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Working on a spec home is a proposition that requires both ingenuity and finesse to pull off successfully. Not only does the home need to amaze potential buyers, it has to appear to be an incredible value. This award-winning hunting lodge, surrounded by acres of Louisiana wilderness, was designed by builder Blair Construction and the custom electronics (CE) professionals at Advanced Technologies, Baton Rouge, La., to do just that.
“Blair Construction had planned to showcase this house in a local Parade of Homes event. And, as with most builders, the electronics budget was not very large,” says Advanced Technologies president Thomas Marino. As such, Marino was given the demanding task of making the moderately priced installation outperform some higher-priced alternatives.
While the house-wide Leviton Security & Automation system includes some impressive features, like the ability to feed audio to surround-sound systems, and sensors that activate the lights and other devices, it’s the home theater that tends to wow visitors. The entire budget for both the whole-house system and the theater was $95,000, with the theater comprising the lion’s share at around $75,000.
The home theater is located above the garage “because no one is sleeping underneath it,” says Marino. This is a good thing, considering the room is very loud, with large but inexpensive Cerwin-Vega! XLS-12 speakers and a Velodyne Impact 12 subwoofer hidden within the room. “We tuned this room precisely, with specs very close to THX standards,” says Marino.
At the back of the space is a projector port, behind which sits a JVC DLA-RS40 projector—a model that Marino loves for its value at only $4,500. With this lower price tag, it was also a perfect fit for the builder’s tight budget.
As one of the most critical parts of a whole-house automation system and home theater, the main control room (this is where the audio/video components and automation processors are housed) of this hunting lodge is an exercise in meticulous attention to detail. Inside are whole-house surge suppressors and a conductive floor by Flexco. All cables are color-coded, trimmed with color-matching Heatshrink, and grouped together with coordinated color-matching Velcro straps. “Future remediation work is made much easier because of this organization,” says Thomas Marino of Advanced Technologies.
“We were going to install a smaller screen, but by putting the projector in the back of the room, we were forced to get a bigger one, which turned out great,” says Marino. He chose the massive Vutec Vu-Easy 145-inch projection screen for its high gain and high contrast. “Now, the video is perfectly balanced and looks great on or off,” he adds.
Feeding the audio/video system in the home theater are components located in the theater itself, including a Samsung Blu-ray player and Onkyo receiver. The column next to the exposed equipment rack is actually a door that allows Marino to get behind the equipment for upgrades and adjustments. “Building a door in the column actually saved us around $500,” says Marino. The entrance to the theater is at the rear of the room. Guests can walk in, go into the cove at the back of the room to mix a drink, and take a seat at the bar or in one of the comfortable La-Z-Boy–powered theater seats.
Because the home’s Leviton security system is integrated with the garage home theater, audience members can also use the big screen to access a view of the outdoor area. A Nuvico “Deer Cam” can see 500 feet out into the woods and can be instructed to display the image on the theater screen. Should someone step onto the property, speakers in the theater and the rest of the house broadcast an announcement as notification.
Blair Construction and Advanced Technologies worked together to install the finishing touches in the room, minus an interior designer, including the faux stage under the screen where the subwoofer and center speaker reside behind transparent speaker cloth, as well as the fiber-optic star ceiling and millwork.
Last, but certainly not least, is the URC MX-6000 touchscreen remote control, one of three remotes used to operate every electronic system in the house. “Any remote control you pick up will have the exact same macros, meaning you can use them from room to room,” says Marino, who has even applied this same principle to remotes that work not just from room to room, but from house to house. Using one remote for multiple rooms is a great cost-saving strategy, especially for this spec home, where it’s often the builder or Marino who will be showing off the system. Complete remote access to the automation system is also possible, allowing potential homeowners a view of their home when away.
While the interior is handsome, the picture and audio quality very good, and the operation of the electronics simple, it’s the theater’s economical prowess that Marino touts as the most impressive aspect of the project. “We pulled it off under budget. What truly makes this theater unique is that it is so inexpensively done.”
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