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A Builder Builds His Dream House
A custom homebuilder puts his skills to work constructing a 5,600-foot home equipped with the latest electronic systems.
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A spectacular view from Norm and Margi Castiglione’s great room with the motorized shades and screen are down. Try to find the speakers concealed in the stonework. Photo by Graham Hobart.
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April 01, 2005 by Steven Castle

Things don’t always work out the way they’re planned. Just ask Norm and Margi Castiglione, the owners of a 5,600-square-foot log home outside Calgary, Alberta. That’s right: Canada. As in brrrrrr!

Norm was a homebuilder in the Edmonton area about 300 miles to the north—as in brrrrrr squared—and purchased 155 acres just south of Calgary, thinking his parents would live there.

But Norm and Margi ended up staying on the land, and so they decided to build their dream home. Somehow, a 3,100-square-foot layout turned into a sprawling 5,600-square-foot log home. And what started as a plan for some basic security and a simple stereo system turned into a dramatic home theater in the log-trussed great room; whole-house audio and security; lighting, electronic heating and ventilation control—oh, and a barn with a bunch of animals and a themed sports bar.

The homeowners aren’t exactly complaining. The beauty and drama of this place where wide open spaces meet soaring mountain peaks is reflected in their home. Even as the snow piles up in the winter and the winds whip down from the nearby Rockies, they can look out the 32-foot-high windows, pull the blankets a little more snug and fire up a warming DVD.

Change of Hearth
Norm and Margi’s ranch is located at the foothills of the Rockies and is just a couple hours’ drive from some of North America’s most spectacular scenery in Banff and Lake Louise. “The real mountains are 30 miles from the house,” Norm says. “We have a beautiful river on the property with 100 acres on plains and 50 in the river valley. We left almost all of it natural.”

When the Castigliones originally bought the property, it had a house on it, but when they decided to stay, they thought twice about the house. “With this type of area, we thought it should be a log home,” he explains. As a custom builder, Norm had spent a career creating what other people wanted. Now it was his turn to have a house constructed for him and Margi. But once he’d had the plans drawn up, his log-home builder altered them to accommodate the couple’s needs. “My house grew 8 feet in width,” Norm recalls.

Trees were taken from the property to construct the house. And during the early stages of the project, Norm met with Joe Strang of Showcase Home Theatre & Automation in Calgary. “We were only going to go as high-tech as having a stereo and a couple of speakers here and there and a 40-inch TV,” Norm says. “But then we wanted the ability to open a front gate 100 yards away from the house. That was the start of the home theater and the other systems, because the first bridge I had to cross was the security. The more I understood about the security and the other systems, the more I wanted.”

So plans changed, as evidenced by the dramatic home theater with a screen that descends from a 23-foot-high mantle in front of a huge stone fireplace. “We wanted to have a viewing area in the living room of the house so when no one’s around you can plunk down,” Norm explains. “The ceiling is 32 feet high, and we didn’t want a TV in the middle of everything. A friend had a home theater, and I thought if I could get the picture on a screen that was hidden [when not in use] ...”

Let the Show Begin
Now when Norm and Margi fire up the home theater, a motorized Da-Lite screen concealed within the high mantle drops 21 feet. The mantle was placed at the same height as a break in the wall of windows to remain inconspicuous. And with all the log trusses and the wide-open space, a visitor might not even notice the high mantle.

There’s a lower mantle, too—and beneath that, TruAudio speakers are built right into the huge stone hearth. You wouldn’t know the speakers were there, because their grilles are painted with rock patterns to match the stones in the hearth. A center-channel speaker fires from below the hearth shelf. “People are halfway into the movie before they figure out where the sound is coming from,” Norm says.

On the wall behind the seating area is a Dwin digital light processing (DLP) projector and JBL surround-sound speakers. “The projector was the hardest to install because it had to be a certain distance from screen,” Norm says.

And in a home made out of solid logs, wiring is always an issue. “We probably have four miles of Category 5 [high-speed communications] cable,” Norm says. “We wired it for the future. And with logs, you only have one chance.” In other words, don’t even think about rewiring. (See “Loggin’ Time” on page 71.)

