Many A/V enthusiasts dream of having a custom theater designed by home theater pioneer and Sound & Vision columnist Theo Kalomirakis. But mystery novelists Jonathan and Faye Kellerman (Capital Crimes, When the Bough Breaks) have something twice as nice: two theaters designed by Theo.
The theaters differ in style dramatically, as do their locales: Beverly Hills and Malibu. Those who know Southern California only from watching TMZ or The Hills might think the place has an undifferentiated landscape populated exclusively by reality-TV stars. But SoCal natives know that Beverly Hills has no more in common with Malibu than Nancy Reagan does with Pamela Anderson. Sure, the two towns are within an hour's drive of each other (if you're driving between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.), but we're talking completely different vibes here. Old money vs. new. High society vs. hippies. Bloomingdale's vs. blue jeans. Thanks to the Kellermans' yearning for something really cool, and to Theo's legendary ability to deliver it, these two theaters reflect their surroundings perfectly.
Beverly Hills has earned a reputation for both elegance and occasional extravagance. Thus, the size of the theater in the Kellermans' Hills home comes as a shock; surely the average closet in the 90210 zip code isn't much larger. "Even though we have a sizeable house in Beverly Hills, we had no extra space and nowhere to add on," Jonathan Kellerman explained. "But then we decided to move our gym, which freed up a room. My wife Faye suggested we build a movie theater in there. I thought it was too small, but we decided to try anyway." That's when the idea of calling in Theo hit.
"I had seen his work at a friend's house and was impressed," Jonathan continued. "So I called him, and he visited us. The first thing he said when he saw the space was, 'Is this the lobby?'"
Even though the theater in the Kellermans' Beverly Hills home is squeezed into a 12 x 14-foot space, it's still comfortable and inviting. Designer Theo Kalomirakis created a corridor within the room to keep the doorway to the right of the screen from becoming a distraction.
Theo had no idea what he was in for. "The arrangements for me to go out to California and see the space had already been made before I got involved, and we had already taken a deposit," he said. "I saw the room and I was apoplectic. I didn't want the job at first - I don't want to collect a design fee unless I know I can deliver what the client expects. I would have been happy to refund the deposit, but Jon was so disappointed when I didn't want to do the theater that I decided to accept the challenge."
To the Kellermans' surprise, Theo proposed using only about two thirds of the roughly 12 x 14-foot space. "I made the room look bigger by making it smaller," he explained. "There was a door next to the place where the screen had to be, and there's nothing more distracting than a door next to a screen." To get the door out of the theater space, Theo converted the section of the room in front of the door into a corridor, separated from the rest of the theater by three wall sections. "That changed the whole equation," he said. "What was a bland, square room became a rectangular one that's much better for a theater. Because we didn't close off the space from the corridor, it gave the room a sense of three-dimensionality and made it look more architecturally developed."
The one place where Theo "cheated" - that is, expanded the available space - is in the front, where the screen hangs. He asked the Kellermans' building contractor, Rob Carlson, to move the wall out about a foot. This alteration stole a few square feet from the Kellermans' generously sized backyard patio, but as Theo put it, "That really gave us space to breathe. Now the front row's not crammed up against the screen."
When I first entered the Kellermans' Beverly Hills theater, the ornate, impeccably executed decor caught me off guard. In a large theater, it wouldn't have fazed me a bit, but to see this level of detail in such a small room was truly astounding. The numerous, subtly different shades of paint on the walls give the tiny space surprising dimensionality. Custom-made scrolled metal grillwork designed by Theo conceals the surround speakers. Even though this theater is packed with modern technology and occupies a humble footprint, the feel is definitely classical and luxurious. Had a bow-tied butler stopped in to offer me tea and crumpets, I wouldn't have been surprised. "When you walk into the room and turn on the lights, everyone just goes, 'Whoa!'" Jonathan said.
He pressed a button on the Crestron remote's touchscreen, and the tiny theater came to life. The lights dimmed, and a meticulously miniaturized theater curtain rose to reveal a 100-inch Stewart projection screen, illuminated by a Sony projector concealed in the back wall. As Jonathan flipped through some of the channels on his DirecTV satellite receiver, I started to forget I was inhabiting an area only 7 feet wide and about 15 feet long. The more I watched, the more I started to feel as if I were reclining in one of the grand spaces for which Theo is best known.
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