How to transform any room into your own home movie theater

Sarai Thompson, CNN Underscored
Updated Wed May 13, 2020

While drive-in movie theaters remain open in some states, most theaters across the country are shuttered to combat the spread of covid-19. But that doesn't mean the show can't go on: Plenty of the most anticipated movies are now available on streaming services, and you can still experience the joys of watching in a dimly lit room with your favorite movie snack and your loved ones.

Want to elevate the home-viewing experience beyond flipping a light switch and filling a bowl with microwave popcorn? You're in the right place, because we've enlisted the help of interior design experts who've provided us with some fantastic tips for transforming our living rooms into mini-movie theaters.

Think functionality over design

Not only can upgrading your space provide you with aesthetic perks, but, as Carmen René, a San Francisco-based designer and founder of Aquilo Interiors, explains, "Cabin fever can be very real for some people. Our mental health is being affected by having to stay in. ... It is really important to have a really peaceful and healing space, and that's going to look different for everyone."

So, where to start? First and foremost, you want your space to be functional, according to Breegan Jane, Los Angeles-based designer from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." "Remember TV trays, the thing that your grandma had?" Jane asks. "And they were iron and everyone as a family would sit and use [them]? It was like a whole moment."

She's made it her mission to bring this trend back — because easily transportable TV trays simply give you the flexibility of enjoying a meal or snack while watching a movie and reducing the risk of spills. And now? They come in plenty of modern designs not at all reminiscent of Grandma's house.

Investing in some fresh new plush blankets is another small way to level up your movie-watching experience, says Carmeon Hamilton, Memphis-based designer and founder of Nubi Interiors — especially if you have several people in your home who could benefit from curling up under their own. In fact, Hamilton has designated blankets for everyone in her household, and adds, "If I'm watching a movie on the couch, I want my down comforter."

AmazonBasics Classic TV Dinner Folding Trays ($64.99; amazon.com)

AmazonBasics Classic TV Dinner Folding Trays

This pack of four top-rated TV trays is available in three neutral colors and includes a handy matching storage rack. (Bonus: A TV tray can do double duty as an impromptu laptop stand if you've got a work-from-home situation going on.)

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Plush Blanket ($24.99, originally $45; wayfair.com)

Plush Blanket

More than 600 Wayfair customers love this plush, lightweight blanket, available in four colors and washing machine-friendly.

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Luxurious 1200-Thread Count Goose Down Comforter (starting at $109.95; amazon.com)

Luxurious 1200-Thread Count Goose Down Comforter

If you're looking for something a little more luxurious to cozy up with, try this hypoallergenic, allergy-free goose down comforter. For a more affordable down-comforter alternative, check out the microfiber-filled Chezmoi Collection All Season Down Alternative Comforter, a favorite of our editors.

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Christopher Knight Home Juliana Fabric Storage Ottoman ($140.95; amazon.com)

Christopher Knight Home Juliana Fabric Storage Ottoman

According to René, a multifunctional addition to your living room, like this ottoman, is essential if you live in a smaller space. This piece not only serves as a comfy place to rest your feet, but also as a convenient storage solution.

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Comfy decor and accents are key

The next thing you'll want to consider when making your space more conducive to a cozy movie-watching environment is, of course, an inviting place to relax. Hamilton recommends a deep-seated sofa or a comfy lounge chair, a good coffee table and, of course, a place to put your popcorn down.

"Always stick with pieces that speak to you and things that you love," advises Hamilton. "Try to avoid anything that's trendy and go for what you actually like."

Nia Velvet Square Arm Sleeper ($459.99; wayfair.com)

Nia Velvet Square Arm Sleeper

Made with a velvet fabric that recalls classic movie theaters, the Nia Sleeper is perfect for a cuddly movie-watching experience. This Wayfair favorite with more than 10,000 reviews even folds out into a twin-sized bed.

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Wallace Convertible Sofa ($480; allmodern.com)

Wallace Convertible Sofa

Available in seven colors, this gorgeous velvet convertible couch oozes midcentury modern vibes and is designed with extra cushioning. Plus, the seats on this customer-favorite piece can be adjusted to recline.

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Vasagle Industrial Coffee Table ($81.60, originally $85.99; amazon.com)

Vasagle Industrial Coffee Table

Designed with a woodgrain finish, this coffee table offers plenty of room for your whole spread of movie snacks.

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Teniux Remote Control Holder ($16.99; amazon.com)

Teniux Remote Control Holder

There's nothing more frustrating than getting ready to watch your favorite flick — and realizing you have no idea where the remote control is. This accessory, available in nine colors, can help prevent that scenario by keeping all your tech essentials in one place (and serves as a convenient place to store your phone to prevent distractions).

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Get your tech in order

What's a movie night without a quality screen? A high-definition television or projector will do the trick. René enjoys the look and feel of a projector; she's used one for years, which she says makes every night at home feel like she's at the movies. Based on your preferences and budget, there's a wide array of projectors to choose from. She also recommends investing in a screen and soundbar.

Epson VS250 Projector ($310.44, originally $369.99; amazon.com)

Epson VS250 Projector

René recommends the Epson VS250 projector — which she uses herself — for a quality movie-watching experience. It's compatible with both Mac and PC devices.

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ViewSonic Mini Portable Projector (starting at $169.97; amazon.com)

ViewSonic Mini Portable Projector

This mini projector can literally fit in your back pocket. Measuring only 4 inches by 4 inches, this device can plug into your laptop, tablet and even your mobile phone to project your favorite movies and TV shows.

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Universal Laptop Projector Tripod Stand ($31.60; amazon.com)

Universal Laptop Projector Tripod Stand

You won't have to worry about drilling holes in your wall with this projector stand, which comes with an adjustable holding tray and is easy to store.

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Vizio Sound Bar (starting at $78.99; amazon.com)

Vizio Sound Bar

A recommended favorite from our tech editor, this delivers the sound that Vizio is known for in a pint-sized package that can easily be moved from room to room. It's also got built-in Bluetooth, so you can connect wirelessly.

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The extras

Nostalgia Vintage Tabletop Popcorn Machine ($54.96; wayfair.com)

Nostalgia Vintage Tabletop Popcorn Machine

Ditch the popcorn bag, buy a bag of kernels and have some fun with this vintage popcorn machine. "We need to go back to making popcorn at night," says Jane. "It's an easy and healthy snack, it says movie and it's inexpensive."

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Nostalgia Electrics Kettle Popcorn Cart ($109.99, originally $129.99; kohls.com)

Nostalgia Electrics Kettle Popcorn Cart

Splurge and take the nostalgia to the next level with a popcorn cart. This fun addition comes with storage for your kernels and other condiments to personalize your snack. And until May 17, the price drops to $87.99 when you use the promo code YOUSAVE20.

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Fun Express Mini White Popcorn Boxes ($11.99; amazon.com)

Fun Express Mini White Popcorn Boxes

These cute boxes are the perfect vessel for your freshly popped snack. To make the experience even more fun, let the kids grab markers and express their creativity by designing their own boxes.

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100 Movies Scratch Off Poster ($15; uncommongoods.com)

100 Movies Scratch Off Poster

From "The Lion King" to "Jaws," take the challenge and see if you can scratch off all 100 of the movies featured in this poster, an excellent addition to any movie room.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed prices at the time of publication.