group exhibitions, including the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, the Louvre Museum and Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Hangaram Art Museum in Korea, and galleries in London, Monaco, and NY. She has been awarded the Sandro Botticelli Prize at the Palazzo Guicciardini Bongianni in Florence and the La Grande Exposition Universelle at the Eiffel Tower, and has published four books of her work. She is the Founder and President of CREAID, a non-profit organization that commissions creative projects that are then auctioned to support humanitarian causes. She has also created a line of clothes and accessories under her name.

 

I spent the morning of a beautiful sunlit day at Marina’s spectacular residence at the foot of the Lykavitos Hill in Athens, familiarizing myself with her work. I knew right away that her stylized seascapes could be the basis a new design theme for Rayva.

Many of her images are captured using a camera mounted on a drone. Others are closeups of sea shells“daughters of the sea,” as she calls them. Her work evokes a reality where the mind isn’t bogged down by the minutiae of everyday life and can soar free to liberating heights.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

This is Not My First Media-Room Rodeo

I have almost lost count of how many times over the years I’ve tried to break free from designing only full-blown home theaters. The challenge of trying to figure out what to do when there is no extra room in a house for a dedicated theater room has haunted me since the early 1990s. The question has always been the same: How do you hide the technology so it doesn’t distract from the enjoyment of the movie (or concert or sports event)?

 

Since people think of me as the designer of lavish home theaters and a staunch supporter of watching movies in a dedicated room, my name doesn’t immediately bring “media rooms” to mind. Even I forget that.

 

But this morning, I was reminded of how untrue that is as I searched through my computer trying to piece together my various—and mostly failed—attempts to come up with a media room concept that other designers haven’t already tackled successfully. I guess the common theme through all my previous attempts has been my effort to hide the technology. That may not have amounted to much, but it does show how determined I’ve been to come up with a more casual way to enjoy home entertainment when there isn’t the space—or lavish budget—for a theater.

 

Looking through the TK Theaters archives, I was reminded of not one, not two, but at least nine attempts to create a relevant media room design. I’ve arranged those efforts chronologically below. Each entry in this catalog of failures is followed by a brief explanation of why I think the effort didn’t work.

 

1992: Hammacher Schlemmer

The company that specializes in curio items asked me to design an armoire that would fit a huge Sony tube TV. No space was needed to hide speakers because, in those days, the sound came from the TV itself. What killed the idea was that I didn’t know how to produce the piece for less than $5,000 cost when the list price couldn’t be more than $2,500!

 

1995: Henredon

I designed a line of traditional-style media room armoires, meant to include electronics, for this manufacturer of luxury furniture. The collection was never produced because of a change in management and maybe because, as I soon learned, furniture retailers have a natural aversion to anything that incorporates technology.

 

1999: Connoisseur FX

Supported by Owens Corning, and with electronics by JBL, this collection of predesigned home theaters included furniture meant for sports bars. Lots of money, energy, and good ideas were waisted on that enterprise. Besides bad management, September 11th and the blow that tragedy dealt to the economy helped bring Connoisseur FX to an end.

 

2007: Prestige

I was asked to design a full-blown media room collection. The furniture was developed in China and included some very innovative accessories that incorporated technology. Prestige made a valiant effort to persuade retailers the time had come for furniture with electronics but it wasn’t able to raise enough money to get the venture off the ground.

media room designs

2010: Disney Signature Collection

Here I was again designing media room furniture that included technology, this time for Disney. Once again, lots of time, effort, money, and marketing support was lavished to produce and introduce the collection to furniture retailers. And, once more, it didn’t work. Thanks to an inexperienced distributor, a still skeptical retail industry, and diminishing support from Disney, the plug was pulled from the collection two years later.

 

2012: TK Living

A group of industry friends and I created a sort-lived company that sold home theater accessories and templates directly to the AV industry. What didn’t work this time? In hindsight, the idea seems half-baked—selling home theater design accessories and leaving out the electronics is a recipe with half the ingredients missing.

