But now the 50-year-old house looks like a great place to sit back and enjoy a good disaster flick.
Instead of just patching up the house, Lewis and her husband, Steve, decided to transform their unfinished basement anonymous and musty, with exposed beams and insulation into an intimate, vintage theater appointed with modern home-theater equipment.
It's a blending of two eras of nickel matinees and modern multiplex conveniences. The walls that are adorned with framed movie prints of Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly share space with a 42-inch plasma-screen television.
"We feel like we've weathered a storm," Sue Lewis says. "Steve always jokes, We should have put up 'Gone with the Wind' posters. We didn't go that route."
Turning back the clock
"I wanted to capture the feel of the Byrd or Westhampton theater as soon as you open the door," Sue Lewis says as she turns the knob to the basement. From the old-time-theater-print carpet to the giant, antique cash register, this home theater is not your typical beanbag-chair, bunny-eared-television room.
To do that, she collected throw-back movie posters, an antique phone and more Hollywood leftovers from the Decorator's Warehouse, a 20,000-square-foot midtown shop stuffed with giant, plastic cheeseburgers and movie props, rare furniture, and other hard-to-find, seldom-looked-for items.
She also found a way to block out the light. "I knew from the outset that we must have burgundy velvet curtains," Lewis says. "I mean, what self-respecting old movie theater would be without them?" The curtains hang from the walk-out basement's sliding glass doors.
The theater is spacious yet cozy. A big comfy couch stands in for traditional theater seating. Five surround-sound speakers are hidden in the walls and ceiling a family friend who's an audiophile helped with the installation. "We were extremely budget-conscious and had to be for several reasons," Lewis says. "Between the storm damages and the construction, we had lots of items to replace and new items to buy for the theater."
And while the electronics and decorations are in place, Lewis still is juggling remotes in a three-ring circus of equipment. "We're going to get a universal remote eventually," she says. The couple also is thinking about adding a popcorn machine and a stockpile of Junior Mints.
Dark clouds parting
Contractors have been regular houseguests at the Lewis' since the September storm. "It's been such a long, painful year," Lewis says. "I felt like I lost my sense of security. and needed something fun to focus on."
She credits the finished product to a number of factors, such as the couple's own sweat equity they did all the painting themselves to Lane Homes & Remodeling, which rode out the entire project from damage control to soundproofing.
"We were out there the day after the hurricane putting tarps on the roof and getting trees off the roof," said Edward Lane Jr., vice president of Lane.
"Home-theater design is getting more and more popular," Lane says. "And soundproofing your room is the key element." Soundproofing is done by applying various types of insulation to a room's walls, ceilings and floors.
That's why Lane believes the basement is the ideal room in which to set up a home theater, because it's separate from the rest of the house and easier to insulate.
And that's probably a good thing. "I'm a big concert person," Lewis says. "And I'm going to be cranking rock music."
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