Home Theater Seating: Enough’s Enough

April 1, 2008

Don’t let the post title fool you, I’m not advocating that we should all sit on the floor. I simply mean we’ve got to reign in our unrealistic ideas of how many home theater recliners we can cram into a room. Posts like this are tough because there are so many variables and assumptions that go along with them, but I’ll try to keep it as room and chair model un-specific as possible.

This has been cropping up more and more lately and I assume these questions and concerns aren’t limited to my little corner of the world. What I’m seeing is a tendency to try and pack as many home theater recliners into the room as possible, a few examples might be in order. By the way I never name names here, my goal isn’t to embarrass anyone.

Recently a client came in asking about two rows of three seats in his “19′ long” room. He picked out some seats and I did some quick measurements and I told him yes, I think we can accommodate two rows of chairs into the room. I asked, “How wide was the room again? “(remember he started with the length only) 12’ wide he said. “Sir these chairs are three and a half feet wide each,” I replied. “Unless you have some really skinny family member’s I suggest we look at some other chairs.”

Yeah we were left with a whopping foot and a half to get to the back row or a claustrophobic 9″ to squeeze along the wall on each side to reach the recliners. Hardly what I’d describe as relaxing evening in the home theater. Listen, this was a smart guy. He does something for a living that requires more education than I could ever dream of completing, but he just wasn’t able to visualize what this 2×3 seating would look like in his modestly sized room.

The same principle applies to short rooms as well. It’s tough to get three rows of chairs in a room less than 20 feet (or so) long, unless you want to make some serious compromises in comfort and usability that is. As I explained to a client recently, at 10 feet away from the screen, that front row is going to feel very much like sitting too close to a tennis match. And then he hit me with it, the most often cited reason for wanting six or more chairs in a home theater, extended family.

This is the number one mistake I see made when it comes to designing and furnishing home theaters. People tend to picture everyone they’ve ever known coming over to enjoy their home theater with them, before they build one. After the build however they quickly realize having anyone outside of their immediately family over to watch a movie in the new home theater is a rarity. Or in other words if it’s you, the wife, and two kids six recliners may be fine. If the kids left the nest 10 years ago and live 5 states away, six recliners are probably massive overkill.

It’s much easier, economical and comfortable (for you) to use a few folding chairs to accommodate overflow than to try and squeeze a recliner into every square inch of floor space in your home theater. Build your home theater for how you’ll use it a year from completion, not the day of. Trust me, you’ll be much happier in the long run.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Design


Comments

  • ryan

    If it’s supposed to be home theater, why not get real theater seats. I’ve never been to a movie that had oversize, overstuffed leather behemoth chairs.

    Get the plastic backed ones with the gum on the bottom of the seat for realism.

  • ryan

    If it’s supposed to be home theater, why not get real theater seats. I’ve never been to a movie that had oversize, overstuffed leather behemoth chairs.

    Get the plastic backed ones with the gum on the bottom of the seat for realism.

  • Real Estate Jim

    I agree completely. Unless you’re in the film-making business, it doesn’t seem to make sense to crowd a room with an excess of large theater-style chairs. In fact, at my house, extra guests seems to be comfortable enough sitting in cushioned folding chairs I bought at Sam’s Club!

  • Real Estate Jim

    I agree completely. Unless you’re in the film-making business, it doesn’t seem to make sense to crowd a room with an excess of large theater-style chairs. In fact, at my house, extra guests seems to be comfortable enough sitting in cushioned folding chairs I bought at Sam’s Club!

  • AlenK

    Folding chairs for overflow is a good idea but do you know of some really comfortable ones? Most I have seen/tried would not be comfortable enough to sit in for the length of a typical movie.

  • AlenK

    Folding chairs for overflow is a good idea but do you know of some really comfortable ones? Most I have seen/tried would not be comfortable enough to sit in for the length of a typical movie.

  • B.Greenway

    No doubt Carlton, I honesty hadn’t even wrapped my mind around a way to describe that so I omitted it. But since you brought it up, not only do you have to factor in the row-gap between the chairs, you have to factor in the row-gap of extended versus fully upright chairs.

    Again though, I say if it comes down to overall comfort versus trying to squeeze in another chair for that uncle who only visits once a year, comfort wins.

  • B.Greenway

    No doubt Carlton, I honesty hadn’t even wrapped my mind around a way to describe that so I omitted it. But since you brought it up, not only do you have to factor in the row-gap between the chairs, you have to factor in the row-gap of extended versus fully upright chairs.

    Again though, I say if it comes down to overall comfort versus trying to squeeze in another chair for that uncle who only visits once a year, comfort wins.

  • I think it’s more important to look at the trade-off of time spent walking behind a tight row of chairs (10 seconds) vs. the amount of time watching a movie (2 hours.) I think all of the chairs have a clear view of the screen and meeting the THX/SMPTE viewing distance specs is more important than having a big aisle.

    I have 5 seats in my front row and 4 in the rear row. The entrance to the theater is between the front row and the screen. 95% of the time, we have 5 or less people. The other 5% of the time we have more than 5 people, and I really don’t care if the aisle past the front row is 12″ because it is hardly ever used and people are only in it a few seconds.

    Now if the door were in the back of the room and every person had to use the narrow aisle every time, it would be a major pain. I would definitely remove one of the front row seats in that case.

  • I think it’s more important to look at the trade-off of time spent walking behind a tight row of chairs (10 seconds) vs. the amount of time watching a movie (2 hours.) I think all of the chairs have a clear view of the screen and meeting the THX/SMPTE viewing distance specs is more important than having a big aisle.

    I have 5 seats in my front row and 4 in the rear row. The entrance to the theater is between the front row and the screen. 95% of the time, we have 5 or less people. The other 5% of the time we have more than 5 people, and I really don’t care if the aisle past the front row is 12″ because it is hardly ever used and people are only in it a few seconds.

    Now if the door were in the back of the room and every person had to use the narrow aisle every time, it would be a major pain. I would definitely remove one of the front row seats in that case.