 

2013: ESPN

After the cancellation of the Disney Collection, Disney-owned ESPN asked me to work with them to develop a sports-themed collection of media room furniture. The idea excited me, but before I got a chance to design the collection, ESPN had a change in management and terminated the effort.

 

This long trip down memory lane brings me to Rayva. After such a string of misses, what has changed that I again feel compelled to come up with a media room solution that incorporates technology? Besides the fact that I never give up when I believe in something, a lot has changed over the past few years—which I will talk about in my next post.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Theo’s Corner: How to Keep a Client Happy

keeping clients happy

The other day, a writer from Luxury asked me: “What’s the most challenging thing for you in designing a dedicated theater?” It only took me a second to come up with the answer: “Windows,” I said.

 

I wasn’t joking. Half of the time I spend creating a new design goes toward figuring out what to do with the windows most rooms have. I would rather not cover them with curtains as I did for a client in Beverly hills a few years ago. (See the photo above.) Curtains in front of windows is a design copout. The only curtain in the room should be the one in front of the screen. When I must deal with windows, I usually try to hide them behind some type of treatment, usually operable panels that conceal acoustic treatments. (See the photo below.)

keeping clients happy

With Rayva, things have gotten easier for me. The large acoustic panels in these designs can be placed in front of blacked-out windows without fussy customization. (See below.) The trick is trying to persuade a client to agree to cover their windows permanently.

keeping clients happy

I had such a conversation earlier this week with a Rayva client on the west coast. He would have liked to have kept the windows accessible. But when he realized how cumbersome it would be to make floor-to-ceiling panels operable, he gave me the reason why we should leave the windows concealed. “How many times will I watch a movie,” he said, “while I’m staring out the window?” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Nobody likes to be told they’re stuck with an unsolvable problem. In a situation where a decision needs to be made, all it takes is laying out the options and letting the client decide. A happy client is a client who’s given options. And a good designer is one who makes sure the client is happy.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Theo’s Corner: Working with Vincenzo Avanzato

architect Vincenzo Avanzato

In my last post, I talked about my recent meetings with well-known interior designer Hernan Arriaga, and how much I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on new designs for Rayva’s theater rooms. During that same trip to Florida, I also met with another design professional I have long admired, the Italian-born architect Vincenzo Avanzato of Avanzato Design.

 

I was introduced to Vincenzo by our mutual friend, Aaron Flint of Acoustic Architects in Miami. Vina supreme practitioner of traditional architecture–is working on a project that has space for a very traditional theater.

 

I knew from the beginning that this wasn’t a project for Rayva, which uses a minimalist approach to design. Home theaters are still dominated by elaborate traditional designscolumns with ornate grilles, wall panels with rich brocade fabrics, and lots of gold and red. I thought that, given the opportunity, Vin could help break that mold by coming up with concepts that incorporate stylized traditional elements in a contemporary setting.

During our meeting, I shared with him lots of visual samples of what have in mind for Rayva. He reciprocated by sharing with me his own ideas, which struck me as original and, to a certain extent, iconoclastic for someone who has such a deep respect for and understanding of traditional architecture.

 

We finished the meeting with a promise to meet again soon. He called early last week to let me know he is working towards finishing a presentation to me. I count the days until I receive his concepts. And I look forward to working with even more professionals of Vin’s stature as designers see that Rayva offers a chance to explore innovative new ground.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Simple, Fast High-End Home Theaters Are Here

I’ve been spending most of my time recently designing easy-to-install high-end home theaters for Rayva. One of my main goals was to have curated artwork that can be exhibited on the theater walls without the art having to depend on exact room dimensions. In other words, the room can be small, medium, or large but the design ensures the art will always fit.

 

This flexibility provides these designs with another great advantage: fast installation. A typical Rayva theater shouldn’t take more than a day to install.

