By Nancy Theoret Robb Report Home Entertainment Magazine Vol. 6 March/April 2005

A wall bulging with multiple DVD players, assorted audio equipment and compact discs offers the first hints that this screening room of a Los Angeles music producer has a serious side. The next is the sparse furnishings: four leather recliners positioned just so. This is a room built for serious sound, one that’s fitting for a longtime music and broadcast industry executive. But the space also serves a dual function as a home theater, where the producer and his wife often entertain. This is the third home the couple has remodeled together – the first being a 200-year-old Nashville log home and the second a 1920s Beverly Hills cottage. The Malibu home truly reflects their personalities, the wife says. “We’ve finally found a space that represents our personal style – contemporary but whimsical with clean lines and ocean views from every room.” The couple had just finished renovating the cottage when they stumbled across Malibu’s Broad Beach. “We saw this home for sale and we fell in love with it,” the wife says. “It’s nestled on an ocean bluff between the mountains and the sea. We bought it within a week.” Situated on nearly two full oceanfront lots, the property includes a guesthouse and a two-story building, which has been converted into second-floor offices, a gym and a guest suite. “We see ourselves here for many years to come.” Though the views won them over, the couple did not mind the 19805 architecture of Rodney Wray, which amounts to a series of octagonal-shaped pods connected by hallways. Nor did it matter that the house had only one large bedroom. What did concern them, however, were the tiny windows and massive cylindrical columns installed for support. Additionally, the all-important media room had to be incorporated into the space. “The media room took the most energy to get just the way we wanted,” the wife says. “My husband is all ears, literally. He processes the whole world in an auditory manner.” The challenge was to create a multifunctional room for serious sound and a home theater in the former dining room. Enter Carl Tatz, a Nashville-based acoustical designer who orchestrated the couple’s editing suites in Music City. Renown for his attention to detail, Tatz devised an audiovisual system that fulfilled the objective in a room he describes as “full tilt.” “[The client] wanted a serious screening room with 5.1 surround-sound,” Tatz says. “Those are two different animals and bringing them together was quite a job. It’s the most interesting room I’ve done because of the hybrid nature.” Always the perfectionist, Tatz carefully positioned each chair in the room so listeners could experience the apex of optimum sound. The chair for the man of the house is positioned in the room’s “sweet spot” for 5.1 audio disc listening. “It was unique because the room was designed around one person;’ says installer Robert Hancock, president of Sound Audio and Video Installation of Simi Valley, Calif. “It was also a small space for a screening room and the type of equipment he wanted.” Touchscreen buttons toggle the system between cinema and music modes, a setup that’s extremely complicated because of the unique infrared switching system Hancock created. “It’s an elaborate system that understands exactly what the customer is trying to do,” Hancock says. “It’s the first time we had cause to do anything like this, and it works flawlessly. You have to keep in mind that to 99 percent of consumers, a system designed for home theater sounds great to them. Because he’s in the music business and listens to music recorded in his studio, he’s very particular about how everything sounds. The way it’s designed, you can get the volume up high and yet it sounds natural.” The architect, acoustician and custom installer oversaw every construction detail, specifying stud placement and framing design. They also created a ventless air conditioning system exclusive to the theater-listening room-that directs air into the room through a four-inch gap above the floating ceiling and into the custom cabinetry to cool the equipment. The final product is a no-nonsense screening room that brings the couple hours of enjoyment, which are often shared with friends and family. The room’s identical custom-designed leather chairs-which the wife describes as George Jetson recliners – are proof positive that not everything is taken too seriously. “Yes, it is serious, but we have a lot of fun in there, too,” she says. “We have to pry people out of those chairs.” Strict building codes limited renovation to the home’s existing 1980s footprint. But that didn’t prevent Denise Castro-Bran and James H. Eserts of Eserts Castro-Bran Architects in Santa Monica, Calif., from stripping the home back to the metal studs, and reconfiguring interior spaces to bring a sense of cohesion to the octagonal-shaped pods. Efforts were made to open up the house to the views. “The kitchen had a series of built-in refrigerators on the view wall,” recalls Castro-Bran. Although much of the renovation focused on the media room, Castro-Bran and Eserts, aided by interior designer Sandra Castro-Bran of Stuff, performed magic throughout the house. They installed radiant heating, opened up the walls and the view with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, and used furniture to minimize those columns, which were downsized. The architect~ also added a ribbon of clerestory windows at the top of the tall living room ceilings. “The idea was to open the house to the beautiful landscaping and views.” Denise Castro-Bran says. “We didn’t want to put more ’80s into it.” the wife says. “We wanted to go forward with a more contemporary look.” The wife’s vision is expressed in the minimalism of the neutral hues, which are punctuated by a colorful Picasso, a Miro, a Tamayo, a Lichtenstein and a sculpture by Stanley Marcus of department store fame. “We knew we had an opportunity in this house to showcase the pieces we had.” she says. “Before we selected furniture, we designated certain walls for our art.” Sandra Castro-Bran played off the artwork, weaving neutrals throughout. In the living room, the pale tones of the Italian furniture by Knoll and B&B Italia are anchored by a soft sea foam-colored Tibetan rug. Walnut cabinetry with white CaesarStone countertops welcome simplicity into the baths and the kitchen, which now faces the ocean through new windows. Wood is kept to a minimum in deference to the bamboo flooring. “I was there for dinner in November,” says Sandra CastroBran. “Eva Cassidy was playing throughout the house, the floor-to-ceiling doors were open to the ocean, rain was coming down and the waves were crashing 10 feet away. It was the most magical experience. “For a list if interiors resources and a list if preferred architects and il1terior designers featured in previous issues, visit our website at [HE]


