This Denver home is prime example of how to balance new technology and old charm, especially when the homeowner, the builder and the custom electronics (CE) pro are on the same page. The home itself is actually a new construction, but one built by Chalet Development to really fit the surrounding neighborhood’s vintage feel with its beautiful brick exterior and extensive interior woodwork. On the inside, homeowners Bryan and Shannon Fitzgerald were looking for modern touches that would deliver them some audio and video pizzazz for entertaining, as well as more sophisticated controls such as proper lighting to highlight their art and a robust security system to monitor their alleyway garage. That’s where local CE pro Smart Home Systems came into play and culled together a technology solution that for around $48,000 provides convenient A/V, eye-pleasing aesthetics and priceless peace of mind.
“Our philosophy is to sit with the client and do a needs analysis, and then say ‘This is what we can do to meet those needs,’” explains Smart Home Systems’ John Young. “Security, and having everything controlled from one interface, was a big factor for this couple. Being able to check cameras remotely whether they were at home or traveling, and making sure AC temperature was the right level and the lights were on tied directly into their security concerns.”
Young designated a Crestron MC-3 control processor to handle centralizing the requests, with one of the keys behind the choice being the automation system’s support for strategically placed sensors and associated notifications. With an extensive wine collection, the couple’s wine cellar became an area where a sensor could monitor the room’s temperature and send text alerts if the AC was malfunctioning there, for instance.
(View images of this entire home here)
Meanwhile, the ability to monitor (and record) Axis surveillance cameras from a variety of Crestron controllers or iPads lets homeowners keep tabs on areas such as the front door and the garage—which in this neighborhood is accessed through an alley behind that bisects the city block “so everybody drives down it, but it’s a single-car street and becomes a huge blind spot,” Young says. Plus, a sensor on the garage door alerts the Fitzgeralds if it has been left open, pinging three Crestron MTX-3 remotes, two iPads and a touchpanel in the kitchen.
Not only are the cameras critical to the security system, but Smart Homes programmed the Crestron lighting control to work hand-in-hand with it. The automation primarily involves main-level and exterior lighting, with aspects such as an “away” scene triggering lighting usage (the system basically learns use patterns) in a randomized manner to create the illusion that the home is occupied—for example, kitchen lights don’t go on right at 6 o’clock night after night if the couple is on vacation, because that predictability could indicate as much to any spying eyes.
Incidentally, the push for lighting control also aided some of the aesthetic elements to this mixing of old and new. The builder was ready to install multiple wall-plate switches horizontally on the side of the kitchen island to handle the various lighting loads in there (pendants, in-ceiling, under-cabinet, etc.) until Young began discussing how a streamlined lighting control system—which includes wireless dimmers—could keep such “wall acne” to a minimum.
“The lighting scenes, which create a ‘mood’ every night, including illuminating our art, and the over-security we get from the controlled lighting and cameras when we’re home or away” are among the most important and used aspects of their system, according to Bryan Fitzgerald.
In other areas of the home, Smart Home Systems worked closely with the cabinetry makers to install wall-mounted TVs in a completely unobtrusive manner so it doesn’t take away from the architecture. In the living room, for instance, the gap around the Samsung LED TV is a mere 3/8th-inch thanks to a custom trim frame. “One of our main focuses is actually the trim,” says Young. “It’s the difference between a basic cabinet and fine woodworking—even if we’re just hanging a TV flat on the wall, we’ll use a similar in-wall box and trim so that it looks more like a framed picture.” In-ceiling speakers from Episode enhance the unassuming A/V presentation.
Other nifty tricks Smart Home Systems worked into the project were more of the behind-the-scenes variety that came about with “afterthought” requests, but produce some dramatic effects nonetheless. To have a screenshot captured at the front door and sent to the touchpanel when the doorbell is pushed, a spare antenna wire was used to trigger the Crestron processor sensor. Similarly, Smart Home hardwired the temperature sensor in the wine cellar via what previously served as a security wire for the sump-pump system—which they replaced with a wireless water sensor. Finally, an RS-232 serial cable that Smart Home had routed as an extra wire to the master bedroom TV came in handy for control purposes instead when the homeowners asked if it was possible to turn on and off the fireplace from a remote control while lying in bed—Young detoured the wire to the fireplace switch, added another sensor and bingo!
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.