This is Jonathan Marshall. He’s a New Zealander and the president of the XBMC Foundation, and right now he’s standing in his crawl space. You may note the lack of a floor in his house.

Jonathan Marshall in his basement

Jonathan Marshall in his 2 feet deep basement

Jonathan has been with the XBMC  Team longer than almost anybody currently on the team, so when he and his wife (and, of course, their two cats, Chilli and Thyme, and dog Jet) bought a house back in 2006, it was a given that they were going to have a pretty nifty little entertainment system.

The house Jonathan and his wife (and cats and dog) bought was built back around 1916 and came with a lounge equipped with a beautiful pressed steel (sometimes called “pressed tin”) ceiling and a large bay window with stained glass at the top. It was clear from the beginning (particularly to the cats) that if this room was going to be a dedicated XBMC room, it would need to be a bit more refined than your traditional man cave.

pressed steel ceiling

With a ceiling like this, you'll REALLY need a room to match.

When the room renovations started, the first order of business was the removal of the faux fireplace with the ugly gas heater, to better make space for the entertainment system. Also, to get rid of an ugly gas heater.

lounge faux fireplace

The previous owner's cat blurs in embarrassment over the faux fireplace

Construction commenced in the lounge. Speaker wires were strung under the floor in the crawl space. The entire fireplace was torn out and replaced.

lounge construction

Jet the dog is taking a break from doing all the real work.

Et voila, with the combined magical might of Jet the Dog and Jonathan the XBMC Guy, we’ve got ourselves a beautiful home theater with next to no visible cords.

lounge completion

Jet relaxes after a job well done. Thyme the cat relaxes because there's nothing better to do.

Now let’s go through this room, step by step, to see all the things Jonathan’s done with it, starting with the speakers and entertainment center.

entertainment center

The Entertainment Center

As you may note right off the bat, both the entertainment center and the speakers appear to be made of the same wood. This is primarily because they are. Both are constructed of reused and recovered Rimu wood, a wood native to New Zealand. Jonathan, being something of a handy fellow, built the speakers back in 2003, using an MDF base with a 6 mm recycled Rimu veneer applied to the outside.

unfinished speaker

Note the MDF on the inside.

The media center was built using Rimu wood taken from the pulled up and replaced skirting in the various rooms of the house during the renovation.

The other electronics visible in the above picture include a previous generation Mac Mini running XBMC for OSX, a NAD T752 receiver (which is remarkably difficult to find these days), and a 40 inch Samsung television.

The really remarkable thing you CAN’T see in that picture, are the drawers pulled out.


Notice anything unusual in this picture?

For those of you with good spatial sense, you are not seeing a lens illusion. Those drawers are quite a bit longer than the media center that surrounds them. Or, to put it slightly more accurately, the media center doesn’t stop at the wall. It actually dips into the area under the stairs that are behind the wall. The media center is about 2 feet deep, but only 1 of those feet is visible! Craziness!

Now, if we look straight down, we’ll see the floor. Under that floor are the cords that lead to the back wall. And on that back wall are the rear speakers that Jonathan also built.

rear speakers

More of somebody's (probably Jet's) handiwork.

To accomplish the look back here, Jonathan built two angular floating shelves to rest his handmade speakers on.

Finally, to round out the room (and to keep it warm in the winter), Jonathan had to replace the heater that he’d ripped out. His simple solution was to install a beautiful woodburning stove in the unused corner of the room. Then, to finish things off, he put Jet the Dog’s bed before the fire and allowed Chilli the cat to immediately steal Jet’s bed forever.

wood fireplace

Poor Jet!

That’s Jet, Chilli, and Thyme’s (I mean Jonathan’s) XBMC room. It’s a more civilized room from a more civilized age. And that wraps it up for us this Feature Friday. For those curious, Jonathan also renovated the rest of his house, and yes, it also looks pretty fantastic.

Stay tuned next week, when we stop talking about boring XBMC Team members, and start talking about you all again. And, as always, feel free to send in your setups to natethomas AT xbmc DOT org or @natedrives or @xbmc on Twitter. And for all you NZ folk, feel free to tell us how you feel about the movie Goodbye Pork Pie in the comments!

  • Me

    Nice set up, Jonathan for the win!
    Though I was surprised by the mac mini, would have though you were a build-your-own kind of guy. Shows how much I know!

  • Blogem

    Awesome style and nice features! But it definitely needs a bigger TV.

  • http://na Mike

    I used to be a build it your own type… then I wanted things to just work…. Awesome setup :D

  • Voyager-xbmc

    very nice setup Jonathan! One thing I keep wondering when I see all these home theater closets is how you deal with heat coming off the components (in this case, the receiver). I always leave like 10 cm above and around the component, but that is obviously incompatible with putting it in an enclosure that is just the size…

  • Blacksar

    I have that exact same Sony DVD player. :)

  • bylkzooi

    Nice setup.
    But can’t you make this a blogpost or a forum-topic? No reason for all this show-your-stuff to be on the frontpage.

  • Tekkamanraiden

    The speakers you built look great, what drivers and crossover did you use? Overall your setup looks excellent and very professional.

  • amet


    no, we like it just the way it is. feel free not to read them

  • Rflores2323

    Great looking room. Great article as always.

  • DonJ

    @bylkzooi: Don’t think it’s any of your business what’s on this webpage and what not

  • Cashmon3y (Caleb)

    I have to disagree with bylkzooi. I like coming to the front page once and a while to check out these setups. Beats digging through pages in the forum… Now I just need to clean up my basement and take some pics!

  • supergroovegear

    woah i didn’t know Jonathan was a fellow New Zealander! Those rimu speakers are one of a kind. Nice work!

