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Chicago, Illinois
Theater Design by
Baumeister Electronic Architects
Chicago, Illinois
Doug Snower (images 1 & 2)
Paul Baumeister
(images 3 through 9)

"Dig" This Underground Home Theater
By Bryan Dailey

If you want to add a dedicated theater to your home but local zoning and street setback laws don’t allow you to build up or out, you might want to look into building down. That is exactly what this client of Baumeister Electronic Architects did. They live in a beautiful Arts and Crafts residence outside Chicago, where the city had placed extremely tight rules and regulations on what could be done to the homes in that particular area. The square footage in this spacious home was such that a theater might be able to be squeezed in, but the homeowners also wanted to put in a game room and wine cellar. How were they going to do this and still adhere to the local building codes?

The answer was to literally dig underneath the home. There are many challenges that face a home theater installer in any job, but when spelunking gets thrown into the mix, things can get really interesting. The space had to literally be carved out from underneath the home, so the utmost care and attention was paid not only the aesthetics of the room, but also to the structural integrity of the entire home. One wrong move could send this multimillion-dollar property crashing down into a pit.

As dirt was moved out, a complex series of beams and scaffolding was brought into to fill in the holes and shore up the walls and ceiling. Master carpenters milled the theater’s coffered ceilings, pilasters, bar cabinetry and other ornamentation from rich red oak hardwoods. Once the general contractor and the carpenters had finally carved out and crafted the underground rooms and the home theater space was ready, Baumeister went to work transforming the room into a beautiful custom home theater.

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