They’re the movies you’ll never forget. No matter how far technology progresses, classics like The Godfather, Casablanca and Citizen Kane have an appeal that spans generations of movie-viewers. And no matter how many times you watch them, they always seem fresh and exciting every time you pop them into the DVD player. Tom and Debbie Melina of Hopkinton, MA, felt the same way when they began building their house three years ago. They wanted their new abode to be just as enjoyable 20 years down the road as it was the day they moved in. For the Melinas, creating a classic home meant having a whole-house music system that could play a variety of songs simultaneously, a room that performed as well as their local cinema and conveniences like automated lights and electronic window draperies.
The Melinas didn’t have to go far to find what they were looking for. Their builder, Peter Karassik of Eligius Homes in Sudbury, MA, had been working with ImageTech Home Theater Systems, an audio/video installation firm from Worcester, MA, for the past five years. When Tom and Debbie signed on with Eligius they were immediately introduced to John Brusa, president of ImageTech Home Theater Systems. “The timing was perfect,” Brusa says. “Before the builder broke ground, the homeowners and I were able to nail down exactly what kinds of systems they wanted for their house.”
Over the course of several meetings, Debbie shared things like her love of music and her desire for a special room for watching movies. “In our last house we had a very antiquated type of music system—kind of a starter system,” she says. “I knew that if we ever built, we’d put in a fabulous music system. With the family’s priorities in order, Brusa helped them determine exactly where they’d like the music to travel and how they’d like to control it. The consensus: The music should go everywhere imaginable with Crestron’s ATM-like touchscreens directing the tunes.
Tom and Debbie’s children, Mathew, 17, and Meghan, 13, are no different than most teenagers. They absolutely abhor their parents’ choice of music. “One of my favorites is Chris Botti,” says Debbie. However, the kids liken Mom’s taste to hotel elevator music. “Needless to say, a system that could play only one song throughout the entire house would never work for our family.” Say no more. With the system Brusa selected, the Melinas never have to argue over what’s spinning in the CD player. The Elan VIA!dj music server is able to distribute three different songs simultaneously to three different areas of the house. “My daughter can blast the music in her room and I’m never bothered,” Debbie says. Still, no system is completely bulletproof. “My kids do get annoyed when I turn on the whole house while they’re still sleeping,” Debbie jokes. “But it sure is a good way to get them out of bed.”
The VIA!dj preserves domestic harmony in other ways as well. One DVD-sized machine holds every CD the family owns. But unlike a typical CD player, which uses mechanical carousels to cart the CDs, the server converts the music to MP3 files that can be stored digitally on its built-in hard drive. About 15,000 songs fit onto the drive, which eliminates storage issues for the family. “I can buy a CD, insert it into the server and in minutes the music is stored,” Debbie enthuses. “Then we’re free to take the CDs in the car, put them in a drawer or just give them away to friends.”
The home’s Creston touchscreens are a perfect match for the huge capacity of the VIA!dj. Using any one of more than a dozen touchscreens, the Melinas can browse album covers and narrow choices based on artist, genre and other categories, and send those selections to specific areas of the house. One of the family’s favorite places to kick back with music is on the veranda. “The first time I heard the music outside, I was blown away,” Debbie reflects. “It sounds as good as having your own three-piece band playing in your backyard.”
As much as the Melinas already enjoy their whole-house music system, they have bigger and better plans for it. “Eventually, when our pool is finished we’ll add music to that area,” says Debbie. ImageTech Home Theater Systems trenched speaker wiring to several spots in the yard so that the pool area would be ready for music. While they wait for the pool and speakers to go in, the family will have time to master the touchscreen-style remote they use to operate the music system from outside.
A touchscreen turned out to also be a terrific tool in the home theater. Tom and Debbie chose some very sophisticated equipment for this room, but operating it couldn’t be simpler. With a couple presses on the touchscreen, the room springs into action. In perfect sequence, the lights dim and the DVD player, CRT video projector and surround-sound system rev up. The screen—a massive 110-incher from Stewart Filmscreen—is affixed to the front wall, always ready to present bright, vivid images to its viewers. Debbie says the atmosphere rivals that of the best commercial theaters, with one exception: the chairs. “The seats we selected for the room may look like the kind you’d see at a movie theater, but they are much more comfortable,” she explains. The custom-designed motorized chairs recline and give massages on demand. “After sitting in these seats, it’s hard to go back to a movie theater.” Other creature comforts are close at hand. The proscenium below the screen doubles as storage for blankets and pillows. “When the family is cozying in for a winter movie, they’ve got everything they need,” Brusa says.
