A home theater can be a valuable investment, especially as the costs of family entertainment and gas continue to rise. Even better, you can get commercial-theater quality on a budget, with savvy equipment choices and smart use of an existing living space. Here are four steps to making your silver-screen dreams reality.

Plan a High-End Home Theater for Less

Assess. Start your home theater scheme by evaluating the space you have to work with. Take into consideration a comfortable distance between your screen, speakers and seating. And remember that a great home theater doesn’t require a giant screen or a gazillion speakers.

Equip. The switch to digital TV signals over the past few years has made flat screens and HDTVs much more affordable, so you’ll have several to choose from while staying on budget. As you shop, keep in mind ideal viewing distance, which is usually two to two-and-a half times the width of the screen. Also look for home-theater-in-a-box sets that include everything you’ll need and are designed for the budget-conscious.

Furnish. No need to spend big on new home theater furnishings or room redesigns, because you probably already have most of what you’ll need both for comfort and optimal acoustics. Fabric-upholstered couches and chairs are ideal, and you can inexpensively add sound-absorbing elements like area rugs and draperies.

Illuminate. Lighting is important for good home theater viewing, so make sure you have dimmable lamps or lighting throughout the space, including behind or adjacent to the screen to make viewing easier on the eyes. Also dress windows with shades or drapes to block out natural light when needed.