A High-Tech Hollywood Hideaway
Modern design and technology turn an outdated Los Angeles home into the ultimate getaway for a pair of peace-seeking owners.
The glitz and glamour of Hollywood seem a million miles away the second you step into David McCallen’s recently remodeled hillside home. That’s exactly what he and his partner intended when they set out to refurbish the outdated three-bedroom abode that’s tucked away in a quiet, wooded neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills. “We wanted it to be a place where we could escape the rush of the city and completely disappear,” says David.
It would take plenty of elbow grease to change both the home’s appearance and infrastructure. David would take care of the redesign, transforming what used to be a swinging single’s pad into a stylish, modern dwelling featuring an open floorplan with a sleek, modern decor. “It would look nothing like it did before,” says David. “The previous owner had put a Jacuzzi off the living room and converted a room into a tanning salon. It was the consummate bachelor’s pad—definitely not something that suited us.”
Modernizing the house would also call for a complete electronics redo. David’s partner was the perfect candidate for the job. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve dreamed about having the kind of home where I could just press one button and have all kinds of things happen,” he says. “Technology is a passion of mine.” Having installed electronic systems into other people’s homes for years as a professional home systems contractor, he had a clear vision about what do in their own place.
Given both homeowners’ busy schedules, the two knew they would benefit from a system that would allow them to monitor and control their home’s temperature, swimming pool and spa, window shades, surveillance cameras, and audio and video equipment from anywhere on or off the property. A Crestron Pro2 automation system would streamline the process to just a press of a button on a wall-mounted or portable Crestron touchpanel, a telephone or PDA, computer keyboard or a Universal Remote Control MX-850 handheld remote. “With the Crestron system, we can do things like turn on the outdoor Jacuzzi from the bedroom or from the phone while we’re driving home,” David enthuses. “We might also tell the system to turn on the music and activate the pool lights.” In an instant, the Crestron system has prepared the patio for an impromptu backyard get-together.
The Crestron system also allows the homeowners to view real-time images captured by the web-based Panasonic surveillance cameras positioned inside and outside the house. Engaging the web control button on a touchpanel transfers the video to the screen of any PC or TV. The couple can pan, tilt and zoom in the cameras for a better look by using the navigation buttons on a handheld remote. Also, just as they can with all the products managed by their Crestron system, they can access the cameras from anywhere in the world through a web connection.
The home’s three touchpanels and eight remotes fire off a slew of other commands, like directing the window shades to open and close, the thermostats to raise and lower, the whole-house music system to turn on and off, and the home theater to power up and down. Despite the enormous degree of control the Crestron system provides, the technology is nearly imperceptible. “We wanted it all to look very stealth,” David says. Most of the electronic equipment, except for a pair of home theater speakers, is hidden inside a custom-designed cabinet, and only three slim touchpanels are visible. “We rely mainly on our remotes for control,” David continues. “That way when we have a party, we can just put the remotes inside a couple of drawers and make the technology disappear.”
Guests may have a hard time seeing the technology in this house, but they can definitely hear it. The place is loaded with built-in Sonance speakers that pump out songs from the owners’ huge collection of CDs that have been stored digitally on a 250-gigabyte AudioReQuest music server. That’s stowed, along with a host of other components, in a central equipment cabinet in the home theater. The owners can view the titles of their music library on the screen of any PC or TV, then use a handheld remote to enter their selections. They can choose to have different songs play in each of the home’s six independent listening zones or have the same piece play throughout the property.
Just as the music moves from the theater equipment cabinet to speakers throughout the house, video can travel from a main rack of components to multiple TVs. In this case, a VideoReQuest server delivers movies from two Sony 400-disc DVD players to the TVs, including a 22-inch Panasonic LCD TV in the hearth room off the kitchen, a 37-inch Sharp LCD TV in the office, a 42-inch Panasonic plasma HDTV in one bedroom and a 45-inch Sharp HDTV LCD TV in another bedroom.
Most of the TVs are mounted to the wall or suspended from the ceiling, but in the bathroom the owners used the backside of the vanity mirror to hold a display. Designed by German company Ad-Notam, the mirror and 15-inch LCD TV come as one unit custom-engineered to withstand the moisture of a bathroom environment and to function both as a mirror and an entertainment display. The TV is only noticeable when it’s turned on. When it’s off, it disappears from sight.
