Where’s the basement home theater room? What, no 100-inch screen and jazzy theater chairs? There’s a 60-incher in the playroom—but the three teenagers have to share the TV because none of their rooms have one?
These suburban New York City homeowner’s aren’t technophobes or Luddites. They just wanted a way technology could improve their daily living, without taking away from the look of their home. The house doesn’t have a dedicated theater room, but it boasts several above-average-size displays, three rooms with full surround sound, carefully placed architectural speakers, home automation that includes wireless touchpanels, extensive lighting control and networking that helps feed the whole-house audio. Working with custom electronics pros, architects and designers who understood the homeowners’ concerns made the influx of technology more palatable—and ultimately more enjoyable. (Click here to view a slideshow.)
To See or Not to See?
That question had a simple answer when architect Roz Young of The Young Company discussed entertainment plans and options with the homeowners. They wanted to keep the TVs’ prominence to a minimum, and one solution to that was “out of sight, out of mind.” Enter the custom electronics (CE) pros, Integrated Electronic Solutions (IES) of White Plains, N.Y., whose work on stealthy plasma screen installations was just one important aspect of this overall home systems solution.
The house’s open-concept layout and contemporary interior design would only enhance the impact of the great room and family room displays. This, in turn, inspired the homeowners’ to want to limit that impact.
“Immediately we suggested that all the electronics equipment go in a closet somewhere so [they wouldn’t] be seen,” says IES president Anthony Bartolomeo. “That led to the conversation of a television in the living space. As much as they wanted one, they didn’t want one. Once we had an understanding of the feel of the home, we designed around that.”
IES and the homeowners were most creative with the high vaulted ceiling in the great room. All eyes turn to the large stone fireplace, flanked by built-in bookshelves, all of which rise to an alcove ceiling. The initial thought was to install a flat-panel TV that could be mounted within the room’s shelving and articulate toward viewers. But the 55-inch plasma that was requested didn’t work in such a high-traffic area.
“We decided to locate it more centrally, above the fireplace, which we found was better for the seating arrangement in the room,” says Bartolomeo. “Once we realized we had enough room above the fireplace for a lift, Roz wasn’t hesitant at all.”
Young, who had worked with IES on other home projects, coordinated with local metal workers and a Venetian plaster contractor so the SVS Lifts motorized lift device would look completely flush when retracted into the 6-foot soffit cavity. Lowering the 250-pound lift at the push of a button can be quite a site for guests to behold.
Put the Audio Away
The tuck-away TV solved one aesthetic problem, but what of the accompanying surround sound? “The interior design was very clean and uncluttered, and that went for everything: furniture, lighting, audio and video,” Young says. “There’s no good spot for a grille or a speaker, that’s pretty much the philosophy, but the sound and viewing have to work perfectly together. Making the audio invisible was a challenge.”
Young worked with IES to incorporate Boston Acoustics in-wall speakers within the bookshelves, and a pair of Sonance surround speakers in other walls. Even two in-wall Velodyne subwoofers pump out bass while hidden from view. In this room and others, most speaker grilles were painted to match the wall finishes.
Early in the project, a mechanical closet next to the basement playroom was designated as the central equipment hub to which IES routed cables. One rack primarily contains house-wide audio gear, amplifiers and cable TV boxes, while the other handles surround-sound equipment and home automation controllers. The racks were raised about 4 inches off the floor in case of any water leaks, and ample ventilation was piped into the room to keep gear properly cooled.
The Crestron automation (programmed by John Meyer of Crestron specialists Elexos) keeps the tunes flowing throughout the house, with selections accessible from a number of touchpanels. Rather than program page after page of choices for each family member, the owners and children can pop an iPod into one of the Crestron docking stations around the house for favorite music and playlists—Mom’s office and the playroom naturally being two of those locations. Apple Airport Extreme routers enable networking of iTunes apart from the Crestron docks.
“I’d say the greatest benefit of [the installation] is being able to play digital music throughout the speakers in the house,” says Mom. “The kids really enjoy being able to use their iPods in the docking stations, especially when they have friends over.”
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.