Tech Living, Clutter-Free and Easy


Credit: Tim Lee

These suburban New York homeowners didn’t let high tech clutter up their contemporary style, but they did let new home controls enhance their daily lives.

Mar. 18, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Where’s the basement home theater room? What, no 100-inch screen and jazzy theater chairs? There’s a 60-incher in the playroom—but the three teenagers have to share the TV because none of their rooms have one?

These suburban New York City homeowner’s aren’t technophobes or Luddites. They just wanted a way technology could improve their daily living, without taking away from the look of their home. The house doesn’t have a dedicated theater room, but it boasts several above-average-size displays, three rooms with full surround sound, carefully placed architectural speakers, home automation that includes wireless touchpanels, extensive lighting control and networking that helps feed the whole-house audio. Working with custom electronics pros, architects and designers who understood the homeowners’ concerns made the influx of technology more palatable—and ultimately more enjoyable. (Click here to view a slideshow.)

To See or Not to See?
That question had a simple answer when architect Roz Young of The Young Company discussed entertainment plans and options with the homeowners. They wanted to keep the TVs’ prominence to a minimum, and one solution to that was “out of sight, out of mind.” Enter the custom electronics (CE) pros, Integrated Electronic Solutions (IES) of White Plains, N.Y., whose work on stealthy plasma screen installations was just one important aspect of this overall home systems solution.

The house’s open-concept layout and contemporary interior design would only enhance the impact of the great room and family room displays. This, in turn, inspired the homeowners’ to want to limit that impact.

“Immediately we suggested that all the electronics equipment go in a closet somewhere so [they wouldn’t] be seen,” says IES president Anthony Bartolomeo. “That led to the conversation of a television in the living space. As much as they wanted one, they didn’t want one. Once we had an understanding of the feel of the home, we designed around that.”

IES and the homeowners were most creative with the high vaulted ceiling in the great room. All eyes turn to the large stone fireplace, flanked by built-in bookshelves, all of which rise to an alcove ceiling. The initial thought was to install a flat-panel TV that could be mounted within the room’s shelving and articulate toward viewers. But the 55-inch plasma that was requested didn’t work in such a high-traffic area.

“We decided to locate it more centrally, above the fireplace, which we found was better for the seating arrangement in the room,” says Bartolomeo. “Once we realized we had enough room above the fireplace for a lift, Roz wasn’t hesitant at all.”

Young, who had worked with IES on other home projects, coordinated with local metal workers and a Venetian plaster contractor so the SVS Lifts motorized lift device would look completely flush when retracted into the 6-foot soffit cavity. Lowering the 250-pound lift at the push of a button can be quite a site for guests to behold.

Put the Audio Away
The tuck-away TV solved one aesthetic problem, but what of the accompanying surround sound? “The interior design was very clean and uncluttered, and that went for everything: furniture, lighting, audio and video,” Young says. “There’s no good spot for a grille or a speaker, that’s pretty much the philosophy, but the sound and viewing have to work perfectly together. Making the audio invisible was a challenge.”

Young worked with IES to incorporate Boston Acoustics in-wall speakers within the bookshelves, and a pair of Sonance surround speakers in other walls. Even two in-wall Velodyne subwoofers pump out bass while hidden from view. In this room and others, most speaker grilles were painted to match the wall finishes.

Early in the project, a mechanical closet next to the basement playroom was designated as the central equipment hub to which IES routed cables. One rack primarily contains house-wide audio gear, amplifiers and cable TV boxes, while the other handles surround-sound equipment and home automation controllers. The racks were raised about 4 inches off the floor in case of any water leaks, and ample ventilation was piped into the room to keep gear properly cooled.

The Crestron automation (programmed by John Meyer of Crestron specialists Elexos) keeps the tunes flowing throughout the house, with selections accessible from a number of touchpanels. Rather than program page after page of choices for each family member, the owners and children can pop an iPod into one of the Crestron docking stations around the house for favorite music and playlists—Mom’s office and the playroom naturally being two of those locations. Apple Airport Extreme routers enable networking of iTunes apart from the Crestron docks.