 

Well, that sounds simple in theory, but it hasn’t always been easy in practice. We learned some valuable lessons during the installation of the first Rayva theater, for Acoustic Evolutions on the West Coast. Maybe the most important was that we needed to find a simpler way to attach the artwork to the theater walls. We also realized that the edges of the artwork had to be smoother and more elegant. Anyone paying 79K for a theater deserves perfection.

high-end home theater installation

Rayva’s fabrication partner, Kinetics Noise Control, helped me fix these problems during a day I spent at its manufacturing facilities in Dublin, Ohio. Kinetics engineer Chris Underwood and I came up with creative solutions to address both the installation of the acoustic panels that contain the artwork, and the finishing of the panels themselves.

 

We successfully tested the new process during the installation of Rayva’s Westchester, New York showroom a few weeks ago. As the video of the installation shows, Kinetics, Rayva, and our installation team, working hand in hand, got it right this time.

 

The video at the top of this post gives you a quick glimpse of the installation process. To see a complete video, click here.

 

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

Failure to Launch: The MST3K Reboot That Wasn’t

mystery science theater netflix

There have only been a tiny handful of TV shows worth watching over the past 30 years, and MST3K was the only one that gave a meaningful f*** you to the TV establishment. So I had a huge emotional investment in its Kickstarter-driven Netflix reboot—which turned out to be such a massive piece of crap that I wish they’d never even bothered.

 

I don’t think they could have gotten it any more wrong if they’d set out to screw it up on purpose. The host segments are too short and play it way too safe, Jonah Ray has no discernible personality, bot-voicers Baron Vaughn and Hampton Yount have proven adept at playing Tom and Crow in interviews and online videos but don’t get the chance to develop their personas at all in the series, (let’s not even talk about the new Gypsy), the delivery of every single line by every single cast member is so mechanical and forced it feels soulless, it should be a capital crime to make Patton Oswalt play second banana to somebody so obviously limited as Felicia Day, the movies don’t cover any new ground (don’t expect to see anything of the caliber of Manos here), the elaborate effort to cover up mid-segment screwups couldn’t be more lame, and trying to impose the original series’ commercial-break structure couldn’t be more forced. But forget all thatthis whole obviously rushed effort just isn’t funny.

 

This is a series that deserves to be shot at dawn.

 

But that doesn’t mean it didn’t yield anything good. In a subsequent post, I’ll talk about how stuff Hodgson probably wasn’t even aware of gave bright examples of entertainment’s future, how the seemingly animated but lifeless carcass of this misguided MST3K gave shelter to some things that are actually pretty darn good.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review, Sound &
Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

Home Theater Design Reborn—Pt. 1

I tried to think outside the box while creating home theater designs for my new company Rayva—these extremely stylized interiors based on two-dimensional and (soon) three-dimensional artwork for the theater walls are a radical departure from my more traditional theater designs. Most home theaters are realistically rendered miniatures of Golden Age movie palaces complete with wall columns, upholstered wall panels, a proscenium opening with a motorized curtain behind it, and a fancy ceiling layout. But the level of detail that goes into most of these theaters results in lengthy and expensive construction.

In creating the “look” for the Rayva theaters, my first goals were to simplify the room designs and to standardize the design components. I know that by doing this I run the risk of alienating people who are accustomed to rooms-within-rooms covered wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling in rich architectural details. But I’m confident that creating rooms that can be finished in a day for a mere fraction of the cost of building a traditional home theater will be well worth the tradeoff.

My designs for Rayva are comprised of two elements: The room itself and the design elements inside it. The room—a basic rectangle adjusted to the size of the client’s actual spaceis built by the client’s contractor based on detailed plans included with the purchase of the theater. Once the room is done, the design elementswhich have been fabricated elsewherecan be installed in a day.

In future posts, I’ll talk about how I arrived at this new approach to home theater design and how I’m working with designers, artists, and other talent to cultivate fresh ideas that reflect Rayva’s mission to think outside the home-theater box.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.