The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Sophie's Home Theater, Westfield, Ind.
Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer
Sophie is a 7-year-old girl who lives with her parents and two brothers in Westfield, Ind. Sophie was born with truncal arteriosus, which means her heart was missing an artery. When she was just 18 days old, she underwent a rare heart-valve replacement procedure that involved the insertion of a bovine artery. Sophie also developed DiGeorge Syndrome, an immune deficiency that makes her extremely susceptible to infection. This condition confines Sophie almost completely to her house.
The fact that she has lived this long is a miracle, according to doctors and her parents. Her heart valve doesn't grow with the rest of her body, which means Sophie needs periodic replacement surgery to ensure that her heart can be supplied with the proper amount of blood. This summer, in fact, she was slated for her third round of open-heart surgery.
In advance of this procedure, the Make-A-Wish Foundation contacted Robert and Shanna Haecker, owners of integration firm TriPhase Technologies in Carmel, Ind. Sophie had made a wish to see a movie in a “movie house,” as she calls it. Although Sophie's condition prevented any trips to an actual movie theater, TriPhase quickly went to work bringing the theater to Sophie at her home.
“After talking with Make-A-Wish,” Shanna Haecker says, “not only did we decide that we were going to make it our mission to finish her theater, we were somehow going to raise the money and ask for volunteers and get work donated.”
The goal was to complete the home theater with enough time for Sophie to enjoy it before her surgery — an extremely dangerous procedure. TriPhase called in as many favors as it could from contractors and manufacturers with whom it had worked previously, and the company was overwhelmed by the response. Sophie's family was in the process of converting their entire walkout basement into a recovery area for their daughter — a recovery area that would include her personal home theater. A carpenter friend of Sophie's father had been making weekend trips from Ohio to frame out the basement; the drywall had been purchased, and TriPhase found a local company to hang and sand it.
TriPhase had researched materials to ensure that they wouldn't pose a threat to Sophie's immune system. Painted drywall was OK, for instance, but synthetic fabrics were not. For flooring (which is mopped every day), TriPhase sourced an antibacterial material called Marmoleum. Marmoleum is used in hospital operating rooms, and it has no grout lines. A local company offered it at 50 percent of cost.
Sophie wanted a princess/castle theme for her basement area. TriPhase donated a princess mural for Sophie's bedroom and installed wall sconces and chess-themed fabric for a proscenium on the front wall of the home theater.
“The real challenge of the space was that we had to use 100-percent cotton fabric everywhere because of her illness,” Shanna says. “Anytime you go 100-percent cotton, you are really limited on how trendy the fabric is.”
The room's fabric elements are both decorative and functional. Auralex, which is another Indiana-based company, donated man-hours to the project and installed custom acoustic panels filled with cotton. Auralex installed four panels on the side wall. The company also acoustically treated the proscenium wall. According to Haecker, acoustic perfection was not the goal.
“It's not the perfectly laid out room where it's going to be so sound-deadening that it would be like a custom theater,” she says. “We knew that there was going to be a lot of sound bouncing around, but yet, we also wanted to add some dimension and create [the panels] in a shape that would carry out the castle-like feel.”
The home theater's sound system comprises a 7.1 surround system from Indiana-based Klipsch. The front loudspeakers, Klipsch R-2650-W units, are ranged in a left-center-right configuration and were built into the wall. The two rear/side units are Klipsch CDT-2650-Cs, and there's also an RPW-10 subwoofer and two rear/back loudspeakers.
Because the walkout basement gets a lot of ambient sunlight, front projection was out of the question. Instead TriPhase chose a 58in. Panasonic TH-58PH10UKA plasma television. TriPhase programmed a Remote Technologies remote control especially for Sophie, with a handful of pictorial buttons that represent her favorite channels. The remote also controls a Lutron Electronics Graphik Eye lighting system that's split into two zones: one for the sconces on the side walls and one for the ceiling cans.
Although Sophie's surgery was moved up, TriPhase and their helpers still completed her basement area three weeks before the operation, fulfilling Sophie's wish. “She made it through surgery, and six days later she was home,” Haecker says. “It was nothing short of a miracle.”
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