Around the House
All that wire is used for the whole-house audio in 11 areas, for the security system and for the heating and ventilation system. It all runs off an Elan home control system, with four LCD touchpads located throughout the house, including one that is flush mounted into a rock wall near the kitchen and numerous others that are the size of single light switch plates.

Norm and Margi can call up whatever music they want on the Elan system, roam the house while listening to their favorite country or soft rock tunes, see video from cameras around their property and control the heating and ventilation with the press of a button. The Elan system also has the ability to mute music when the doorbell rings or when someone is at the gate, and it can be used as an intercom. “We can turn on [music and lights in] the living room, dining room, kitchen and main bedroom all on one level,” Norm says. Or the couple can call up various scenes in the 32-foot-high combination great room, home theater, kitchen and dining area.

“We probably use the Elan system more in the winter,” Norm says. “We have all the security on it. We have two main entrances on the property, and we can arm all the zones from anywhere. I can be up in the office and set the heat and see everything.”

Barnyard Bliss
There’s also a nearby barn that holds some animal occupants, a mechanic shop, a wood shop, an apartment and a game room. And it’s wired to the main house system for practicality and fun. “If my wife’s down there with the animals, we can communicate via the intercom,” Norm says.

The game room in the barn is a sport fan’s dream. The floor and side walls are painted to resemble a hockey rink. There’s a scoreboard light over the pool table, and there’s a bar and a jukebox and some authentic collectibles, including jerseys from Wayne Gretzky and other hockey stars. “I’m a big collector of hockey and sports memorabilia, but the collection outgrew the house and office. So I said ‘I’m going to take an 800-square-foot room and turn it into collector’s museum.’ I wanted to make it like a National Hockey League arena.” Norm can also access CDs and satellite music from the main house’s music system. There’s a TV in the space along with TruAudio speakers, but no big theater system—and that’s okay. “I wanted that game room for playing,” Norm explains.

The most-used area has to be the home theater in the main house. “We like movies and have a good collection,” says Norm. The couple’s movies are stored in a Sony 400-disc DVD changer. “The kids stay busy for the whole day when we have guests, which is great when you live out in the country.”

Norm says that during the summer, they’re apt to have 15 guests every night. “It’s really nice with the setting here. We don’t spend a lot of time inside in the summer; we have a patio with rock speakers,” Norm says. “And in the winter, the house is really comfortable. We can curl up with a blanket and watch the DVDs and let the snow pile up outside.”

Or, he and Margi can just admire the natural beauty inside their home. “The logs and wood are always nice to look at,” Norm says. “It gives you kind of a warm feeling.”


Equipment List

    Home Theater
  • DWIN II projector106-inch Da-Lite custom screen
  • Integra DTR 7.4 receiver
  • Sony 400-disc Multi DVD player
  • Marantz RS9200 color touchpad remote
  • Techniques SL1200 turntable
  • TruAudio CT-55 in-wall speakers (3)
  • JBL HTPS400 subwoofer
  • JBL N24 surrounds (2)
  • Somfy controls for the blinds in the media room
  • Xantech I/R system
  • House Wide Systems
  • Lutron HomeWorks lighting system
  • Elan VIA! touchpanels (4)
  • Elan System 6 multiroom controllers (3)
  • Elan VIA!dj music server
  • Elan Z600 phone controller
  • Elan Z880 video switcher
  • Everplex 8 channel multiplexer
  • Elan DSC 2000 color camera/doorbell/intercom station with link to automated gate (2)
  • Auto Magic automated gate controller
  • Multiple outdoor silent witness dome cameras
  • Destiny full wireless security system
  • Aprilaire HVAC control system
  • Sharp AQUOS 32-inch LCD TV
  • TruAudio CP-8 in-ceiling speakers (17)
  • TruAudio OP-5 speakers
  • TruAudio rock speakers (4)
  • Multiple ExpressVu satellite receivers
  • Direcway Internet system

Contact
Electronics Design & Installation
Showcase Home Theatre & Automation
Calgary, Alberta
403-254-5820
http://www.showcasehometheatre.com

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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