December 01, 2005
| by Lisa Montgomery
Even the simplest remodeling projects somehow seem to take on a huge life of their own. You know the story: All you had intended to do was replace the old kitchen cabinets, and the next thing you know, you’re laying new tile, squeezing in stainless steel appliances and putting in a more colorful countertop. When all is said and done, just about everything has been ripped out, replaced or refurbished.
John and Deborah Buscema know all about renovations like these. In less than two years, they more than doubled the size of their 3,600-square-foot home and incorporated a slew of advanced electronic systems that have dramatically enhanced the way they live. “It was more than just a remodeling project,” John recalls. “We rebuilt the house so that it was exactly the way we wanted it—to be more family friendly.”
All Together Now
With 9,000 square feet to stretch out in, John, Deborah and their two children have more than enough elbow room to get comfortable. Still, living in a large house does have its challenges. Turning off the lights before bedtime, tracking down runaway DVDs and locking the door and windows were all big-house hassles that John wanted to avoid. He figured a home automation system could handle many of those tedious chores for him.
As the renovation commenced, John contacted Michael Esposito, owner of Audio Video Excellence of Pleasantville, NY, to design and install a control system that would allow the family to operate every electronic component in the house with very little effort. Already familiar with the Crestron line of home automation systems (John had been using a Crestron system on his yacht for a few years), John had no worries about putting a computer-driven system like the Crestron PRO2 in charge of the lights, heating and cooling system, security system, audio/video equipment, motorized window shades and swimming pool. “Having all of the systems in my home integrated and working together was very important to me,” John relates. “I knew it would make life so much easier.”
And it did. Instead of visiting multiple light switches, thermostats and security keypads to prepare the house for bedtime, the Buscemas touch just one button to put things in motion. This single bedtime command turns off the lights, lowers the thermostats and activates the security sensors. Audio Video Excellence placed several touchpanels throughout the house, so there’s always one nearby. For some routines, though, the Buscemas need not do anything at all to have their house respond. For example, when John opens the back door to let the dog out, the corner floodlights and tree lights turn on automatically. They turn themselves off a few minutes later.
Another aspect of the Buscemas’ lives that has changed since living with an automation system is their social calendar. “We’ve found that we entertain a lot more now,” John says.
High-definition flat-screen TVs, satellite receivers, TiVos, built-in speakers and more media than you can cram into a bookshelf give the Buscemas plenty of playing power in nearly every room of the house. But what makes the entertainment setup really special is how fast the family can find a specific CD or DVD from the hundreds of titles in their music and movie collection. From the screen of any touchpanel, they can view their choices and touch the desired movie or song title, and the Crestron system delivers the goods to the TV screen or speakers of choice. “It’s a lot easier than digging through a pile of CDs and DVDs,” says John. In fact, the Buscemas’ CDs and DVDs have long been packed away. A total of four media servers—two for the videos and two for music—hold the entertainment on their internal hard drives. There are also two TiVo units for storing TV programs.
Having a total of six servers definitely gives the Buscemas plenty of room to add more music, movies and shows to their entertainment library, but the main reason for having so many servers, John explains, was so he and his wife could keep their entertainment separate from the kids’ movies. “We found that having one TiVo is awesome, but eventually the kids’ shows dominate it.” With a TiVo and DVD of their own, John and Deborah can rest assured that Barney won’t wind up on the parent playlist.
A Do-It-Yourselfer Is Born
Creating music playlists has actually become somewhat of a hobby of John’s. “It’s one of the best things about having these servers,” he exudes. From any PC in the house, John can group all of his favorite tunes together for a party, for example. “Then I just let the music play for hours.” It’s not just parties that might call for a special playlist, though. The Buscemas can categorize the songs by genre or artist to play at random times of the day.
Lighting design is another area where John has become highly involved. After researching the different types of lighting systems available, the tech-savvy homeowner settled on one that would allow him to create his own lighting scenes without needing to call an Audio Video Excellence technician for help. John started by installing special “smart” switches and transmitters from Powerline Control Systems (PCS) where traditional light switches would ordinarily go. After that, he was free to begin setting up lighting scenes, “all of which can be done entirely at the switches,” he says. “I can change the dimming levels and program the switches to control whatever group of lights I want.” Like any renovation, achieving the perfect lighting arrangement is a work in progress. “That’s why I picked the PCS system,” says John. “I can keep tweaking it on my own time.”
When John isn’t tweaking his music playlists or, you might find him huddled over a project in the garage or one of his workshops. Even in these outbuildings, there’s no stopping the entertainment. Audio Video Excellence outfitted these spaces with built-in speakers and touchpanels, just like the ones the Buscemas use in their house. There’s even a floating waterproof remote for controlling the music from the swimming pool.
There’s only one spot that beats them all for serious entertainment: the rec room downstairs. Here’s where the biggest screen in the house resides—a 110 incher. Getting the screen—as well as the video projector—to fit into the small space above the ceiling wasn’t easy, recalls Audio Video Excellence technician Frank Palazzetti. “We had to get a little creative to squeeze them in,” he says. “Fortunately, Draper had come out with a special low-profile lift for jobs just like this.” Thanks to the lift, the room transforms gracefully from a place to hang out with friends to a serious home theater.
One command from a Crestron touchpanel signals both lifts to drop the screen and projector into the room. The same touchpanel can be used to activate the room’s colored rope lights, motorized window shades and nearly a dozen pinball machines. In seconds, the room springs to life, ready for any occasion. Whether it’s relaxing with music at the bar, challenging the kids to a game of pinball or watching an action flick in the home theater, the Buscemas’ newly renovated home is made to entertain. And no matter how large their entertainment library grows or how elaborate their get-togethers become, the Buscemas are sure of one thing: They’ll be able to handle it all with a simple touch.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.