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How To Properly Plan Seating For Your Home Theatre

The biggest mistake you can avoid in designing multi-tiered home theatre seating? Ensuring that your view is not the back of someone’s head.

It amazes me that after doing what I do for 20 years, I am still educating people every day about site lines in a home theatre. It is easy to assume that when you are putting a big screen in a room and you are building a stage that everyone will have a great view. Well, guess again. This is the most common misconception that I can think of. Even many professionals that I have come across don’t understand how to do a proper site line analysis. The challenge is that we all want the biggest screen that we can fit on our wall…and our basement ceilings are typically maximum eight feet high or nine feet high if we are lucky. And as such, the screen comes down pretty low on the front wall and the viewing angles from the back row need to be steeper than we think.

Typically people think that a home theatre rear seating riser can be standard step height, or 8” in height…most risers are built too short. However, nine out of 10 times, I find that the stage should really be 14-16” high. Here is the analysis that needs to be done and all you need is a piece of graph paper, a ruler, a chair and an average height friend…or even better a tall friend for worst-case planning…LOL

Home Theatre Seating Simple Site line

  • On the graph paper, draw a side elevation of your home theatre front wall, the desired screen or TV height from top to bottom, the riser location and the positioning of two or more rows of seats allowing enough distance on the riser to recline your seating, typically six feet deep or more is fine. 
  • You will need to pick a scale to follow; this is critical for this analysis to work. For example, with the graph paper, each square represents 6”; you will need to decide what the appropriate scale for your room size is. 
  • Measure the height of your friend’s eyes and top of head from the floor when seated in a chair of similar height to what you will be using. 
  • Mark on the graph paper where the seats and the eyes and tops of heads will be for each row and draw a line from the eyes of the person sitting in the back row to the bottom of the screen. If the line clears the head in front, you are in good shape!

When it comes to the screen height, one caveat, think about comfortable viewing angles for the screen; you don’t want to be looking up at it uncomfortably (ie. like when it is over the fireplace). That is about it, now you will have the tools to plan great site lines for your multi-tiered home theatre!