Sky Loft Showcase
This 1,200-square-foot "Miami modern" condo doubles as an occasional residence and a sleek show home.
The five-seat theater makes the most out of the 10-foot-wide room. Photo by Barry Grossman.
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September 10, 2007 by Steven Castle

Jeffrey Smith doesn’t always stay in his “Miami modern” condo. And when his adult daughter comes to town, she usually falls asleep in the home theater. The 1,200-square-foot Sky Loft, as Smith calls it, doubles as an occasional residence and a sleek show home for Smith’s design company, First Impressions Design & Management in North Miami, FL.

“We were looking for a place to showcase technology and design,” says Smith, who purchased the condo in 2001 and took the next three years to design a new interior, gut the old one and rebuild it, including pumping concrete up 21 levels for the terrazzo floors. Smith brings his potential clients through this residence, which is decorated with a mid-century modern flair that deftly conceals a host of present-day electronics.

Noguchi tables, Richard Schultz patio chairs, Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs and other modern furnishings in cobalt blue, apple and key lime green create a wistful palette throughout. It hardly seems the stuff of intimidating electronics. Smith presses a home button when he enters, and the Somfy motorized shades roll up, the LiteTouch lighting system turns on to preset levels, and the Crestron whole-house music system plays soothing tunes over the Niles in-ceiling speakers. It’s all managed by a Crestron control system with a couple of touchpanels and a small handheld remote that Smith can slide in his pocket.

The homeowner shows his guests how one plasma screen slides out of its hiding place in a cabinet over the bar area and how another is concealed behind a work of art in the bedroom, which is also equipped with in-ceiling Atlantic Technology speakers. He shows them the hidden appliances in the kitchen and the LCD TV screen above a bath vanity. He takes them out to the patio, where the music from the wall-mounted Niles speakers accompanies the views over the water to downtown Miami and South Beach. 

But the piece de resistance has to be the spare bedroom … er, we mean the home theater. This 10-by-16-foot room features just five seats in its narrow confines, but it boasts a 72-inch Vutec screen and masks powerful James Loudspeakers behind a grille and the fabric side walls. Also hidden behind those fabric panels are the entire equipment rack and some acoustical treatments that absorb and diffuse the sound. “We take people in there and say ‘What do you hear?’ Nothing. That’s the first piece of enjoyment in there,” Smith says.

The room is acoustically isolated so sound from the outside doesn’t get in and sound from the powerful system doesn’t annoy the neighbors. And we’re talking about a powerful system, with a Lexicon amp and controller driving those James Loudspeakers in a 7.1 configuration. “When you sit in the back and the bass kicks in, like in the final race scene in Seabiscuit, you can feel the horses running,” Smith says.

The room was built as a “room within a room,” meaning there are two separate walls along the perimeter, with a space in between. In addition, the floor is “floating,” meaning it is decoupled from the walls to avoid transmitting vibrations. A Marantz 1080p DLP projector concealed in a housing in the back provides clear images. The high definition is superlative in that room, Smith says.

So what’s this about a spare bedroom and Smith’s daughter falling asleep in the home theater? Well, the home theater is the spare bedroom. The two front chairs have hidden casters to roll them out of the way, and the three chairs in the back row double as a motorized sleep sofa that pulls out and inflates a 71⁄2-inch-thick air mattress. All the chairs are CineLoungers made by Smith’s home theater design company, First Impressions Theme Theatres.

“The bedroom concept was all Jeff’s,” says Jim Pearson of electronics installation firm Creative Media Designs of Boca Raton, FL. “We had to work within a very small space and make sure he was happy. He’s seen a lot of rooms, so his standards were high.” Creative Media Designs and Smith chose the James flush-mounted 10 X tower speakers to fit the sound requirements of the space, and smaller subs and the 72-inch screen were specified to fit the room size as well.

“We’ve changed out the projector three times as new ones [have] come out, because Jeff’s looking for the latest and greatest,” Pearson says. “And we’ll be putting in a Blu-ray player, too.”

Though Smith loves chilling out in the screening room to an action movie or concert video, he finds that it’s not the place in the condo he visits most often. “The first place I tend to go is the last place I thought I would spend a lot of time, and that’s the terrace,” he says. “I’ll have a drink and enjoy the view. I have XM Satellite Radio and CD music [for] audio, and the handheld Crestron remote allows me to do anything from there. Then I might have dinner at the bar and watch the plasma TV.”

Not bad for an occasional residence.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
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.

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