Beachside Technology
An historic island home gets a technology makeover.
A custom-made turret on the ceiling of the basement theater conceals a Marantz video projector.
November 01, 2005 by Lisa Montgomery

The spot Henry and Greta Dimming chose for their new seaside home is surrounded by powder-soft sand and lush vegetation. It’s an environment that looks more like a place to vacation for a weekend than to build a permanent home. Add the fact that the cozy little beach community gets hammered by a heavy tropical storm just about every year, and you’d expect to see nothing but a cluster of rental cottages dotting the shoreline. But this is also an area with some history behind it. Many of the grand homes that were built there in the early 1900s have been carefully renovated and reconstructed to preserve the style and architecture of the times. The Dimmings’ place is no exception. Sided with stone and slate, the house looks as if it has been there for over 100 years. The colonial style continues inside the house, with features like traditional counter-weighted windows, nine stone fireplaces and mahogany woodwork throughout. “It’s a home of very solid construction,” Henry explains, “and we expect it to be standing for another 300 years at least.”

Point and Click
Durable materials and rugged construction will certainly help the house endure Mother Nature, but the modern electronic systems the couple chose for the abode are just as crucial to its longevity. “It’s critical that a house be well wired in order to take advantage of new and upcoming technologies,” Henry explains. He should know. The Dimmings have upgraded the controls for their whole house music system three times in four years, without ever having to add new wire.

The Dimmings started with a basic remote control to operate the music system, then graduated to a more intuitive touchscreen-style remote. However, that wasn’t quite right either. “We often were sitting too far away for the signal from the remote to reach the equipment,” Henry recalls. The Dimmings’ home systems installer, John Dorsey of Soundscape Audio/Video Specialists in Baltimore, MD, recently solved the signaling issue by swapping the infrared remote for a clicker that that uses radio-frequency (RF) airwaves to transmit a command through walls, floors, furnishings and other solid structures. The Dimmings can now stand anywhere in the room and control their entertainment system. “It works well, but I’m still trying to learn how to use it,” Henry admits.

He’ll have plenty of opportunity to master the command menus of the Marantz RC5000i remote. There are three of the clickers in the house—one for each casual entertainment space. The sunroom, the family room and the master bedroom were each equipped with an ample-sized TV, a DVD player, a high-definition satellite receiver and a surround-sound system featuring Polk in-wall speakers. “We designed these systems a little before the time of flat panels, so we went with rear projection and traditional tube TVs,” Dorsey explains. “We found that using antique armoires and having them rebuilt to fit the TVs was a great way to hide the TVs,” Henry adds. However, that doesn’t mean the entertainment is closed to the public. “When my in-laws come in for a visit, they can watch TV in just about any room they walk into. They don’t have to be stuck in one room for their entertainment.”

Room for Fun
Still, there is one room the family prefers to hole up in for their video fix: the home theater. The Dimmings had their architect create a huge open area downstairs, knowing that they would need a lot of space to incorporate a big-screen TV, pool table, fireplace and cozy conversation areas they envisioned for the room. Their interior designer took care of the furnishings while Dorsey and his Soundscape team handled the audio and video installation. At the front of the room, Soundscape installed a motorized 106-inch (diagonal) screen. The display rolls up into the ceiling on command, revealing a beautiful mahogany bookshelf behind it. In this position, “you’d never even know you were stepping into a home theater,” Henry says. Soundscape also worked hand-in- hand with the Dimmings’ architect to create a hiding spot for the Marantz DLP video projector that would beam bright and beautiful images onto the screen. Before the projector could be mounted to the ceiling, though, a wooden turret was created to completely encase the machine. “The turret probably cost more than the projector itself,” Dorsey says. However, the end result was well worth the expense. The housing complements the architecture of the room perfectly and keeps the technology under wraps when the Dimmings want to use the room for other activities.

One of those activities might include listening to music. The home theater, as well as several other rooms of the house, was fitted with small in-wall speakers and keypads that connect to a whole house music system. From a keypad positioned near the pool table, the Dimmings can turn on the CD player, select a track and hear the music clearly from the Polk speakers planted nearby. No matter what’s playing downstairs, anyone upstairs can choose something different. Even the outdoors is no stranger to music. Soundscape outfitted the front porch and pool area with waterproof keypads and speakers. Each music zone is driven by its own stereo receiver and amplifier to ensure that no matter how far the tunes travel, they always come through crystal clear. “The one thing about having high-quality music systems is that even music we don’t particularly like ends up sounding good,” Henry says. The Dimmings doubt they’ll be chillin’ with a medley of hip-hop tunes anytime soon, but having so many different types of songs at their fingertips has helped expand their musical repertoire. Variety has also proved to be helpful to the couple in their home theater. Satellite, cable and broadcast programming are all available to the Dimmings. “It’s what I call redundancy,” says Henry. “I can watch cable channel 13, broadcast channel 13 and satellite channel 13.” If a thunderstorm throws out one type of programming, the Dimmings can always switch to something else. A generator and backup battery power also keeps the home humming in a power outage.

Survival of the Fittest
Good bones are essential to the health of any house, but it also needs a strong heart to keep it pumping. The Dimming residence has the best of both, combining tried and true construction techniques of yesteryear with some of the most sophisticated and robust electronic systems available today. It’s a foundation that will help the home stand up to whatever sea storm or new technology gets thrown its way. No matter how long the house lives, it will always feel fresh and modern, thanks to the fantastic entertainment systems inside.

More Photos


This coastal gem has been built to last…and wired for enduring convenience.


The homeowners use a hand-held touchscreen-style remote to operate the entertainment setup in the sunroom..


Custom cabinetry houses the TVs and various collectibles, as shown in this view from the kitchen.


Multiple units of the same remote make it a breeze for the owners to operate the entertainment systems in the various rooms.


The basement includes a home theater with a 106-inch (diagonal) screen which is motorized to roll up into the ceiling.

Equipment List

Home Theater
Marantz VP8100 DLP video projector
Draper 106-inch diagonal video screen
Panamax surge suppressor
Marantz RC5000i LCD remote
Sony HD DirecTV receiver
Pioneer Elite DVD player
Sony Hi-Fi VCR
Polk 5.1-surround-sound processor and speakers
Polk in-wall speakers (2)
Sony DSS diplexer

Other Entertainment Areas
Sony 27-inch V Series TV
Philips 34-inch HDTV
Sony HD DirecTV receiver
Sony DSS diplexer
Sony Hi-Fi VCRs
Polk 5.1-surround-sound system with speakers
Polk DVD/CD player
Polk in-wall speakers
Polk in-ceiling speakers
Niles in-wall volume controls
Sony 20-inch flat TV
Yamaha 3-disc bookshelf system with speakers
Sony 13-inch TV
Sony 27-inch flat-screen TV
Sony DSS receiver

Zoned Music System
Polk speakers (for kitchen, dining room, foyer, living room and porches)
Niles in-wall volume control (1 each for kitchen, dining room, foyer and porch)
Xantech SmartPad3 keypad
Rockustics Octorock outdoor speakers (4)
Xantech waterproof keypads (2)
Yamaha RX496 stereo receivers (2)
Yamaha RX777 stereo receivers (2)
Yamaha 4-channel amplifier
Niles infrared repeater
Niles SPS4 speaker selector

Telephone System
Panasonic KX-T123211D system
Panasonic speakerphones (27)
Panasonic wireless phones (5)
Panasonic door intercoms (3)

Electronics Design & Installation
Soundscape Audio/Video Specialists
Baltimore, MD

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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