June 19, 2008
| by Lisa Montgomery
Just as the music moves from the theater equipment cabinet to speakers throughout the house, video can travel from a main rack of components to multiple TVs. In this case, a VideoReQuest server delivers movies from two Sony 400-disc DVD players to the TVs, including a 22-inch Panasonic LCD TV in the hearth room off the kitchen, a 37-inch Sharp LCD TV in the office, a 42-inch Panasonic plasma HDTV in one bedroom and a 45-inch Sharp HDTV LCD TV in another bedroom.
Most of the TVs are mounted to the wall or suspended from the ceiling, but in the bathroom the owners used the backside of the vanity mirror to hold a display. Designed by German company Ad-Notam, the mirror and 15-inch LCD TV come as one unit custom-engineered to withstand the moisture of a bathroom environment and to function both as a mirror and an entertainment display. The TV is only noticeable when it’s turned on. When it’s off, it disappears from sight.
To give viewers the freedom to watch whatever they want from wherever they want, every TV is equipped with its own HDTV cable box with an integrated digital video recorder. The owners went a step further in the two master suites by incorporating a five-disc DVD player and 5.1 surround-sound system in each space. “Once you’re in a bedroom, you’re in your own electronic world,” says David. “You can watch something that’s completely your choosing, but you’re always free to tap into something that’s playing on the whole-house video distribution system.”
The bedrooms also have two distinctly different looks, representing design standards from both sides of the Atlantic. In David’s “American” room, the speakers are tucked into an alcove, a mounting technique that’s commonly practiced in the United States, where the walls of homes are constructed mainly of drywall. For his partner’s “European” room, the speakers are surface-mounted just as they might be in a home in Europe, where brick and stone walls are the norm.
Convening in Comfort
Alone time is good for any relationship, but the technology in this house also instills a sense of togetherness. No space does that better than the home theater. Sporting a Sim2 1080p video projector and a 110-inch Stewart FireHawk screen, along with a crescent-shaped reclining sofa, a rich-colored Turkish rug, and elegant draperies, the room is a real crowd pleaser. The burgundy-hued projector and rosewood-accented Meridian DSP5200 front left and right speakers stay out in the open, having been selected by the homeowners as architectural pieces that would enhance the room aesthetics. The screen hangs from the ceiling when it’s being used, but rolls up into a space between the ceiling beams to instantly transform the high-end theater into a formal living room. The heavy draperies that blanket the huge windows are motorized too, enabling the homeowners to darken the space by simply pressing the movie button on a Universal Remote Control handheld remote. In addition to signaling the Lutron Sivoia QED shading system, the command also activates the Meridian G68 audio/video processor and the projector, tells the screen to descend and directs the VideoReQuest server to show on a list of movies on the big screen.
It’s the Little Things
A powerful control system and sensational entertainment setups, combined with a sleek, contemporary design have given the 3,000-square-foot home a second wind. Of course, the homeowners aren’t about to let their place go to the dogs … and they mean that literally. “We have two dogs, and that means a lot of hair to clean up,” says David. Just like other tasks in the home, he and his partner have taken the high-tech route to housecleaning. Every day, five automated vacuums whisk away the dust, dirt and dog hair. “A few years ago I bought a Roomba from iRobot and loved it so much that I kept adding more,” says David. At 2 a.m. the vacuums detach from their docking stations to clean the floors in the main living areas. During the day, the vacuums upstairs go to work. The vacuums may not be the most glamorous electronic products in their house, but for David and his partner, they’re still an important facet of a high-tech lifestyle. “It’s just one more chore that we don’t have to do,” they agree. With fewer items on their to-do lists, the owners are free to relax and enjoy the awesome systems in their house. And that’s exactly what they had intended on doing.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.