Desert Home Stuns with Automation, Views


SILVER WINNER: Best Home of the Year

Arizona home full of automation and mountain views.

May. 03, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

We’ve got to hand it to the owner of this gorgeous part-time residence in Scottsdale, Ariz. He’s in his late 70s and shows no signs of slowing down. Not only does he keep tabs on the North Carolina-based business he owns while he’s away, but he also works on a daily basis even when he and his wife are staying in the Southwest rather than the Southeast. A big reason he has never let technology pass him by. Quite the opposite, he’s turned to electronics to benefit both his business and home life.

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“He wanted something really simple to use, with central controls,” says Kris Kostner of local custom electronics firm Cinemagic. “He didn’t really have priorities other than wanting quality speakers and good sound throughout the house. Other than that, we threw a lot of ideas out at him, and there aren’t a lot of things we didn’t do.”

That’s an understatement. The homeowners may not have specified everything they wanted automated, but they did have a good understanding of what whole-house home controls could achieve - to the point where the husband picked Control4 as the automation hub of choice. Aside from a basic request to keep audio and video as discreet as possible, the homeowners entrusted Cinemagic to devise how electronic controls could optimally enhance the residence. That meant not only audio and video, but lights, shades, heating and cooling, surveillance, swimming pool, networking and more were fair game.

The result is one of the most robust Control4 installations we’ve seen, which incorporates a mix of practical and playful elements befitting this 10,000-square-foot home. That’s typified in the dedicated theater room, with its combination of both artistic and cinematic flair.

But the rest of the home by no means takes a back seat to the theater. The level of technology is evident before one sets foot inside. At the bottom of the driveway, the entry gate can be accessed through the Control4 automation system or the Cisco IP (Internet protocol) phone system. When someone buzzes at the call box, alerts are sent to every Control4 touchpanel in the home, and a snapshot from one of the 11 surveillance cameras is taken and transmitted. The owners can then pick up a phone and talk to the visitor on the intercom or simply press a button on the touchpanel to let him in. The gate can also open and close at preset times for hassle-free entry by gardeners and such.

As people wind their way up to this hillside home, they’ll notice plenty of lighting accenting the cactus-lined driveway and the glowing exterior. Much of the outside lighting is instructed by an astronomical clock to illuminate from dusk until 10 p.m. A goodnight scene programmed into the Control4 system dims the exterior lights (and interior ones) and shuts the gate if it has been left open.

All of the water features outside can be controlled remotely. This includes the temperature, pump, overflow and lighting controls of the dual-infinity-edge pool and spa, and on/off functions of two fountains and patio misters.

Then there’s the interior of the home. Lighting control is prominent throughout, as Control4 devices are used to operate the roughly 350 wireless ZigBee dimmers and switches. To simplify the control of so many lights, in-room touchpanels are generally locked to operate the lighting in that room only, aside from global settings like goodnight, or pathway lighting from the garage to the kitchen, for example. Motorized shades enhance the lighting scenes by opening and closing on command from a touchpanel.

As for the homeowner’s request for quality sound throughout, 30 zones of music, including five surround-sound areas, and lots of Bay Audio loudspeakers have it covered. Pairs of in-ceiling speakers serve most rooms, but Cinemagic made necessary changes to tricky spots like the dining room. In there, a barreled hardwood ceiling would have made built-in speakers difficult to install and unsightly, says Kostner, so instead the team mounted two bookshelf-sized models above the perimeter soffit.

“We mounted the speakers facing upward so you don’t see them, and used the ceiling as sort of a parabolic reflector,” he explains. “So they’re invisible, and the sound is surprisingly good.”

About 350 CDs were loaded into a Control4 server, and music from an AM/FM/XM tuner and DirecTV boxes can also be selected. Cinemagic also incorporated A/V details like installing flat-panel TVs, many of which were surrounded by cabinetry, on articulating mounts to appear as if they are floating and flush with the millwork.

Of course, for daily business use, one of the most important high-tech features for this homeowner is the computer networking system. Cinemagic set up the remote network so if a call is transferred to him or if he needs to access something on the server in North Carolina, it’s as if he’s right there instead of 2,000 miles away. Plus, because of the Control4 programming, it runs both ways - when the owners are in North Carolina, or anywhere else with a web browser, they can manage the Arizona home controls in a matter of clicks.

Mountain Charm
The dedicated theater room in this Arizona home blends right in with its surroundings. It’s one of the few areas in the house not blessed with beautiful panoramic vistas of the nearby mountains, so Cinemagic brought the local mountain ranges inside.

They’re not just pretty pictures, either. Crafted from dual 1-inch-thick acoustic absorption layers and spaced another inch apart so the edges could be backlit, the mountain mural silhouettes act as acoustical treatments for the theater walls.

The murals fade like the night sky from the rear to the front of the theater, and viewing movies in there really makes the owners feel like they’re outdoors. The ceiling received a fiber-optic starfield, but like the murals, it’s not any old design. 
The stars and constellations are oriented to correspond to the direction the room faces, and are arranged to recreate how the sky looked on the owner’s birth date. Filler stars can be dimmed to make constellations like Orion and the Big Dipper 
further stand out.

When the theater fires up, shooting stars may turn off but others remain on and don’t impact the images on the 120-inch SMX CinemaScope aspect ratio screen. The Marantz projector can beam Blu-ray and satellite TV content, and speakers and subwoofers from Sonance and Artison can rock the room. The front channels of the 7.2-channel surround configuration hide behind the acoustically transparent screen, while the rest of the surround speakers and Artison subs are concealed in the walls.

An equipment rack dedicated to the room’s components and sources provides easy access for repairs or tweaks, and a 7-inch wireless Control4 touchpanel provides easy operation of all the room’s electronics.

Systems Design and Installation
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Home Size
10,000 square feet

Control4 HC300 - control processor
Control4 TSM7 - 7” wireless touch panel
Integra DHC-9.8 - preamp/processor
Integra DTA-9.4 - Amplifier
Artison RCC600SA - subwoofer amplifier
Samsung BD-P1500 - Blu-ray player
Marantz VP-11S2 - projector
Prismasonic H-FE1500R - anamorphic lens
Custom mount interface for lens/projector
SMX ProCurve 120 - acoustically transparent 2.40:1 screen
Sonance Cinema Ultra II - in-wall speakers (7)
Artison RCC600SM - in-wall subwoofers (2)
Control4 LDZ-102 - dimmers (5)
Control4 LSZ-102 - switches (2)

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