We renovate or remove outdated features in homes all the time: cabinetry, wallpaper, carpeting, wood paneling, vanities and much more. Thanks to sleek flat-panel TVs, we’ve seen electronics facelifts become common over the last decade as well, saying good-bye to many a big-box television among the old eyesores that get tossed aside. This home didn’t necessarily fall into the category of outdated furnishings, but the once-state-of-the-art electronics were in need of a big makeover.
Part of that reasoning is because the house itself is big—very big, like 12,000 square feet. And yet when it was originally infused with some high tech, the installation was decidedly incomplete and only gave the owners a taste of what should have been possible. Fast-forward a decade, and discussions with a different custom electronics pro shed light on the glaring omissions as well as the inadequacies of what was originally installed, and plans for a complete overhaul were under way.
As the electronics renovation continued, the powerful possibilities of a fully integrated whole-home technology system—and all of the sub-systems it tied together—became clear to the homeowners and now they can’t get enough. “Once it was all done, they loved it,” says Dave Raines, president of Harrison, N.Y.-based Osbee Industries, which tackled the project in two main stages. “After that we kept coming back for little projects, and it just grew from there.”
It would be tough not to want to continue adding to the systems that Osbee installed. When Osbee began the project, the biggest challenge, according to Raines, was persuading the homeowners to have their 10-year-old stand-alone Crestron audio system pulled out. Now, with everything centralized under the auspices of a full-blown Crestron automation system and its common user interface, having more pieces of electronics in their home now has actually made for much simpler operations than the disparate systems that were previously there. Benefits show in the aesthetics too—just look at how uncluttered the rooms are, with only a TV, a couple of architectural speakers and a touchpanel and keypad present.
Osbee went through and centralized the A/V first, where previously the Crestron audio system was in about half the rooms while local equipment fed the rooms that housed the six TVs. By the time Osbee finished its work with a Crestron DigitalMedia system, there were double the amount of video displays and they were connected to nine shared, centralized sources such as high-def cable DVR boxes, Blu-ray, Netflix and more. That includes a dedicated theater room, where the four teenaged children do most of their viewing and where they can choose between the wall-mounted plasma TV for more casual watching or a motorized dropdown Da-Lite projection screen/JVC projector combo for some serious entertainment nights. Other video zones include the living room, basement, playroom, library, bedrooms and a golf simulation room.
“They liked what they saw about sharing sources, so we added more and more TVs to the DigitalMedia system,” says Raines. Choosing sources is as easy as tapping on a Crestron touchpanel, selecting whatever room they’re in and then selecting the desired source for a movie or TV show. “Every kid, and each parent, has his own cable box so they can hit their name and play whatever is recorded on their own box.”
(View images of this award-winning home here)
Seven in-wall and four wireless touchpanels throughout the house are at the ready for commanding A/V, among other sub-systems, plus the family can also use any of six ML-600 remotes. Raines kept the operations as simplified as possible, mainly going with more “regional” coverage for the touchpanels scattered in various common areas (where they can control that specific room and some adjacent zones) plus one “master” control panel in the kitchen that offers access and control to basically everything. “Each room there’s some remote for the TV, but we try not to rely on the TV remote for being the lighting controller, so there’s always a keypad on the wall for when they walk into a room,” explains Raines.
Along with the video distribution, Osbee established 24 audio zones—19 indoors and five more outdoors, which pool from seven audio-only sources such as iPod docks, Apple TV, Sirius XM satellite radio and Pandora streaming. The audio system will also be interrupted by a “ding-dong” that plays in select zones throughout the house when someone drives past the driveway sensor; the audio will pause as the chime plays (surveillance video, meanwhile, can be viewed on TVs, touchpanels and web browsers). The A/V is run from gear that packs two of the three equipment racks located in the basement. After the successful first phase of the project that included the video, audio and the surveillance system—surprisingly for a home this big there wasn’t one prior—Osbee turned its attention to integrating control of lighting, motorized shades and HVAC … as well as a stealth 65-inch mirror TV (see sidebar). These comprehensive sub-systems incorporated 178 loads of lighting, 24 dimming modules, 50 Crestron Cameo keypads, 48 Cameo in-wall wireless dimmers, 10 motorized shades and 14 thermostats with nine remote temperature and humidity sensors.
Avid art collectors, these homeowners were attracted to the idea of a lighting control system the more they discussed it with Raines. Between the simplicity of the controls, the removal of wall switches and the ability to highlight particular areas, it was a no-brainer.
But rather than programming a boatload of preset lighting “scenes” that incorporate dimming or turning on and off certain lights to produce different ambiances, Osbee kept things simple and let the actual lights do the work. There are standard “welcome” and “goodbye” scenes that will turn on or off a majority of the home’s lights with one button press, but “we tried not to overdo it,” Raines notes.
“We tried to make things easy and seamless, so that they don’t have scenes they have to think about. When they walk into the living room and press ‘living room’ it’s done, it’s beautiful. There’s no ‘artwork mode’ or anything like that,” he adds. “We didn’t do so much dimming, but more proper lighting design to find out what the lighting levels are and get matching bulbs with the same color temperature.” Mixing wattages (35, 60, 70, etc.) of color temperature-matched bulbs for the various lights around a room, Raines suggests, instead of mixing bulbs that might change from pure white to yellow or orange when dimmed will still produce the desired effect. Now imagine that throughout this 12,000-square-foot home, and we’d call that an upgrade with impact.
Putting It to Use
Formal living rooms often get a bad rap. They’re so, well, formal who wants to just lounge in them? These homeowners had no idea what to do with theirs to make it more of an attractive destination, so they asked their custom electronics pro, Osbee Industries, how to spruce it up. “They told me, ‘We never use it, what should we do with it? Should we put a TV in there?’ I told them there were too many other TVs, and ‘The only way I’ll let you do a TV is if you do a mirror TV,’” says Osbee president Dave Raines. “That got the whole interior design of the room started, bringing lighter colors in, better seating.” So as clean as Osbee made the TV installations in the other rooms, the company actually took it a step further in here, putting in a custom-recessed 74-by-50-inch mirror from Seura that houses a 65-inch LCD. The screen only appears when the set is powered on, so it otherwise maintains the room’s relatively formal aesthetics—though the sofas certainly look comfy enough for lounging.
10 A/V and Automation Terms You Need to Know
How to Plan Your Home Tech Makeover
9 Things to Consider in a Home Control System
Follow Electronic House
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.