The owners of this traditional home wanted to create a cozy family room that could be used for everything from listening to music to reading books to watching TV or movies. So there would be a home theater system, but with one catch: All the technology had to be hidden.
The 15-by-20-foot space appears as a traditional sitting room, but press a button on the Crestron handheld remote, and the work of the home systems designers at Piscataway, NJ–based Electronics Design Group (EDG) appears. If casual TV viewing is on tap, artwork in the picture frame over the fireplace scrolls up to reveal a 42-inch NEC plasma screen. If more serious viewing is on the agenda, Lutron shades lower over the windows in the back of the room, a 92-inch Stewart Filmscreen screen descends from its hiding place in the crown molding above the fireplace, and a motorized door in the opposite crown molding opens for the Digital Projection DLP projector.
Three oval-shaped Sonance Ellipse speakers with tilted and pointable drivers provide front left, center and right sound from positions in the ceiling, while two more Sonance in-ceiling speakers are used for the surrounds and augmented with a rear center Canton in-wall speaker to make a 6.1-channel arrangement. The Canton speaker was placed in the area between the windows, and its grille was painted to blend in with the walls. The Canton speaker was chosen for its slim depth, as there were only three inches available to recess it into the wall, says EDG’s Bob Gullo. The rear center channel also provides a somewhat directional surround sound, which is great for getting the full impact of fast-moving scenes, such as those with passing vehicles. “It was actually the perfect thing,” says Gullo. “With this system you get a fantastic flyover effect.”
Two B&W subwoofers are hidden behind the loveseat, and beneath the very traditional- looking sofa there’s even a Buttkicker bass transponder that turns low frequencies into vibrations. People are often surprised by that, Gullo says.
Like the Canton speaker, the Digital Projection projector had to be chosen partly for its size: It had to fit into the tight space behind the crown molding. But perhaps the toughest thing in the room was mounting the plasma screen, because it couldn’t be recessed into the wood-burning fireplace—and the Media Decor art frame would make it stick out from the wall even further. The solution: Cut away 3⁄4 of an inch of sheetrock to create a little space, hang the plasma in the art frame there, and have the wall fabric cover the sides of the enclosure behind the frame to create the illusion of the TV and frame being flush mounted. The depth provided from the columns also helps disguise the protruding frame.
And the equipment running all this? That’s hidden, too. The only components nearby are a DVD player and VCR in an adjacent hi-fi audio room.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates