Unique Rooms #2 – A Star Is Born


Written By: Wendy Tweten

Although popcorn and soda pop are the preferred accompaniment to the typical movie experience, at the home of Bruce and Kandi Laughrey, a movie in the media room is an occasion more suited to Champagne and caviar. With the grandeur of a motion picture palace of yesteryear – scaled back to private-residence proportions – the Laughrey’s theater room makes watching a show more than a pleasant diversion; it’s an opening-night event.

When it came time to plan a media center to complement their Italian country-style home in Central Florida, the couple looked beyond the usual boxy space with a wide-screen TV at one end and a couch at the other; in fact, they look back nearly a century to the glory days of the American cinema. Of course, fitting a grand movie house into the floor plan of a private residence would require an experienced architect with more than a passing understanding of dramatic illusion. So the Laughrey’s turned to the same firm that designed their home, Terry Irwin Architects, known for high-end custom design including theaters for Disney and NASA.

If Irwin was the set designer, homeowner Kandi Laughrey took the role of director. Kandi, a former interior designer, was intimately involved throughout the project and a major contributor to the cohesive and opulent final product. Bruce Laughrey, an electronics enthusiast, served as technical consultant, selecting a 120-inch Draper screen with a Meridian 861 processor and seven Snell speakers for optimal surround sound.

Lavishly appointed in red, gold, and black, the room pulls off a theatrical magic of its own, presenting the look and feel of a venerable cathedral of entertainment within a space only 20 feet square. To achieve this effect, Irwin employed a forced perspective with multiple wall planes, a dropped floor, and a coved wall-to-ceiling transition with the ceiling itself divided into a grid. A short, raised stage at the base of the proscenium implies a grand space lying just beyond.

Black velvet stage curtains, red-lacquered mahogany paneling, and gilded moldings recall the golden age of the silver screen. Pilasters flank iron filigree grills – some with speakers, some cloth-lined acoustical buffers. The nine custom-upholstered, reclining theater seats are a favorite of Bruce, who appreciates ultimate comfort when watching films or Indiana Pacers’ basketball games.

The ceiling present an ornate mise-en-scene of ebony-stained recessed boxes studded with hand-cast, three-dimensional medallions in gold leaf. Lighting is concealed within several of the medallions. Aisle lighting is provided by lanterns set in arched side niches.

Just behind the front row of seats, a central console holds the projection system, as well as the control panel for the lighting, curtain, and audio. The acoustics were a test of Irwin’s expertise, as the room is located on an outside wall.

The cinematic experience begins outside the theater doors in a foyer that functions as an auditorium lobby. Here Irwin and his clients exercised the same careful editing and special effects as within the theater itself. Leading to the lobby, a hallway with limestone pilasters along the walls evoke a city street complete with movie posters and the image of a ticket booth. A wet bar is conveniently close-at-hand. Within the lobby, a round settee upholstered in red velvet appears to have temporarily mislaid Jean Harlow.

As an occasional member of the audience, Irwin has had the opportunity to savor the intimate yet epic scope of his residential remake of the classic bijou.