Just because you have a historic home doesn’t mean you can’t have modern-day conveniences, such as a nice home entertainment system. Take this Asheville, NC, house, built in the early 1900s and designed by Richard Sharp Smith, one of the architects of the famous Biltmore estate.
This house is considerably more homey than the Vanderbilt digs, and this family room is a pleasant place to sit for a conversation or to read a book. But to use it as a full-blown home theater system? That required some creativity.
The first challenge confronting electronics installation company Harmony Interiors of Asheville, NC, was locating the right spot for a video screen and seating. With bay windows on one side and an open area on the other, the only logical place for a screen was in front of a window on another wall.
Harmony built a soffit to hide a pull-down 92-inch Draper screen, and constructed a false beam to hide the Sony LCD projector. That would preserve the room’s timeless, period look. After all, says Harmony’s Scott Varn, “When you’re dealing with a house that is truly historic, the last thing you want to see is the technology.”
However, placing speakers and wiring everything together through old-time plaster-and-lath walls was another challenge altogether. Harmony decided on tiny cube-like Bose speakers that could mount to the walls and be painted to match, thereby making them as inconspicuous as possible. An equipment rack would go in a closet in an adjoining space, in back of the left wall of the family room.
The projector wiring ran through the false beam and right into the closet, and one of the rear surround speakers was nearby for easy wiring, but what of the front speakers and the right-side surround speaker? The front speaker wires were routed through the new soffit and down into a basement space and to the rack, bypassing the plaster-and-lath walls. And the right surround channel wire was routed behind some door trim and into the basement. A Bose Acoustimass subwoofer even fires up from the basement through a floor vent in one corner. The screen didn’t need to be wired, because it is pulled down manually. (A touch of the past, perhaps?)
A Control4 system automates things so that music or movies can be called up on-demand from hard drive-based media severs. The temperature and security cameras can also be monitored from the big screen. “The last problem to solve was the lighting,” says Varn. “There were no overhead lights, so antique lamps are used, but they could not be dimmed. The Control4 system came to the rescue with plug-in lamp modules that allow lights to be dimmed individually or as scenes.”
Finally, the reflective acoustics of the room were softened with heavy drapes and tapestries on the walls, keeping this space nice and cozy—and historic.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates