A Carnival at Home
A family with fun in its bloodlines uses electronic systems to bring joy into their home.
For Danny and his wife, Tina, their home away from the road near Wichita, KS, provides the same giddy expectation of the fantastic.
Only the setting isn’t the flashing lights of a midway but a dramatic and inviting decor that lets the spirit soar. There’s a huge 18-foot-high “horn” in the living room that houses a TV on a rotating steel drum. There’s a funky home entertainment center downstairs that provides the illusion of objects whirling in the air. There’s a huge see-through aquarium, whole-house music and more. Just like at a carnival, anything here seems possible.
“When I come home after closing the carnival on Halloween, it’s a great place to relax,” Danny says. “It’s something I really look forward to.”
Designing this kind of contemporary house in Kansas wasn’t as simple as finding someone down the street to do it. In addition, an interior designer, custom electronics installer and cabinetmaker had to communicate closely to meet the Ottaways’ needs for both home entertainment and a totally unique decor. The results, needless to say, are innovative and fun, and they make Danny and Tina feel higher than any Ferris wheel.
When the Ottaways decided to build a new house outside of Wichita, the couple had a few things in mind. First, the house would have to be a great respite to come home to after being on the road for months at a time. And after living in a traditional-style house, they wanted something contemporary. “Our old home had lots of dark oak, and we decided to lighten things up,” Danny explains. “So in our new house, all the baseboards and all the doors are light maple. And there’s no hardware on the fronts of the kitchen cabinets … The house is different enough. I don’t think it’s something we’ll get tired of.”
Like most great things in life, the house design resulted from some serendipitous events. “My wife and I really love modern design, but there was nothing in our area that offered that,” Danny says. “We were in the Fort Lauderdale area in Florida, so we went to a design center. We were talking to a woman at the store about our problem, and she said she’d like for us to meet someone who happened to be right there.”
The person was Orlando Airas, a Miami-based interior designer with a modern flair for the dramatic. He sensed exactly what the Ottaways needed—and that started with a contemporary makeover. “When we hired him, the house was already framed,” says Danny. “The exterior of the house is a traditional stone, but we wanted to make the interior modern looking.
Without him, we would have come up with a very ordinary home. And that’s not us.” A focal point Airas designed was the huge horn that extends from the floor of the room all the way to the ceiling of the second story in a beautiful quilted maple. “This was [one of] the first things he came up with, and when we saw the designs for it, we were just thrilled,” says Danny.
This is also where local custom electronics designer John Lee of A Plus Electronics in Wichita came in. Lee would have to install electronics for the living room and a whole-house audio system into a hidden equipment cabinet in the bottom of the horn, plus work a 34-inch TV into a drum of brushed steel. Further, the drum rotates so the same TV can be viewed in the kitchen behind the wall. “We knew when we were building the house that we wanted a good picture and sound and television, and we wanted something really unique,” says Danny.
Interior designer Airas’ idea for the horn was inspired by the funnel shape of the tornadoes that often visit Kansas. “They wanted TVs in the living room and the breakfast area [in the adjacent kitchen], and instead of spending money on a TV here and a TV there, I said, ‘Let’s just give you one kick-### wall unit,’” the designer explains.
Local cabinetmaker Clotia Wood & Metal Works of Wichita was hired to construct the horn, and Lee worked closely with them on some issues many custom electronics pros never face. The rotating drum itself weighs more than 350 pounds and turns on large bearings like a lazy Susan. “We had to work very carefully with the company that built [the horn] to get the right size and make sure wires to the TVs could go up through the drum and not be twisted when it’s turned,” Lee says.
“The biggest challenge was the cabinet where the equipment resides.” It houses the audio/video receiver, DVD player and high-definition satellite receiver for the great room, in addition to a whole-house music system. It’s cleverly concealed in the horn beneath the TV with doors that open at an angle (the left door opens upward, and the right door opens downward). “We had to have wires to pass from one area to another easily and be sure we had proper air flow,” Lee explains.
In-ceiling speakers deliver the sound to the living room and the kitchen behind it. But there are only two speakers in each room, because believe it or not, this isn’t the main entertainment system or the most mind-bendingly modern and different one.
Cyclone of Whimsy
Downstairs in an entertainment room is a complete home theater system that features a 65-inch TV, MartinLogan on-wall speakers, a B&K surround-sound receiver and a high-definition satellite receiver, but with a modern twist—quite literally.
Almost all of the electronics, including the TV, are invisible when you enter the room. They are concealed inside a cabinet/console that nearly defies description. A sleek black facade rises a few feet from a recessed base, and from there, steel poles support shelves of curved glass that seem to float in the air. The unit happens to sit right below the giant horn in the living room, so Airas designed the console to appear as a floating cabinet with glass and other objects spinning around, as if you were looking at a tornado and its spinning objects up close.
Most of the audio and video gear is concealed behind the front of the unit and is accessible from the rear, but Airas had no intention of hiding the MartinLogan hybrid electrostatic speakers mounted on the wall behind. “A lot of times the audio equipment is ugly,” he admits. “But those are beautiful speakers. I wanted to show them off.” Meanwhile, RBH surround speakers are tucked into the wall, and a MartinLogan subwoofer is positioned in the corner. When Danny and Tina are ready to view a show, a 65-inch Toshiba high-definition rear projection television swings out on a base from one side.
