The winding cobblestone driveway and abundance of rosebushes at the entrance is charming, albeit somewhat ordinary. But when the perfectly aged, 12-foot-tall arched wooden garage doors open to reveal a floor that is fashioned after the one in Venice’s 16th-century Salone Maggiore, you realize that nothing is as it appears at Villa Rosa Rugosa, Danny and Shelley Brose’s 18,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance fantasy villa in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
The Broses love to entertain, whether it’s for a large gathering such as Rudy Giuliani’s Southern California kickoff fund-raiser for 340 guests in February, or a buffet dinner and dance that benefited the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton last June. For homeowner Shelley Brose, a veteran interior designer of 25 years, doubling the size of the original garage to 3,150 square feet so it could also serve as a Venetian-style ballroom was a dream. To make that fantasy come true, all the homeowners have to do is touch a few buttons on a Crestron touchscreen to illuminate the garage’s three custom Austrian crystal chandeliers and cue up their music collection from the Escient FireBall music server.
“This is a re-creation of an Italian villa—just as if someone was going to build it back then but using the technology of today,” says art coordinator and interior design collaborator Roberto Pellecchia, who now owns an architectural design company. The Naples-born designer collaborated with the Broses for two-and-half years. He directed the 12 art students and six artists who produced the home’s artwork, which includes the garage/ballroom’s 17 portraits of Renaissance noblemen, and lavish still-life and Venetian ballroom scenes. He also supervised the audiovisual and lighting professionals so that neither the speakers nor lighting systems interfered with the art.
In the garage, as elsewhere in the home, fooling the eye is part art and part science, all orchestrated by a team of virtuosos who were constantly stretching their skills.
Shelley has thought of everything. Caterers can set up along the long driveway and tuxedoed waiters can whisk through a private entrance into the garage/ballroom. The wall-mounted custom Crestron touchpanel, which features a Tuscan landscape screen saver, allows them to set several event moods that include three settings for lighting and music: ballroom, dinner and dancing. For the latter, the chandeliers and ceiling-mounted xenon lights are programmed to complement the music.
In the gardens beyond the ballroom, where mosaic “rugs” blanket the walkways, background music emanates through Sonance rock speakers. The fountain, fashioned after a water feature at Hearst Castle, can be controlled from any touchscreen in the home.
“Danny left the interiors to me, but the outside was his,” Shelley says of her husband as she admires their work. Keypads can control all of the home’s automated systems, including the outdoor lighting, pool, fountains, and 120 indoor and outdoor speakers. There’s even a keypad at the swim-up bar.
For casual gatherings, they open the doors off of the family room, which overlook the pool, cabana, and members-only Marbella Golf Course. Shelley starts to reminisce about last July—a very special time when she and Danny renewed their vows after 25 years of marriage in the family chapel, which is surrounded by Italian-inspired gardens, statues, marble pathways, fountains, and lily ponds. “No Italian Renaissance home should be without one,” she says of the chapel.
Enamored with Italian Renaissance architecture, the homeowners started making sketches and collecting art and furniture for Villa Rosa Rugosa years ago. When architect Steven Phillips was brought into the project, Danny led him through the couple’s private warehouse filled with antiques, doors, fireplaces and artwork—items that the couple had been collecting for their dream house.
For Phillips, the work of society architect Addison Mizner—mainly his imaginative Mediterranean Revival mansions of 1920s Florida—provided inspiration for the long, narrow lot. “They wanted to be able to entertain really large parties,” the architect says of the home’s unusual open layout.
The custom installers—Aaron Andrew and Royce McCririe of Audio Video Design in Mission Viejo, Calif.—consulted with the Broses’ 25-year-old son Rhett on the A/V system that includes 16 multiroom amplifiers. Rhett, say Andrew and McCririe, spoke the custom installers’ language. The house features nine in-wall touchscreens and about 23 keypads, which manage 32 audio zones. The focus was always on the most ingeniously invisible technology possible, says Andrew.
Not surprisingly, countless challenges arose during construction. The master suite, for example, is surrounded by windows and doors on all four sides as the space overlooks a loggia and the gardens. And since the massive marble fireplace is the focus of the suite, hiding the 50-inch Marantz plasma TV was important, but difficult. “We recessed the majority of it into the attic,” McCririe says. “Using a telescoping lift, the TV drops down in front of a window to the appropriate height.” By the time Sam Cavitt of Paradise Theater/Media Environment Design was called upon to handle the acoustics, the home’s foundation was already poured and the rough framing was in place. Based on his initial analysis of the 468-square-foot room, Cavitt envisioned a seating capacity of eight, but the Broses wanted 15 theater seats—and a very powerful sound system that included six concealed surround speakers. In the end, they moved the screen from the back wall to the front wall to accommodate the seating riser, which allowed for more seating.
When the 176-inch Stewart screen descends, it doubles as a veil for the system’s exposed LCR speakers, which are arranged in a baffle design for optimized viewing and sound. The subwoofers are tucked below the screen, while additional subwoofers are hidden below the seating platforms.
Outside the theater and under the stairs is one of many equipment storage spaces. Here, too, is another example of art disguising technology. To conceal the access panel to the space, Pellecchia painted a mythical griffin figure over it. The same painting appears along each side of the main staircase. “It’s all about fooling the eye,” he says.
TECH TALK: THE BROSE HOME
In a home with more than 100 Sonance Symphony and Virtuoso in-ceiling speakers alone—not counting those in the theater, the family room, and the outdoor system—there is more than 200 miles of concealed wiring and cables. “It took me weeks to figure out how to run the wire,” says Andrew, who designed everything so that it came back to the centrally located main rack room without any splicing or interruptions. “We thought that would give the best quality and offer flexibility for expansion in the future,” he says.
With so much marble and Venetian plaster in the house, Andrew prewired with every possible contingency in mind since retrofitting was impossible. The home’s high ceilings and open layout added further complications. “There was no such thing as a straight run,” he says. “If I wanted to go from one side of the room to the other—20 feet away—that could be 150 feet of wire.” Plus the hidden technology had to be accessible.
No aesthetic restrictions were placed on the theater, though. “Sound was the biggest concern,” Andrew reveals. The theater is built around a modified JBL Synthesis Hercules system with the standard K2 S9800 left and right front channels replaced by two additional SK2-1000DG center speakers. “It’s purely a matter of sound pressure,” he says of his selections. “We had a lot of cubic volume to fill with sound, and those speakers allowed us to fill it more fluidly, while at the same time giving us a very focused sound.”
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