Family rooms can sport many types of looks—formal, casual, fun, modern, or traditional. This southern California space tries on a bit of everything. It mainly serves as relaxation spot for both parents and kids to sit and watch TV. Dig deeper, though, and this family space is about more than flipping channels.
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The 8-inch wireless Crestron touchpanel allows the family access to a dozen audio and video sources, plus command of housewide systems such as lighting, HVAC, security and the pool and spa (see sidebar). “They didn’t want to spend a ton of money—though there were certain [expensive] things that they really wanted, like Runco TVs and Kaleidescape—but they wanted a really good, high-value whole-house system with some nice perks,” says systems designer Patrick Martinez of Los Angeles-based DSI Entertainment Systems.
The family room was part of a major home renovation, and DSI worked closely on the project with the architect, designer and cabinetmaker. That collaboration took much of the hassle out of the installation and wiring, especially given the amount of mahogany woodwork the homeowners requested throughout the room.
That meant providing precise measurements for the cabinet cavity containing the 65-inch plasma TV and for the shelf space for the front-channel loudspeakers. The lack of traditional wall space meant bookshelf speakers were concealed behind cabinet doors finished with metal mesh to allow sound flow. A pair of in-ceiling speakers in the room’s fireplace area is used for background music listening.
To keep all eyes on the room’s main attractions, almost all of the electronics equipment is housed in a separate, centralized room. That saved on real estate in the family room and made the larger, whole-home installation easier to wire. “They were happy about not having the equipment in there,” says Martinez. “The room is pretty packed as it is, and they didn’t want to have noisy equipment or have to worry about ventilation for it.”
The only source component in the room is a Kaleidescape player stowed in a cabinet, which the family uses to play and add DVDs to the movie server. They can also tap into the centrally stored DVD player, VCR, CD player, Apple TV, iPod dock, satellite radio tuners and four DirecTV high-def DVRs (one each for Mom, Dad and daughter, and one shared by two sons).
Between the Kaleidescape server and the DVRs, anyone can start a movie or program in the family room, and then pause and finish watching it from that point in another room. Server selections have similarly been grouped into “Parents’ movie library” and “Kids’ movie library” for easy navigation from any touchscreen. DSI programmed the touchpanel so it only takes one or two steps to control virtually anything in the home, all from a cozy seat on the couch.
One big benefit to being able to access housewide controls from this family room? It opens via sliding glass doors to the outdoor pool and spa area. Those outdoor amenities are at the ready from any Crestron touchpanel as well.
Before heading out to the sweet four-way infinity-edge pool, a few button presses can turn on the pool and spa lights and temperature, and even get tunes going on the pool’s underwater speakers, which are a part of the distributed audio system.
More importantly, the pool’s SonarGuard security system can be armed or disarmed from a touchpanel, and DSI Entertainment Systems programmed the alerts into the A/V and automation. If the parents are in the family room while SonarGuard is armed and there’s been a breach, a specific tone plays through the loudspeakers, the touchpanel delivers a voice alert, and a message shows up on the user interface.
“They can also have the SonarGuard system automatically arm after a certain amount of time, and they don’t have to worry about digging around in the bushes to find a keypad for it,” says DSI’s Patrick Martinez.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.