May 03, 2010
by Lisa Montgomery
When you entertain large groups of people, as do the owners of this 11,000-square-foot-home, it helps to have an open area outside where people can mingle. A swimming pool provides a great place to hang out, as does a barbeque pit and kitchenette. Then there’s technology. Normally reserved for the indoors, a theater and a slew of speakers can really impress guests.
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The trick to adding technology outdoors, says Don Russell of Southern Cinema Design of Cumming, Ga., is finding products that can blend into the landscape without compromising performance. He and his team were able to achieve both goals for this extensive backyard project. Every stitch of hardware is cleverly hidden: speakers are in the bushes, components are in an outdoor equipment closet, and a projector and screen are tucked under the roofline of a rotunda.
Only when the owners press a button on a Control4 remote does the technology reveal itself—and then the whole environment changes. The effect can be different depending on the type of gathering, the time of day and the preferences of the family. For an afternoon barbeque, the owners might grab a handheld remote to cue their Control4 whole-house music system. XM Satellite Radio and Rhapsody provide an array of musical choices. The system simplifies the selection process, though, having already categorized the music by genre, favorite stations and so on. The owners enter their selections on the Control4 remote, iPhone or keypad mounted near the patio door.
A total of 15 weather-hardy speakers ensures that the entire acre is enveloped in music. Southern Cinema Design chose weatherproof models only—mainly from Klipsch and StereoStone—including speakers styled like rocks, units designed to be tucked inside planters and others that mounted to eaves and other structures.
Since the pool is a popular place during the day, the owners can choose to have music play through the speakers in that area only. Or they can fire up the speakers serving the basketball court and the fire pit. Southern Cinema Design set up the music system to treat each of the three outdoor areas as an independent listening zone so everybody can listen to something different at the same time.
When night falls, video and lighting take the stage. A full-fledged projection system in the rotunda and a commercial-grade, weather resistant Klipsch surround-sound system transform the area into an outdoor cinema. A few button presses on the Control4 remote begins the transformation: the waterfall that spills into the pool from the top of the rotunda stops, the 123-inch Stewart Filmscreen descends from a soffit on the ceiling in the rotunda, and the A/V gear stowed inside an equipment closet in the rotunda activates.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.