To give viewers the freedom to watch whatever they want from wherever they want, every TV is equipped with its own HDTV cable box with an integrated digital video recorder. The owners went a step further in the two master suites by incorporating a five-disc DVD player and 5.1 surround-sound system in each space. “Once you’re in a bedroom, you’re in your own electronic world,” says David. “You can watch something that’s completely your choosing, but you’re always free to tap into something that’s playing on the whole-house video distribution system.”
The bedrooms also have two distinctly different looks, representing design standards from both sides of the Atlantic. In David’s “American” room, the speakers are tucked into an alcove, a mounting technique that’s commonly practiced in the United States, where the walls of homes are constructed mainly of drywall. For his partner’s “European” room, the speakers are surface-mounted just as they might be in a home in Europe, where brick and stone walls are the norm.
Convening in Comfort
Alone time is good for any relationship, but the technology in this house also instills a sense of togetherness. No space does that better than the home theater. Sporting a Sim2 1080p video projector and a 110-inch Stewart FireHawk screen, along with a crescent-shaped reclining sofa, a rich-colored Turkish rug, and elegant draperies, the room is a real crowd pleaser. The burgundy-hued projector and rosewood-accented Meridian DSP5200 front left and right speakers stay out in the open, having been selected by the homeowners as architectural pieces that would enhance the room aesthetics. The screen hangs from the ceiling when it’s being used, but rolls up into a space between the ceiling beams to instantly transform the high-end theater into a formal living room. The heavy draperies that blanket the huge windows are motorized too, enabling the homeowners to darken the space by simply pressing the movie button on a Universal Remote Control handheld remote. In addition to signaling the Lutron Sivoia QED shading system, the command also activates the Meridian G68 audio/video processor and the projector, tells the screen to descend and directs the VideoReQuest server to show on a list of movies on the big screen.
It’s the Little Things
A powerful control system and sensational entertainment setups, combined with a sleek, contemporary design have given the 3,000-square-foot home a second wind. Of course, the homeowners aren’t about to let their place go to the dogs … and they mean that literally. “We have two dogs, and that means a lot of hair to clean up,” says David. Just like other tasks in the home, he and his partner have taken the high-tech route to housecleaning. Every day, five automated vacuums whisk away the dust, dirt and dog hair. “A few years ago I bought a Roomba from iRobot and loved it so much that I kept adding more,” says David. At 2 a.m. the vacuums detach from their docking stations to clean the floors in the main living areas. During the day, the vacuums upstairs go to work. The vacuums may not be the most glamorous electronic products in their house, but for David and his partner, they’re still an important facet of a high-tech lifestyle. “It’s just one more chore that we don’t have to do,” they agree. With fewer items on their to-do lists, the owners are free to relax and enjoy the awesome systems in their house. And that’s exactly what they had intended on doing.
Crestron Pro2 system
Crestron TPMC-8 WiFi touchpanels (2)
Crestron TPS-2000 touchpanel
Universal Remote Control MX-950 handheld remote
Universal Remote Control MX-850 handheld remotes (5)
Universal Remote Control MX-3000 handheld remote
Sim2 HT380E 1080p HDTV video projector
Stewart Filmscreen 110-inch FireHawk screen
Meridian G68 audio/video processor
ReQuest music server
ReQuest video server
Toshiba Media Center PC
TiVo HD DVR
Microsoft Xbox 360
Elan D-1650 audio distribution amplifier
Furman Elite-15 power conditioner
Richard Gray’s Power Company 400 power conditioner
Marantz SR5600 audio/video receivers (2)
Sony 5-disc DVD changer
Moxi HDTV 40GB DVR cable boxes (3)
Apple Mac mini computer
Marantz DV4500 DVD player
Sony DVP-NS 75H DVD player
Meridian DSP5200 front speakers (3)
Meridian DSP420 center-channel speaker
Meridian DSP33 rear speakers (2)
Velodyne DD-12 subwoofer
Sonance in-ceiling Symphony single-stereo speaker
Sonance Sound Advance SA2 invisible speaker
Sonance in-wall Symphony speakers (5)
Velodyne SPL1000 subwoofer
Sonance Dali on-wall Symphony speakers (5)
Velodyne DLS3750 subwoofer
Sonance Extreme in-ceiling stereo speakers (6)
Sonance Mariner 52 speakers (6)
Panasonic 42-inch HDTV plasma TV
Panasonic 22-inch LCD TV
Sharp 45-inch HDTV LCD TV
Ad-Notam 15-inch mirror TV
Sharp 37-inch LCD TV
Return to full story:
Lutron Electronics Sivoia QED motorized shades
Panasonic web-based surveillance cameras
Uniden wireless phone system
Jandy RS pool and spa controls
iRobot Roomba vacuums (5)