“I’d say the greatest benefit of [the installation] is being able to play digital music throughout the speakers in the house,” says Mom. “The kids really enjoy being able to use their iPods in the docking stations, especially when they have friends over.”

Playtime for All
Rather than being a traditional “man cave,” this family’s playroom is more of a “teen cave.” But it doesn’t stray much from the home’s overall design theme.
A long custom wall cabinet contains a desk, shelves, toy bins—and a 61-inch Samsung 1080p DLP screen. Multicolored sliding panels hide or reveal areas of the wall unit, again providing an option to keep a TV out of sight when turned off.

Audio in the playroom is stealthy as well, with much of the surround sound flooding the space via four Sonance in-ceiling speakers, complemented by a Focal center channel and Velodyne subwoofer.

Mom and Dad aren’t completely against their children having individual teen caves in their bedrooms. The rooms were even readied with Verizon FiOS wiring. “Our decision to limit the electronics in the kids’ rooms was purely a parenting decision,” Mom says. “They have laptop computers with a wireless network, which can be used for homework and leisure time, but we also have the ability to remove those options simply by taking away the laptop. We also wanted to encourage the kids to utilize the comfortable family spaces that we created, so we can spend leisure time together.”

Lights … Touchpanels … Action
One way to eliminate clutter, while adding usefulness, was employing an extensive lighting control system tied into the Crestron automation. The home is blessed with natural light through tall great room windows, for example, along with plenty of accent and mood lighting. But the potential wall acne of dimmers and switches almost put a blemish on this part of the project.

“The original lighting plan had some very large switchboxes, which were aesthetically not pleasing,” says Bartolomeo. “We introduced them to a Lutron [HomeWorks] lighting system, which consists of simple single-gang keypads that integrate with the Crestron system.”

Lighting designer Peter Romaniello of Connecticut-based Conceptual Lighting redesigned the lighting plan to ensure that the lighting complemented the home’s contemporary interior design, and that its control (programmed by IES managing partner Dean Valencic) would allow more than one zone to be engaged at a time. “With open architecture you always have to think about not only adding focus to the room you’re in, but also the lighting in the adjacent room so it doesn’t feel dead,” he explains.

About 16 lighting loads cover the home’s open great room, kitchen and family room space, so control and scene-setting solutions made sense. In the kitchen, a COOK scene boosts lights to full brightness for food preparation while adjacent rooms are dimmed, for instance. A MORNING scene lights the way from the bedrooms to the kitchen to the mudroom and out the door. For entertaining, a PARTY scene will dim the living and family room to 50 percent, turn on patio and front entryway lights and emphasize artwork in certain areas.

More to Come
The lighting system took time to fine-tune, but the scenes are constantly in use, especially in the kitchen and great room areas. As with other aspects of a sophisticated home control system, there was a learning curve (see sidebar “Going to Class”) that is ongoing for these homeowners.

Wired and wireless Crestron touchpanels provide access to most of the lighting, music and climate controls. A 10-inch model by the bustling kitchen proved pragmatic, as the family uses it to call up the different scenes and music selection. But maybe the biggest benefit of this home system is that Mom and Dad stepped into the slightly scary world of technology and found that they could do so on their terms.

So what’s next? “Now that we’ve been in our home for a while, we’re thinking of more ways that the Crestron system can work for us,” Mom says. “When we started this house project, it was hard to envision how we would live in the space as our children grew older. The technology in our home is keeping pace with our teenagers, and that says something.”

Systems Design and Installation
Integrated Electronic Solutions
White Plains, N.Y.

The Young Company
Scarsdale, N.Y.

Eve Robinson Associates
New York, N.Y.

General Contractor
D&R Schappach
Brookfield, Conn.

