Welcome to the Great Indoors


Credit: Gerry Evelyn

Technology blends seamlessly into a stunning natural decor.

Mar. 12, 2013 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Designers of homes in scenic locations often talk about bringing the outdoors in. But this 2,400-square-foot vacation home in northern Vermont goes all out—or shall we say all in—with real trees, willow sculptures and mind-blowing nature murals that accompany a bevy of electronic innovation.

The home is an entertainment powerhouse with a 3D home theater, two other surround-sound systems and 19 separate zones of audio. It’s super-smart with an Apple-based Savant home control system that automatically syncs media from iPhones and iPads and shuts off lights and other devices. And it’s energy-efficient, with a sleek energy monitoring system that can measure the power draw of 84 circuits in the house.

Even better, all the techno-goodies blend seamlessly into the natural decor. Speakers hide in the ceiling among clouds, a big-screen TV is concealed when not in use, and about the only electronics visible are the 15 in-wall iPod touch control docks, along with simple keypads for lighting.

An Outdoorsy Feel

This unique house is the creation of homeowners Tim and Nancy Howes, who live in California but vacation in Vermont, near Tim’s mother’s house. “It’s great to be outdoors up there, and we wanted to maintain an outdoors feel in the house,” says Tim. So they hired architects in California and Vermont, a builder in Vermont, and enlisted custom electronics firm, simpleHome, which has offices in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

The Howes decided their house would also be eco-friendly and energy-efficient. The site wasn’t a great location for solar power or geothermal heating, but simpleHome proposed Savant’s SmartEnergy Monitoring System that can measure the electricity used on every circuit in the house—so the family can check it on their iPads when they’re in residence or from afar. “It really helps us manage the house from an energy viewpoint,” Tim says.

Natural Tech Setting

The project uses nearly the entire Savant control line. Audio/video, security and HVAC scenes are accessible via the Savant In-wall Control Docks for iPod touches, while Lutron keypads operate energy-saving LED lighting. It’s all centrally controlled from three racks in the basement and a mechanical room with the lighting control panels and 13 thermostats. “The beauty of centralized control is that it gets equipment out of the room so it doesn’t compete with the aesthetics,” says simpleHome general manager Craig Heim.

That’s vital in this house, where plants drip from a stone fireplace in the great room and there’s also a willow sculpture, nature murals and even leaves painted on the floor. Press a button on the Savant Select remote, though, and an ultra-slim 55-inch Samsung 8000 Series LED TV rises from a window seat with a Bay Audio soundbar that delivers the three front channels, while surround sound emanates from B&W in-ceiling speakers in the sky mural, near a treehouse for the kids.

When the family just wants music, the Savant system uses only the surround speakers. The family’s iTunes music collection is stored on Apple TV boxes that sync automatically via Wi-Fi with their devices. The Savant system also processes and distributes Pandora and other streaming music.

Digital 3D Entertainment, Too

When more out-in-the-open entertainment is in order, the family and guests take in the view of the dedicated home theater’s 10-foot-wide Screen Excellence fabric display. It’s fed by a Runco LS-12d three-chip 1080p projector—serial number 1—with an AutoScope lens that converts images to the super-wide CinemaScope format. The projector is also capable of 3D and is accompanied by eight pairs of Runco 3D glasses, one for each theater seat.

The somewhat limited space dictated that in-wall speakers be used behind the acoustically transparent screen, so simpleHome installed CWM 7.3 models from Bowers & Wilkins. Two B&W CCM-682 surrounds and two Velodyne SC-1250 subwoofers behind acoustic panels on the side walls round out the 5.2-channel system, which is driven by a Savant card processor and Rotel amps.

Apple-easy Control

As owners of iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, Tim and Nancy love using the Apple-based Savant control system. “Being able to sit down with an iPad or iPhone and control the system from anywhere is easy and intuitive,” says Tim. “We have just about everything in the house on that system.” This includes surveillance feeds from the six high-definition bullet cameras and a 180-degree high-definition panoramic camera, as well as a video intercom at the front door. Scenes for movie watching and lighting can be set, and the system works with the Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system to operate that via the Savant app. Even more energy is saved by occupancy sensors that trigger the lights to turn off when someone has left the room.

Getting Smart About Energy

If Tim and Nancy want to see how much energy the house is using, they just press the energy icon on the Savant TrueControl iPad app, and it takes them to the SmartEnergy Monitor. Here they see an easy-to-read gauge of the energy used in the whole house or by individual circuit or system—by hour, day, week or month. By tapping on the appliances slice of a pie chart of energy consumption, for example, they can see how much electricity each appliance is drawing. “Look at that for a short amount of time, and you quickly see where your energy is going,” Tim says. “I really know now how much energy the house is using, and I’m empowered to control it.”

The system also has an away mode that puts the house into an energy-minimized state by automatically turning off all lights and audio/video equipment, setting back thermostats and cutting the water supply to the house, says Heim. In addition, emails go out to a local property manager and the homeowner when the security system arms and disarms, along with a list of who accessed the house on a weekly basis. SimpleHome can also be alerted to service anything, and can reboot some components via an Internet-connected Panamax BlueBolt power conditioning system.

Even with this bounty of digital automation, the beauty of the great outdoors is never more than a step or two away. Just by entering this rave new home, the Howes family auto-syncs their iDevices, knows their home is saving energy, and appreciates how our digital and natural worlds can make beautiful music together.

View more pictures inside this home here.


Systems Design & Installation
Westborough, Mass.,Philadelphia, PA , and Stowe, Vt.

Brothers Building Co.
Waitsfield, Vt.

Dee Bell
Point Richmond, Calif.
The Architectural Association
Waitsfield, Vt.

Interior Design
Seldom Scene
Stowe, Vt.

Oliphant Studio
New York, N.Y.

Control: Savant
Lighting: Lutron
A/V Distribution: Savant
Energy Monitoring: Savant
Video Projector: Runco
Video Screen: Screen Excellence
TVs: Samsung
Speakers: B&W, Bay Audio
Subwoofers: Velodyne
Amplifiers: Rotel
Sources: LG, Apple TV, DirecTV, Squeezebox, Roku
Networking: Cisco, Luxul, Netgear
Power Management: Panamax
Home Theater Seating: Fortress

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