As Robert Hancock of Sound Audio and Video Installation of Simi Valley, Calif., explains, this system has an unusual and complex arrangement of surround speakers. “Carl [Tatz] wanted to use direct-radiating surrounds sometimes and diffuse surrounds at other times,” he says, adding that the former is better for music, the latter for movies.Tatz also wanted to use conventional dome tweeters in some situations and horn tweeters in others. They found JBL Synthesis S3M speakers perfect for the direct-radiating application (they switch between dome and horn tweeter operations). Two S3Ms occupy the front right and left positions; two others serve as surrounds. A quartet of JBL Synthesis S2A dipoles provides a diffuse sound field. But the problem remained in terms of how to switch between speakers and between the two tweeters on the S3Ms. “The switching system;’ Hancock says, “is built upon the X10 protocol, which sends control signals for lights, etc., through power lines.” Hancock programmed the Elan control system with a series of macros that not only selects between speakers, but also activates the different surround modes on the JBL Synthesis SDP-40THX Surround Processor .And the owner only has to press one of two buttons: “cinema” or “music.” For all of the high-end equipment and complicated programming, Hancock attributes much of the room’s spectacular sound to Tatz’s acoustical engineering. “It all stems from the client allowing him to put so much time and energy into it. That really made the project work.” For a full equipment list, please visit our website at Burger


Acoustic Designer: Carl Tatz Design of Nashville, Tenn. (615. 354.6242,

Architect: Eserts Castro-Bran Architects of Santa Monica, Calif. (310.828.7657)

Custom Installer: Sound Audio and Video Installation of Simi Valley, Cali( (, 805. 584.9725)

Interior Designer: Stuff of Irvine, Calif. (949.718.0780)

Amplifiers: Bryston Limited (705.742.5325,

JBL Synthesis, 516. 255.4525)

Automation, remote control:

Elan Home Systems (859.269. 7760,

Balanced power system: Richard Gray’s Power Company (800. 8803474,

Cassette deck: Denon (973.396. 0810,

CD player: Pioneer (8OO.PIONEER,

DAT player: Sony (800.222. 7669,

DVD players: Panasonic (800. 211.PANA,,


Speakers, stereo and surround-sound processors, subwoofers: JBL Synthesis (516.255.4525,

Graphic EQs: Symetrix (425. 778.7728,

Lighting control: Lutron (610. 282.3800,

SACD player: Philips Consumer Electronics (800.531.0039,

Satellite receivers: DirecTV (310.964.0700,, Sony (800.222.7669, (

Screen: Stewart Filmscreen (310. 784.5300,

Theater chairs: The Luxury of Leather (, 972.233.3630)

Video processor: DVDO

Video projector: JVC (800.247. 3608,