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From Beach House to Regular Residence
A family uses technology to turn a Cape Cod beach house into a year-round home.
kitchen
A 20-inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV hangs from the wall of the kitchen to give the Hamilton family a good view of the picture no matter where they’re standing or sitting. Photo by Tony Scarpetta.
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October 01, 2005 by Lisa Montgomery

They may not live in their beach house full-time yet, but the Hamilton family enjoys the comforts of home every time they visit.

The stunning 5,000-square-foot abode that sits peacefully on the shores of Cape Cod doesn’t see very much action most days. Right now it’s a vacation home, occupied by the Hamilton family primarily during the summer months. But their absence certainly doesn’t mean they don’t love the beachy retreat all the same. In fact, the place is so comfortable that the Hamiltons would just as soon stay there for good. That’s exactly what Cole Hamilton, his wife, Sheila, and their four kids plan to do. “We asked our architect specifically to design a vacation home that could be used as a permanent residence two years from now,” Cole explains. “We made sure that it would have the amenities that would give us the kind of comfort we would need later on.”

A spacious, open floor plan gives the family of four plenty of elbow room, while the simple decor and cozy furnishings inspire relaxation. Just about everywhere you look, there’s a magnificent view to behold—but there’s more to this abode than meets the eye. Hidden behind the walls and inside closets are a slew of sophisticated electronic systems that help create an environment that’s not only comfortable, but an absolute blast to live in.

Appealing Amenities
The Hamiltons hadn’t really considered integrating electronic systems into their house when they first started designing it. “The only thing I knew that we wanted for sure was a home theater,” Cole says. After speaking with Ben DeFilippo and Evan Struhl at Cutting Edge Systems of Westford, MA, Cole and Sheila discovered that there were many other types of systems that could enhance the comfort, convenience and enjoyment of the house. One feature that Cole found particularly appealing was the ability to control the home’s thermostats, lights, music and security systems simultaneously from a single easy-to-use touchscreen. Cutting Edge suggested installing a combination of touchscreens and keypads so that the family could manage any system from anywhere in the house. Ultimately, it was decked out with 10 control stations. “Control panels are like phones: It’s best to have one in every room,” Ben says.

In rooms where the family uses the system mainly to cue a piece of music or rev up the DVD player, Cutting Edge placed a wireless touchscreen. “This way the family can bring the controls with them to the couch,” Ben explains. In rooms like the kitchen and master bedroom, where the family commonly sets the lights, security and temperature for a party, bedtime or their departure, the touchscreens are wired into the walls. But no matter where the controls reside, the Hamiltons have no problem finding the right buttons to press. “I’m a complete imbecile when it comes to technology and I have no trouble using them,” Cole enthuses. “That’s the beauty of it. The home control system is quite complex, but operating it is very simple.”

It’s All Automatic
Placing the home’s core utilities under the aegis of a single control system makes a lot of sense for a family seeking simplicity. One button-press essentially does the job of several. “I can hit one button on the bedside touchscreen and turn everything off for the night,” Cole says. The Hamiltons use the same one-punch technique to set the lights and the thermostats as they enter the house for the first time and as they close up the place for the winter.

Even when the Hamiltons are away, the AMX NetLinx control system continues to manage the house. Every day at dusk, the system activates a group of lights inside and outside the house to make it appear occupied. If the family will be away for several weeks, Cole engages the vacation scene. This mimics the family’s lighting pattern of the previous two weeks—an effect that’s more realistic than the on-at-dusk scenario. The vacation scene also opens and closes the motorized shades randomly.

A Matter of Choice
Automation may make life easier for the Hamiltons when they are coming and going, but when it comes to their entertainment systems they wanted to remain completely in charge. The NetLinx system gives them access to two FM tuners, digital music through their cable TV service and a huge collection of MP3s stored on an AudioReQuest music server. The family enters their choice on a touchscreen, selects a room and the AMX system pipes the tune to the area. There are 16 separate music zones in the house, which gives everyone in the family a place to listen to their own music. “With everyone having different tastes in music, this system works out perfectly for our family,” Cole says. “Having the ability to hear music out on the wraparound decks and widow’s walk is also a treat.”