  • Jonathan

    Actually, 40″ is about right, considering it’s around 8′ (for you americans) from the couch’s – any bigger would overwhelm the room (and yes, the 40″ did look tiny in the store!)

    In the back it’s open through the top of the cabinet, so while the receiver is still under the wall, behind the receiver there’s open space to allow easy access and plenty of ventilation (if necessary the receiver has a fan that ejects out the back – not that I’ve ever heard it come on).

    Do I detect a speaker geek? :) Drivers are Vifa TC14SG mid/woofer and TC26SF tweeter. Crossover is 4th order Linkwitz-Riley at 3kHz, which is achieved using a 2nd order lowpass on the woofer and 3rd order highpass on the tweeter – the driver characteristics make it flat (+/-2dB or so). The boxes are 7 litres which gives a second order highpass at 80Hz. Combined with the standard 80Hz 2nd order highpass of the receiver this perfectly matches the receiver’s L-R 4th order lowpass to the sub.

    Sub is 300W using an amp I built myself, designed by Rob Elliot from and uses a 12″ DPL-12 driver from Adire Audio (remember them?). It’s sealed at around 33 litres and easily goes below 25Hz.

    Thanks for all the comments :)

  • cbruhnaver

    I definitely saw the DIY speaker stuff too. Cool to see you’re a speaker geek!

    I actually worked at Adire Audio for a few years (I probably sold that DPL-12 driver to John at Acoustic Concepts) followed my six years at BG (bohlender graebener). Bump me a message if you’re ever wanting to talk speakers.

  • theccap10

    Ah yes, Good Bye Pork Pie, that is classic kiwi movies from the 80′s. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it but from what I remember it’s a classic car chase movie that runs from one end of NZ to the other with local interactions along the way… probably hard to source outside NZ, but worth it!. Nice fit out Jonathan. Your house must be a good one if it has Rimu used in the skirting… they don’t make em like that any more!!

  • Aaron

    Amazing setup and beautiful house. Makes me miss NZ even more. You’re a hell of a talented guy Jonathan.

  • Josh

    Awesome Room man, Love the work you’ve put into it. Action Films must blow you away being able to hit 25Hz :P
    Can’t wait to build a room like this when I buy my house ;)

  • http://none Bjorn

    Really nice! I got alot of inspiration for my future room :)
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Rob

    Good to know my Uni fees are going to a good cause :p

  • Scott

    That’s one classy setup. I love the combination of everything. It’s somehow homely, minimal, messy and neat all at once.

  • Beerme

    Wow, that is the biggest/nicest crawlspace I ever saw! You’re living like kings over there.

  • Zeke

    Tasteful minimalism, always a favourite of mine. Getting all the cables properly hidden away is also a good thing, which you can’t always do with a rented property of course. I have a similar Samsung, 32″ rather than 40″ as it’s in a smaller room, and have found the performance to be excellent with nice colour gamut etc if you take the time to adjust the white balance/tint etc correctly (out of the box the Movie setting is too green, while all the others tend to be too green and have annoying dynamic contrast/edge enhancement by default).

    All in all, great setup!

  • Luke

    Nice speakers — and of course the rest of the handiwork also.

    I made my own speakers (twice over to get them right!) and my main amp is a Rod Elliot design also. Nice to know I’m in such good company here :)

  • UraPnes

    A Wii in your cave????? That’s just insulting to your room. You need to grab that stupid Wii and feed to your dog.

  • Jannick

    hey, now that’s nice setup – and also very funny to hear that the president of my favourite media software is living in the country i’m travelling :D
    but i really would say you should upgrade you tv to at least a 52″ ;)

  • ubuntuf4n

    Good to see that even Mr. JM is also still normal and unpretentious like the other xbmc-users :-)
    I think people thought (after reading the blog-title) that you will have a 102 inch-hd-plasma including
    a htpc with thousands of Gigahertz and Terabytes (of course while consuming still 1 watt=).
    But this shows that you should always use what is optimal in the environment where you live and it’s not
    always about getting the largest/biggest thing.
    Thanks for the Blog-Entry, a nice one.

  • migueld

    Great article, thanks for sharing! what is that I see.. Mac Mini wooooo :)

  • Oscar

    Very nice job Jonathan!

    I made my own cave/room for my HTPC based on XBMC…. where can i upload the pics??
    XBMC is the best, keep working on it to make it easier for the common people, some day it may be on all HTPCs…

    Thanks Jonathan for your work.

  • Sean Grimes

    Nice post here.

    I’ve actually started building PVR’s back in 2005. I was using Beyond TV which allowed me to build 1 server computer and have it link up to as many client computers of my choice. I could stream live tv, recorded shows and other content to my clients. I still use Beyond TV(not Beyond TV Media), but it’s not really supported anymore. Beyond TV Media was great in that is had MANY plugins. For one, it had a games plugin where I could easily setup many emulators. My kids and myself miss having that one.

    I tried XBMC for the first time about 1 year ago and I really liked it as a media manager. I loved how easy it was to access my DVD library that I had ripped to my NAS storage device through the XMBC interface.

    I’m kind of sad now because I lost the motherboard and processor on my server box last year and also bought a new 50 inch TV. I decided to downgrade my server and move down in the basement and keep it linked to my kids computers for their TV and recorded shows. I now use Playon, Xbox 360 and my Roku box. Was thinking about getting Boxee which is based off XMBC I believe.

    To anyone out there who doesn’t know, XMBC is a great way to access your ripped DVD’s, videos and pictures. There are other programs you can use, but if I still had my media setup, I’ve probably be using XMBC or either Boxee.

    Sean Grimes