The owners of this luxury, custom-built house have regained an appreciation and fondness for home technology. Not that they every really hated it. “They just weren’t all that happy with it or believed that it added any real value to their house,” explains Justin Dohman of custom electronic design and integration firm Smart Homes of Texas, McKinney, Texas.
Hired recently by the couple to install electronic systems into their house, Dohman says it was their experience with a high-end home automation system years ago that had them questioning the usefulness of technology to their lifestyle. “The system they had been using did what it was supposed to do but was overly complicated and confusing to interact with,” he continues.
Those feelings of discontent would take an unexpected turn, though. After their home was destroyed in a major fire and plans for a rebuild commenced, Dohman introduced them to a new type of home automation system—one that could be monitored, managed and controlled from an iPad app, and would be carefully programmed to make interacting with audio and video components, the lights and thermostats as effortless as turning on the kitchen faucet. They decided to give home technology another try.
As the couple drew up plans for the 14,000-square-foot rebuild, not much would change design-wise from their previous house. “It was almost an exact replica,” says Dohman “except for the home control system.” Rather than follow in the unfortunate footsteps of the homeowners’ previous integration firm, Dohman chose a completely different control system; incorporated devices that would simplify rather than confuse the process of operating lights, thermostats and other gear; and integrated a more robust and versatile audio and video system. Dohman would top off the technology overhaul with a fresh, modern take on design.
Breaking into Song
This time around, the couple decided to focus much of their attention—and electronics budget—on a whole-house audio system. They wanted music to touch every part of the house, not so much for serious, critical listening but for background music to enjoy while cooking, relaxing or hosting a dinner party. “She [the lady of the house] especially likes to have the music on as she goes about her day,” says Dohman. “And her taste is very eclectic. One day it might be Top 40 hits, the next classical piano music.” Most of the time, the songs come from an iPod that’s docked in one of three in-wall iPort cradles. However, there’s also plenty to stream from an integrated Sonos system.
Music can travel to three independent surround-sound systems, as well as to 32 pairs of Focal IC 908 speakers. Recessed into the ceiling of every room, almost every speaker pair is accompanied by an in-wall Velodyne subwoofer. “Even though they listening casually, having the bass of a subwoofer really adds to the experience,” Dohman says. Each subwoofer is driven by its own amplifier, and backboxes for the speakers were built into the walls to maximize their output.
Related: Give Your Built-in Speakers an Audio Boost
Toys in the Attic
As important to the owners as their audio system’s performance, was its appearance and its ease of use. Every speaker grille was painted to match the surface of the ceiling, and custom grille cloth was applied to cabinetry custom-designed to hold the front left, right and center speakers of each surround-sound system. “The painter did such a good job, you’d never know there were $300,000 worth of speakers and subwoofers in this house,” says Dohman. And absolutely nothing gives away the power behind the audio, as every amp, processor and player was neatly tucked away in an air-conditioned attic. “The owners didn’t want to see the equipment or even be close to it, for that matter,” Dohman explains of their choice to utilize the attic for A/V storage.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.