May 01, 2006
| by EH Staff
Most days, the library in this traditional New England home functions as a comfortable spot to settle in with a good book. Filled with plush furniture, stately bookcases, sun-drenched windows and a magnificent fireplace, it’s a favorite room of the entire family. At 256 square feet, the space is roomy as well, making it a great place for the homeowners to entertain company or play games with their three children. The owners have two choices when it comes to entertaining in this area. They can keep the room as is to enjoy a quiet conversation with friends, or they can pick up the Crestron wireless touchscreen remote from the coffee table, push a button and transform the space into a high-end home theater. Magically, an 82-inch Stewart Visionary screen lowers into the room from the ceiling. Positioned over the fireplace, the screen becomes the focal point, ready to display high-definition video, DVD movies and video games. Although it’s not as large as some stand-alone video screens, it was the perfect size to view from 12 feet away, says Joe McNeill, senior sales consultant at Electronics Design Group, the Piscataway, NJ, based firm hired to incorporate a complete home theater system into the room while keeping the hardware hidden. “The homeowners are very much into technology,” says McNeill, “but they didn’t want the room to look high tech.”
The screen is the only part of the home theater system that ever reveals itself. The rest, including a Runco DLP video projector, seven Sonance Virtuoso speakers and an impressive rack of audio and video components, stay out of sight at all times. The projector, for example, is entirely concealed within a soffit near the entrance to the room. The wooden structure matches the uniquely designed beams that stretch across the ceiling, making the soffit look more like an architectural detail than a home for a video projector. The projector doesn’t give away its hiding spot when it’s running, either. Most projectors emit a humming noise, but this one stays quiet, thanks to the acoustical materials that were added to the interior of the soffit. With the exception of a small hole that was cut away for the lens, the video projector is nearly invisible.
The room’s surround-sound speakers also keep a low profile. Installed to be nearly flush with the ceiling, all seven units are out of anyone’s direct line of sight. Even if a person did look up, he probably wouldn’t notice them. Faux painted to match the ceiling, the speakers virtually disappear into the woodwork. Using only ceiling-mounted speakers is a departure from traditional theater designs where the front three speakers are either placed in or on the front wall. However, a pivoting mechanism built into the Virtuoso speakers allowed the devices to be angled toward the listening area for a genuine surround-sound effect.
Any source that the family needs to handle, including the Rotel DVD player, the JVC VCR and the Hughes high-definition satellite receiver with TiVo, are stationed in the room. But like everything else, they’re hard to pick out, hidden behind the doors of a custom-crafted cabinet. The remaining equipment, including amplifiers, processors and controllers, is tucked inside a Middle Atlantic rack in a nearby closet.
A lighting control system and motorized window shades are equally important to the transformation of this multipurpose family room. Like the home theater gear, these systems are controlled by the Crestron touchscreen remote. The same command that juices up the audio and video equipment also lowers the Lutron Savoia blackout shades and tells the Lutron Homeworks system to fade out the lights. With the lights off and the windows covered, the space exudes the look and feel of a real movie theater.
From a demure library to a rockin’ theater, there’s nothing subtle about the transformation that takes place in this room. But as dramatic as the differences are, getting from one extreme to the other is incredibly simple for the family. Even though they can’t see or touch the home theater equipment, it’s all at their fingertips, making this one stealthy yet homey space for everyone to enjoy.