The walls are varied shades of rich blue, and the seating area rests on a colorful carpet. “It’s very relaxing to sit there and watch movies,” says Danny. “I wasn’t interested in having a room with theater seating; I was interested in having something much more casual.”
All this, combined with the wild entertainment cabinet, provides an atmosphere that is fun and imaginative.
More Fun In the master bedroom off the living room is a smaller system with a 34-inch Panasonic direct-view TV and satellite receiver, DVD player and VCR recessed into the wall over a fireplace. In-ceiling speakers provide stereo sound. The look here, however, accented by stainless steel, is more subdued.
In all, there are about 13 zones of audio distributed throughout the house, so the Ottaways can listen to any of their music anywhere. Another great feature is a large aquarium that sits kitty-corner between the living room’s big horn and its fireplace. Danny says he loves to sit in his office and look right out through the aquarium at the living room, the horn and the kitchen beyond.
With their horn of plenty in the living room, the contemporary and whimsical entertainment cabinet downstairs and contemporary decor throughout, the Ottaways have the modern and entertaining home they were seeking. In the words of carnival owner Danny Ottaway, what better way to put a smile on his face.
Cabinet of Plenty
How do you build an audio and video cabinet that’s 23 feet long with a rotating drum to display one TV in two different rooms? First, go to an extremely capable cabinetmaker, and then let that company spend about 500 hours over three to four months to construct it.
After interior designer Orlando Airas came up with the design for the giant “horn” in Danny and Tina Ottaway’s living room, Clotia Wood & Metal Works of Wichita, KS, was charged with building the creation—and did it all in one piece! First, the company built a mock-up wall of that room from floor to ceiling and constructed plywood panels to make a hollow box. Then they glued a large sheet of quilted maple veneer onto the plywood. That made the horn itself one very large piece.
The company also built a wooden frame for the rotating drum, covered it in steel and welded it. The drum sits on ball bearings to create what Phillip Baumer of Clotia describes as a “super lazy Susan.” Clotia worked closely with electronics designer John Lee of A Plus Electronics in Wichita to ensure that the wiring to the TVs would not be snagged or twisted when the drum turned. The two companies also worked together on the hidden equipment cabinet in the base of the horn to ensure there would be enough room to store the electronics as well as ample ventilation.
In all, it took 16 workers to get the one-piece horn off the truck. Once the horn was inside, a boat winch was used to lift it into place—and it fit perfectly. The rotating drum and shelves were added once the horn was securely in place. Clotia also constructed the unique entertainment cabinet in the Ottaways’ downstairs theater. A 65-inch rear-projection TV swivels out from the side of that cabinet, so the cabinetmaker and electronics designer had to create a system that allowed the wires to the TV to flow untangled in a track and extend when the TV swiveled out, then retract when placed back.
Breaking it down
- Speakers as Art
The MartinLogan Script i and Cinema i speakers used in the front of the downstairs theater setup are “hybrid” speakers, which use a combination of electrostatic technology that’s great for high frequencies and traditional drivers to deliver the low sounds. They look great, too.
- Audiophile’s Smile
According to John Lee of A Plus Electronics, “The B&K AVR507 is one of the best theater receivers in the world. It offers near what we call ‘separate’ component-quality audiophile in a receiver package.”
- Repeat that?
How do you get a signal from a remote control to audio and video equipment when the gear is concealed behind a cabinet? In Danny and Tina Ottaway’s home theater, a Xantech IR (infrared) repeater sits atop the big-screen TV to relay the remote control signal to the hidden components.
Danny and Tina Ottaway’s house took about two and a half years from design to completion.
John Lee of A Plus Electronics in Wichita, KS, had several meetings with the homeowners, one to do an initial review of their plans, another to finalize the design and a third to present the proposal.
Rough wiring took approximately one week for the entire house.
- Trim Out
Speakers, volume controls, infrared, repeating devices and all of the wall plates were installed when the painters were 80 percent finished. This part of the process took three to four days to complete. All electronics were installed after the homeowners moved in, and it took about a week to install, set up and program all the components.
Lee spent a couple of hours with Danny and Tina to train them on how to run their whole-house system.
- Kenwood VR-3100 receiver
- Russound 12-channel amp
- RBH in wall speakers
- Russound and Xantech volume controls
- Pronto TSU1000 touchscreen remote
- Kenwood CD-403 5 disc CD changer
- Toshiba SD-6200 DVD player
- Panasonic CT-34WX50 34-inch 16:9 Widescreen HiDef ready direct view TV
- Leviton QuickPort TV, phone & Network wall plates
- B&K AVR507 home theater receiver
- MartinLogan Script i on-wall speakers (2)
- MartinLogan Cinema center-channel speaker
- RBH in-wall speakers (surround sound)
- MartinLogan Descent subwoofer
- Kenwood DV-5700 DVD player
- 65-inch Toshiba rear-projection HDTV
- Xantech IR repeater
Electronics Design and Installation
A Plus Electronics, Wichita, KS
A•D, Miami, FL
Clotia Wood & Metal Works, Wichita, KS