May 03, 2010
by Arlen Schweiger
How did people live without TV a hundred years ago? Who knows, but this roughly 100-year-old, four-story home certainly wasn’t built with electronics in mind.
However, considering the home was built as part of an exclusive St. Louis neighborhood whose residences offered a bit more to those who could afford them, it seems fitting that the current homeowners added some exciting modern tech touches to keep it ahead of the ordinary.
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If you’re into historic preservation, don’t worry. The renovation of this early 20th-century beauty was limited to the bedroom floor and the kitchen, while most of the original decor stayed intact.
When it came time to add electronics, custom pro Audio Video Concepts of Columbia, Ill., ensured that they were incorporated elegantly and tastefully. We’ll say. For the most part this remodeled master suite, including new closet and bathroom, doesn’t scream high-tech except for a small TV recessed into the wall by the closet and some wall-mounted controls. The other two TVs and the loudspeakers in this master suite? They’re hardly noticeable—in fact, the televisions in the bedroom and bathroom stay totally hidden until called upon.
“The homeowners had an older audio system and older video system, and wanted to update that,” says AVC’s Rob Roessler. “We were brought in in design stage, and met with them to find out what their needs were, and started on some basic ideas. They wanted to have multiple TV locations, and have them hidden if possible because they didn’t want to take away from the architecture of house—they were insistent on that. They also wanted audio throughout master suite; we just found room locations where they wanted speakers and we went from there.”
Most of the space had been gutted from its previous iteration as two bedrooms and a bathroom. One of the old bedrooms became a dressing area for the new master suite layout. That’s where AVC installed a phone and recessed a 26-inch LG LCD into the wall, on an articulating mount so it can extend out and angle in another direction. And in-ceiling speaker above the nearby threshold into the bathroom curved-glass shower area can pipe in music from the home’s NetStreams distributed audio system.
The other TVs were installed even more slickly to make this suite really stand out. AVC incorporated a 19-inch LCD behind the bathroom mirror, similar to something the homeowners had seen in a hotel and liked. It required a bit of finagling by the installers because unlike typical mirror TV setups, Roessler notes, the area behind it was a hallway so AVC put vents above and below the TV and created a small space above the mirror for proper ventilation. Also, infrared (IR) signal does not travel through the mirror surface to turn the TV on, Roessler adds, so a URC MX-350 radio frequency (RF) remote in tandem with a NetStreams IR-sensing keypad just outside the bathroom enables the homeowners to watch programming and listen through in-ceiling speakers.
Electronics are sparser in the bedroom, where the audio comes from the TV itself, and the 37-inch Sony LCD is cleverly concealed until it’s powered on. In this case, clever required some ingenuity on both the installer’s and contractor’s parts.
“There was a full masonry fireplace, so brick went all the way up. He wanted the TV recessed in wall and two don’t go hand in hand. He had a piece of art he wanted above fireplace, and wanted the TV flush in wall, so art could go over it,” explains Roessler. “We worked with the builder, who had taken some of the brick out of fireplace, put steel header across it, and re-bricked so it would retain construction aspects, but we would have a small pocket to deal with. We had the electrical done at that time, and told the contractor how high up the TV needed to be and the dimensions. The bottom of steel header is the top of the TV area, and down to the bottom left a little shelf there to finish off the space –- everything was finished on the inside so it looks nice when it’s open.”
Wiring to the TV was channeled through a portion of brick, and the whole wall was replastered to hide traces of it. AVC needed to take some creative wiring paths to incorporate the distributed A/V in the master suite, with equipment in the kitchen area below. It required using crawlspace in part of the remodeled kitchen. In all, the project took about a year, but the results show how much care went into modernizing this historic gem.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.