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How to Set Up Seating for a Home Theater

by Valerie David

Home theater seating

Things You Need:

  • Tape measure

You've remodeled to increase the acoustics in your recreation room, bought a widescreen TV and set up a state-of-the-art surround-sound system. With all the effort you've put into building your home theater, you don't want to leave the seating arrangement to chance. Whether you're installing theater seats or more traditional living room furniture, you'll want to optimize both viewing and sound quality.


  1. Calculate the best viewing distance from the TV. Double your screen's diagonal measurement for high-definition televisions and triple it for analog, LCD and projection TVs. For example, a 42-inch LCD TV requires a viewing distance of approximately 10.5 feet (126 inches). If you place seating too close, your guests will see distortions, lines or pixilation on the screen.

  2. Center the TV at eye level. For best viewing, adjust the TV's height so that, while sitting in the front row, your natural line of sight falls at the center of the screen. If working with furniture that is either too high or low, move the seating farther back. In both cases, this decreases the angle from your eyes to the screen, diminishing the amount you need to tilt your head up or down.

  3. Center the middle of the seating with the middle of the TV screen. Most modern TVs allow for a 60 to 90 degree total arc of viewing space. Keep furniture within that space to avoid seeing a distorted picture.

  4. Raise back rows. Use risers to raise a second row of seats 8 to 12 inches, allowing for a clear sight line over the first row. When low ceilings make risers impossible, stagger second-row seating to allow for viewing between the front-row chairs.

  5. Provide adequate legroom. Maintain at least two feet of legroom between rows of seating. Allow more space for reclining seats and for high-backed chairs that are difficult to see over.

  6. Don't go too far back. Avoid placing seats against the back wall because this will interfere with the surround-sound experience. For best results, keep two to three feet of distance between the back of the chair and the wall. If space issues force you to put furniture against the wall, move the rear speakers to the sides, where they can be angled toward the seating.

  7. Place chairs in a semicircle to increase seating while maintaining good sight lines to the TV. Try a U-shaped sectional sofa to maximize seating in smaller rooms. Purchase theater-style joined chairs for space-saving comfort.

  8. Try out the seating arrangement. Sit in every seat and evaluate the clarity of the picture and sound. With all the variances in room size, picture clarity and chair style, the best way to determine the perfect seating arrangement is to test it all yourself.


  1. Measure the room and decide on how many rows of seating you want before purchasing a TV. Knowing the seating measurements beforehand will help you choose a TV that allows for crystal-clear viewing in your space.

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