March 12, 2013
| by Steven Castle
Designers of homes in scenic locations often talk about bringing the outdoors in. But this 2,400-square-foot vacation home in northern Vermont goes all out—or shall we say all in—with real trees, willow sculptures and mind-blowing nature murals that accompany a bevy of electronic innovation.
The home is an entertainment powerhouse with a 3D home theater, two other surround-sound systems and 19 separate zones of audio. It’s super-smart with an Apple-based Savant home control system that automatically syncs media from iPhones and iPads and shuts off lights and other devices. And it’s energy-efficient, with a sleek energy monitoring system that can measure the power draw of 84 circuits in the house.
Even better, all the techno-goodies blend seamlessly into the natural decor. Speakers hide in the ceiling among clouds, a big-screen TV is concealed when not in use, and about the only electronics visible are the 15 in-wall iPod touch control docks, along with simple keypads for lighting.
An Outdoorsy Feel
This unique house is the creation of homeowners Tim and Nancy Howes, who live in California but vacation in Vermont, near Tim’s mother’s house. “It’s great to be outdoors up there, and we wanted to maintain an outdoors feel in the house,” says Tim. So they hired architects in California and Vermont, a builder in Vermont, and enlisted custom electronics firm, simpleHome, which has offices in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.
The Howes decided their house would also be eco-friendly and energy-efficient. The site wasn’t a great location for solar power or geothermal heating, but simpleHome proposed Savant’s SmartEnergy Monitoring System that can measure the electricity used on every circuit in the house—so the family can check it on their iPads when they’re in residence or from afar. “It really helps us manage the house from an energy viewpoint,” Tim says.
Natural Tech Setting
The project uses nearly the entire Savant control line. Audio/video, security and HVAC scenes are accessible via the Savant In-wall Control Docks for iPod touches, while Lutron keypads operate energy-saving LED lighting. It’s all centrally controlled from three racks in the basement and a mechanical room with the lighting control panels and 13 thermostats. “The beauty of centralized control is that it gets equipment out of the room so it doesn’t compete with the aesthetics,” says simpleHome general manager Craig Heim.
That’s vital in this house, where plants drip from a stone fireplace in the great room and there’s also a willow sculpture, nature murals and even leaves painted on the floor. Press a button on the Savant Select remote, though, and an ultra-slim 55-inch Samsung 8000 Series LED TV rises from a window seat with a Bay Audio soundbar that delivers the three front channels, while surround sound emanates from B&W in-ceiling speakers in the sky mural, near a treehouse for the kids.
When the family just wants music, the Savant system uses only the surround speakers. The family’s iTunes music collection is stored on Apple TV boxes that sync automatically via Wi-Fi with their devices. The Savant system also processes and distributes Pandora and other streaming music.
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