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Location is everything in home ownership, so rather than part with their slightly outdated 1,800-square-foot residence in Irvine, Calif., the owners of our award-winning Before & After electronics installation took on a huge remodeling adventure that in nine months would completely transform their humble abode into a high-tech showpiece. “They wanted to convert the garage into a playroom for the kids, turn a bonus room into a home theater, switch from a traditional to a modern design and décor and integrate a powerful automation system to manage all of the home’s electronics,” says custom electronics (CE) professional Matt Bernath from Surreal Systems, Anaheim Hills, Calif.
Though the house looks remarkably different after the redo, it’s how the residence functions that really sets it apart. There are absolutely no light switches within eyesight. While he was running wire for the home’s new Savant automation system, Bernath removed 60 switches from the walls and transferred them into several closets and cabinets, where they could still be accessed if necessary. Svelte Lutron seeTouch keypads now stand in their place, having been carefully programmed by Surreal Systems to orchestrate a variety of different lighting scenes, such as relax, which sets the lights in the family room for reading and listening to music, and good night, which fires an all off command to every switch. For quick, on-the-spot control of the lights in each room, the family can touch either the dim or bright button to illuminate the space perfectly. As another option, the owners can operate the lights—as well as the security system, surveillance camera, electronic door lock and thermostat—just as easily from the Savant mobile app on their iPads and iPhones.
Like a Good Neighbor
Packed with audio muscle, home theaters produce a lot of noise. When you’re sitting in front of the big screen, it’s an enjoyable sort of noise, but when you’re trying to read in the living room or take a nap in the bedroom, not so much. When a home theater is located in a condo, where walls are shared between neighbors, the audio produced by a home theater can be particularly problematic. To prevent this guest bedroom-turned home theater from bothering the neighbors, the custom electronics (CE) professionals at Surreal Systems housed the ceiling-recessed surround-sound speakers inside“backboxes.” These metal structures insulate the audio produced by the speakers to minimize sound-seep into adjoining spaces.
Closets and cabinets were able to comfortably accommodate the traditional light switches that the owners no longer wanted to use; fitting high-end home theater equipment into the 8-by-10-foot space of a guest bedroom would prove a bigger challenge of the whole-house redo, says Bernath. “The length of the room didn’t provide the appropriate throw distance necessary between the projector and the screen, so we ended up placing the projector in the next room over—the garage.” To protect the JVC projector from moisture and dust, and to eliminate light and noise from the garage leaking through the “porthole” to the theater, Surreal Systems placed the unit inside an electronically ventilated and temperature-controlled housing. Bernath was able to tuck two Tannoy surround-sound speakers into the ceiling to conserve even more precious space. Despite the cramped quarters, the homeowner went big on the front three audio channels, using audiophile-grade Devore speakers to flank a space-appropriate 84-inch Stewart Filmscreen screen. With no real estate left in the room for the all-important A/V components, the owners swapped their side-by-side washer and dryer in the laundry room for a stackable unit to provide Surreal with a spot for an equipment rack, which also holds the Lutron lighting and Savant automation processors.
Admittedly, says Bernath, the sophistication of the Savant home automation system makes it a solution suitable for homes much larger than this updated condo, but given the homeowners’ huge iTunes library (20,000 songs and growing) and their desire to automate “everything,” it was a good fit in terms of performance. And through creative installation of the electronics equipment, Bernath and his team at Surreal were also able to physically fit a massive assortment of gear into the tight confines of a modest-size residence.
Home tech and home automation ideas:
High-Tech Home Control Additions to Your Master Bedroom
Integrated Control vs. Multiple Apps for Home Automation
How to Add Lighting Control to Your Home
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.