How to create a home theater - expert advice to turn your living room into an amazing audio-visual experience

Four simple steps on how to create a home theater, with expert advice to have you making a cinema in your living room

How to create a home theater with a Modern soundbar with leather sofa and TV
(Image credit: Klipsch)

If you know how to create a home theater, then, frankly, you need never leave the house again. Well, except to get more popcorn. From getting just the right integrated speakers to positioning them perfectly, there are a few simple tricks to harnessing the power of your audio to give yourself the full cinema-quality experience.

The rise in popularity of the best surround sound systems proves this is a growing concern. We want to be able to sit back, relax, and have our current binge-watch on our favorite streaming channels blasted at us from all angles. It's a modern-day dream.

And so, with that in mind, we asked Gary Lewis, co-owner at design focussed custom installation specialists Cornflake to explain how you can create a home theater and yet avoid all the trappings of clutter you might think would come with a premium set of speakers.  

How to create a home theater

1. Add a soundbar

How to create a home theater with a Dolby Soundbar+ by Bluesound soundbar

(Image credit: Dolby Soundbar+ by Bluesound)

When thinking about living room TV ideas, it's often about enhancing their audio quality rather than relying on the set itself to give you home theater vibes. “Modern TVs don’t generally sound great," Gary says. "But if you want to enjoy truly immersive audio such as surround sound and Dolby Atmos, then one of the best soundbars like the Sonos Arc will make a big improvement without much effort." 

Does this sound like a lot of tech to suddenly land in your home? Feat not. "For the ultimate surround sound setup, integrating a 5.2.2 Dolby Atmos configuration - that’s nine speakers in total - can be both impressive and discrete,” Gary assures.

2. Opt for built-in speakers

How to create a home theater in a Living room basement extension

(Image credit: James Merrell)

The best home theaters are actually completely hidden from view, integrated into your home at the design stage so as not to intrude on your aesthetic.

“Built-in speakers solve lots of design issues as you simply don’t notice them," Gary says. "They can be placed wherever you want them, although compromises in sound often need to be made simply because a door or window is in the wrong place. The direction of sound is always an important consideration, as in-wall speakers are better for surround sound; in-ceiling speakers can feel very disconnected from the action.”

3. Go bespoke for the ultimate experience

How to create a home theater in a Modern TV room with a wall mounted on the wall with a fabric panel behind

(Image credit: Cinema Build Systems)

Just as when choosing between a soundbar or surround sound system, there is no one size fits all answer to the perfect home theater system. Each option has its own pros and cons and depends on your space, budget, and requirements. This is why a bespoke option is likely to be the most satisfactory. 

“We’re masters in the art of concealing equipment," Gary says. "A good custom installation specialist can design bespoke concealments for speakers behind custom grilles or clever cabinetry details, while speakers can be hidden behind acoustically transparent stretched fabric and become part of the interior design. And with motorized projectors and screens that drop down from a flush-fitting hatch in the ceiling, means that even the most traditionally designed spaces can be transformed into a hi-tech home cinema.”

4. Plan ahead

How to create a home theater in a beautiful autumnal living room scheme with a log fire, TV mounted onto the wall and comfy yet luxurious seating

(Image credit: Future)

Ideally, you would think about how to create a home theater at the top of the renovation before you'd done any plastering or painting, or perfecting. “Physically installing a speaker is in many ways the easy bit of any home cinema installation as the tricky work goes on behind the scenes," Gary says. "This is where forward planning helps - and thinking about your home technology as part of your renovations, not just a fun afterthought - as running cables and power throughout a property is much more difficult if you’ve already decorated.”

If you're not planning a full refurb but still want a great theater experience, you may be better off investing in one of the best 85 inch TVs instead. 

What does every home theater need?

  • TV or projector with screen - this can be built-in or added to the room.
  • Surround sound speakers - preferably in-wall rather than in-ceiling, for a more inclusive sound.
  • Surround Receiver to amplify your sound.
  • Comfy seating to sit back and enjoy your movies.
  • Dimmable lighting to control the ambiance.
  • Curtains, so as to dim outdoor light
  • Popcorn

Chris Haslam is a UK-based journalist who specialises in writing about tech, gadgets, audio, lifestyle and eco living. He regularly writes for Livingetc, and also contributes to WIRED, T3, Stuff, Ideal Home, House Beautiful, Your Home, Homes & Gardens, Grand Designs, Real Homes, Good Homes, Beautiful Kitchens, Country Homes & Interiors, Tesco Magazine, Style at Home and British Airways High Life Shopping