How to Build a Great Home Theater in Your Apartment

April 16, 2020 | Apartment Living

High-quality home theater setups were once reserved for those with living rooms that could match the spectacle on screen–which, for many apartment residents, simply wasn’t possible. But with both technology and retail prices getting smaller, having a sophisticated home theater worthy of popcorn is easier than ever for those in lofts or apartments. Here are some guidelines for getting it together.


As antiquated as it sounds, serious home theater aficionados still splurge on video projectors that shine on standalone screens or sheer white walls. While you deserve a round of applause if you can pull that off in your apartment, most residents of smaller units don’t have nearly enough space. But with high-tech video components becoming more advanced and cost-effective, even modestly sized apartments can simulate the arresting sweep of the big screen.

Current generations of flat-screen smart TVs are more practical for various reasons of convenience. For apartment home theaters, the big advantage is the ease of placement. Chances are your living room has at least 50 continuous inches of wall space somewhere, and a 55-inch flat-screen will easily fit atop a long table designed as an entertainment center.

If your building manager’s the agreeable sort, the screen can be mounted on a wall. You can mask the unsightly cables that attach the screen to cable boxes, audio or game systems with cable concealers that match the color of your room.


Home audio innovations of the 20th century (quadrophonic music, anyone?) required huge components that could have doubled as coffee tables. Their bulk made them impractical for apartment life. Today’s more powerful equipment has the same amplitude and volume in more compact packages.

Modern home sound systems are identified by the number of channels they handle, followed by a “.1” to indicate the presence of one low-frequency effects speaker, or a subwoofer. Most full-fledged home sound systems follow a 5.1 configuration: left, center and right speakers in front of the viewer and two surround channels behind.

While this set-up is entirely possible with spacious living rooms but could pose a challenge for smaller luxury apartments for rent in Michigan. If the lack of surround sound isn’t a deal-breaker—this author personally doesn’t need it—then a 2.1 configuration of left, right and subwoofer, or a 3.1 setup with all those and a center channel, works great.

Soundbars in 2.1 or 3.1 setups can save even more space with sound quality that’s acceptable for most. These devices house all the channels in one compressed unit that can be positioned above or below a flat-screen. High-end 5.1 soundbars are beginning to have an impact on the audio marketplace as well.


For the record: Your couch, loveseat or chair will work just fine. We won’t pretend that an overhaul of your apartment’s furniture is crucial for an effective home theater setup. The positioning of your seat is a much more important factor to consider than whether your armrest has a beverage holder built in.

Generally speaking, your seats should be arranged at a distance of about 1.5 to 2 times the size of your screen, to allow for the best combination of seeing the entire screen and catching visual details. For example, if you have a 55-inch smart TV, putting your seats somewhere between 82 and 110 inches (6.8 to 9.1 feet) away should work very well.

Should reclining and the aforementioned beverage holders be absolute essentials, you have many nice but pricy options for 2- or 3-seat home theater seats that can wedge into most nice apartments in Detroit. Some come with swivel trays.

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