Variety is alive and well in the home theater as well. From a wireless AMX touchscreen the family can choose to watch a DVD or videotape. “We have quite a collection of movies,” Cole says. Some of the older ones are on video and some are on DVD, so having both a VCR and DVD player were important. Pressing either the DVD or VCR button is all it takes to get the movie on the 96-inch-wide screen. In perfectly timed sequence, the Runco DLP video projector and Lexicon surround-sound processor fire up. The Hamiltons can use the touchscreen to dim the lights or they can always keep them on if they prefer. Because the room was designed to also be a place where the family could converse with friends, movies are often played with the lights on. “We put in a full bar and a wine closet so we could use this room for more than just watching movies,” Cole explains.

Even when there’s a movie blasting out of the projector, the technology never overpowers the room. Cutting Edge Systems placed the Runco projector near the back of the room inside a teak enclosure that matches the accents and trim on the ceiling. The seven Genelec speakers and four subwoofers that rock the space were placed behind specially designed fabric walls that let the sound drift out into the room unaffected. Lastly, the DVD player, VCR and surround- sound processor were set on shelves that vanish behind a secret door. The majority of the equipment, however, is housed in two racks located in an adjacent equipment area.

With so many ways to use the room, the lighting needed to be versatile as well. The Hamiltons can use the touchscreen to darken the entire room or to keep the bar area softly illuminated. A circular ceiling cove provides the perfect spot to display special lighting effects. One touch of the touchscreen tells the I-Color system from Color Kinetics to stage a sunny day or a starry night, depending on what type of entertaining the Hamiltons are doing.

More Going On Upstairs
The home theater is the family’s favorite area to gather, but there are plenty of other entertainment options. Pioneer Elite plasma TVs reside in the family room and the master bedroom, giving the Hamiltons access to high-definition cable TV and a DVD player. Like the equipment in the home theater, the 43-inch TVs and receiver boxes in the family room and master bedroom were integrated into the design of the room from the get-go. Custom cabinetry was built to hold the equipment beautifully and to offer the family the storage space they needed.

About the only devices that weren’t fused into the structure of the house in some fashion are the LCD TVs in the kitchen and the exercise room. Attached to articulating arms, these TVs can be pulled out from the wall and swiveled in any direction—a good feature to have in rooms where people will be moving around rather than sitting.

Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em
Leaving a kickin’ home theater, automated controls and a whole-house music system behind would be hard for any family to do. The Hamiltons are taking it all in stride. The time apart has given them a chance to tweak the systems to perfection. They already know, for example, that some of the lighting scenes need to be modified and new ones need to be added. They also realize that the sojourns have given them the opportunity to master the control system before moving in, something that will make the transition from their current house to a technology-packed residence smooth and effortless. And though it may sound cliché, absence has made their hearts grow fonder for the comforts, conveniences and enjoyment of their high-tech Cape Code escape.


Equipment List

    Control System
  • AMX NetLinx control system
  • AMX 6-inch color in-wall touchpanels (2)
  • AMX keypads (5)
  • AMX wireless keypad
  • AMX wireless color touchscreens (2)
  • Whole-House Music System
  • AMX 16x16 stereo audio switch
  • AudioRequest Fusion Pro 80 digital music server
  • B&K 12x60 distribution amplifiers (2)
  • B&W in-ceiling speakers (6 pair)<
  • B&W bookshelf speakers (1 pair)
  • B&W flat-panel speakers (2 pair)
  • Niles all-weather speakers (2 pair)
  • Elan dual FM tuner
  • Lighting Control System
  • Lutron HomeWorks Interactive system
  • Lutron Maestro 3-way dimmers and switches (15)
  • Lutron Maestro smart dimmers and switches (96)
  • HVAC Control System
  • Aprilaire zone control system
  • Aprilaire outdoor temperature sensor
  • Aprilaire sensor module
  • Home Theater System
  • Stewart Luxus Deluxe 96-inch Screenwall
  • Runco VX-5000 ci DLP projector
  • Genelec in-wall speakers (4)
  • Genelec home theater subwoofer array
  • Genelec digital monitoring speakers (3)
  • Lexicon digital theater audio processor
  • Mitsubishi VCR
  • Pioneer Elite DVD player
  • Other Devices
  • Panasonic phone system
  • Holosound intercom door stations
  • Pioneer Elite 43-inch plasma monitors (2)
  • Pioneer Elite DVD players (2)
  • Sharp Aquos 20-inch LCD TVs (2)

Contact
Electronics Design & Installation
Cutting Edge Systems Corporation
Westford, MA
www.cuttingedgehome.com

Architectural Design
Janovsky/Hurley Architects
Lexington, MA
www.jha-arch.com

Builder
LeBlanc Builders
Waquoit, MA
508-420-9838

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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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