Although the home theater oozes with electronic features, the majority of the equipment is completely hidden from view. Brusa worked closely with the Melinas and the mill worker, Gabe Audette of Advanced Interior Woodworking of Southborough, MA, to ensure that even the mammoth video projector chosen for the space would go undetected. A wooden enclosure was fashioned to match the coffered ceiling to disguise the machine as a beautiful architectural element. The special millwork didn’t stop there. The room’s heating and cooling registers were designed into the millwork to lend a cleaner, more attractive appearance than standard metal registers. “It’s a little touch,” John admits. “But it makes a huge difference to the design of the room. Had we used regular registers, they would have stuck out like a sore thumb.”
The rest of the audio and video equipment stays completely out of sight. Most of the speakers were installed into the walls and covered with acoustically transparent fabric. The large center-channel speaker was stationed behind the video screen. Although the speakers are hidden within the structure of the room, they still sound magnificent. Both the fabric and the screen were manufactured so that the sound filters cleanly into the room.
The DVD player, high-definition cable box and surround-sound processor are stowed inside a small room just steps away from the theater. John added the equipment closet to the blueprints of the house right away to ensure that it received proper ventilation and lighting and would permit access to the backs of the equipment.
Up Against the Wall
The home theater may be the best place to catch a movie, but it’s definitely not the only spot where video entertainment rules. Themaster bedroom, the kids’ bedrooms, the master bathroom and the kitchen each have their own flat-panel TV. Most of the TVs are wall- mounted to save space. “I didn’t want any big entertainment units or TVs as big pieces of furniture,” Debbie explains. “The plasma and LCD TVs are out of the way and actually look pretty.”
In addition to ridding her residence of “bulky black boxes,” Debbie was adamant about minimizing the number of light switches. “This is a big house, but I didn’t want to end up with 50 switches on the wall,” she explains. For this task, Eligius Homes put her in touch with Custom Electrical Contracting, Inc., of Framingham, MA. The company installed a Lutron HomeWorks system, which consolidates several switches under one sleek wall keypad. From any keypad, the family can set groups of lights to the perfect intensity level.
“It’s a great help when we’re entertaining,” says Debbie. The same keypads can be used to activate outdoor fountains and to raise and lower electronic window shades.
Back For More
With so much entertainment at their fingertips, the Melina family may never leave their house again—and that’s exactly what they were hoping for. The electronic systems deliver their favorite music and movies effortlessly to all areas of the house, creating an atmosphere that’s always fun no matter how many times they’ve pressed the play button. Now that’s a classic!
Home Control System
- Crestron AV2 processor
Lighting Control System
- Lutron HomeWorks
Heating and Cooling Control
- Aprilaire intelligent thermostats
- Crystal View CV-1 9-inch
- CRT front projector
- Faroudja NRS video processor
- Lexicon MC-12B audio processor
- Genelec 7.1-powered loudspeakers
- Stewart Filmscreen Luxus StudioTek 130 16:9 110-inch screen
- Integra DPS-9.1 DVD player
- Crestron ST-1700C wireless touchscreen
- Motion Works HTS-090 Seating (8)
Audio/Video Sources Systems
- Crestron audio and video distribution
- Middle Atlantic equipment racks
- Furman surge suppressors (2)
- Triplight surge suppressors (6)
- Élan Via DJ! music server
- Crestron ST-Tune FM Radio tuners (2)
- Crestron XM-tuner
- Crestron ML-500 hand held controller
- Gallo Acoustics D’Diva surrounds (2)
- Snell AMC-760 LCR in-wall speakers
- Snell Basis 150 Subwoofer
- Pioneer PD 504 50-inch plasma
Kitchen/Dining Room Areas
- Crestron TPS-3000 touchscreen (2)
- Crestron CT-1000
- Snell AMC-680r in-wall speakers (3)
- Sharp LCD-TV
- Crestron TPS-3000 touchscreen
- Crestron CT-1000
- Panasonic 42-inch plasma TV
- Snell AMC-680r in-wall speakers (2)
- Sharp LCD TV
- Crestron CT-1000 (6)
- Snell AMC-680r in-wall speakers (8)
- Sharp LCD TVs (3)
- Crestron CT-1000 (3)
- Crestron ML-500 controller (2)
- Stereostone Stereo Rock Stealth
- Snell AMC-680r in-wall speakers
- Elan OH-650 loudspeakers
Electronics Design & Installation
ImageTech Home Theater Systems
Eligius Homes Co., Inc.
Follow Electronic House
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.