Conceptual Lighting
South Windsor, Conn.

Lutron Programming
Dean Valencic, Integrated Electronic Solutions

Crestron Programming
John Meyer, Elexos
Rosemont, Ill.

Cabinetry & Metal
Foley Waite Associates; Premium Grade Millwork; Metalworks

Master Bedroom:
Crestron TPS-FPW
Crestron WMKT-2000L
Crestron TPS-2000L 5” Touchpanel
URC MX-3000
Fujitsu 42” Plasma
Panamax M8-EX Power Protection
Chief IC-LP-FM1 Wall Mount
Boston Acoustics P400 On-Wall Speakers
Focal Chorus 706 S Wall-Mounted Speakers (2)
Integra DBS-6.9 Blu-ray Player
Monster Wire and Cabling

Master Bath:
Sonance VC30RIM D W Volume Control
Sonance Symphony S623TR In-Ceiling Speakers (2)

Family Room:
Muxlab 500050 Baluns (2)
Crestron CNRFGWA RF Receiver
Crestron ST-1700C 5.7” Touchpanel
Fujitsu 42” Plasma TV
Chief PNR-U Swing Wall Mount
Integra DTR-4.6 Surround Receiver
Middle Atlantic Rack Shelf
Sonance Ellipse 1.0 LCR In-Ceiling Speakers (3)
Sonance Symphony SRS-1 In-Ceiling Speakers (2)
Sonance Virtuoso A800D In-Wall Amp/Woofer
Sony DVP-NS90V DVD Player
Monster Wire and Cabling

Crestron TPS-4000L 10.4” Touchpanel
Sonance Symphony S623TR In-Ceiling Speakers (2)

Crestron CEN-IDOC iPod Dock
Sonance VC30RIM D W Volume Control
Sonance Symphony S623TR In-Ceiling Speakers (2)
Crestron Crescat cabling
Monster Interconnect Cable

Living Room:
Muxlab 500050 Baluns (2)
Sonance Sonafill In-Wall Anti-Resonance System
Crestron MC2W-C17PAK Control Package
Fujitsu 55” Plasma
Panamax Max 5100-EX Power Conditioning
SVS Lifts Plasma Lift
Integra DTR-5.8 Surround Receiver
Boston Acoustics VRI553 In-Wall Speakers (3)
Sonance Cinema Select THX SUR Surround Speakers 92)
Velodyne In-Wall Subwoofer/Amp System (2)
Integra DBS-6.9 Blu-ray Player
Monster Cabling
Proconnect Cabling

Crestron CEN-IDOC iPod Dock
Crestron TPS-2000LW 5” Touchpanel
URC MX-3000
Sharp 37” Aquos LCD
Panamax MIW-Power In-Wall Power Protection
Sanus VM400B Equipment Rack
Focal Chorus 706 S Bookshelf Wall-Mounted Speakers (4)
Sony DVP-NS90V DVD Player
Crestron Crescat Cabling
Monster Cabling

Crestron 12-Button Keypad
Sonance Mariner 52 WH Speakers (4)

Crestron Keypad
Sonance Symphony S623TR In-Ceiling Speakers (4)

Crestron TPS-2000LW 5” Touchpanel
Crestron CEN-IDOC iPod Dock
URC MX-3000
Sony 60” LCD
Panamax Max 4200 Power Protection
Integra DTR-4.8 Surround Receiver
Focal Chorus CC 700 S Center Channel
Sonance Ellipse 1.0 LCR In-Ceiling Speakers (2)
Sonance Symphony SRS-1 In-Ceiling Speakers (2)
Velodyne SPL-800 Series II Subwoofer
Crestron Crescat Cabling
Monster Cabling

Exercise Room:
Crestron TPS-2000LW 5” Touchpanel
Fujitsu 42” Plasma
Panamax MIW-Power Power Protection
Chief Tilting Wall Mount
Sonance Symphony S623TR In-Ceiling Speakers (2)

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