Ladies’ Night in Home Automation Haven

Three generations of women embrace high-tech in their new Manhattan Beach house.

Building a home that will suit the tastes of three generations is a tough enough challenge. Throw in an automation system and everyone involved in the design and construction and pleasing everyone may seem like a lost cause. Fortunately, the mother, daughter and grandmother who would share this newly constructed 4,000-square-foot home in Manhattan Beach, Calif. were all big fans of Apple products. It was this shared affinity of a particular technology that would ultimately shape the direction of the project.

“When we heard they were Mac people, we naturally suggested that they use a Savant system as their automation platform,” says custom electronics (CE) professional Kirk Attoian, CEO of Interior Technologies, El Segundo, Calif. Managed and controlled by the Savant system would be the home’s Lutron light switches and motorized draperies, Aprilaire heating and cooling equipment, GE Networx alarm system, Wirepath surveillance cameras, as well as a host of audio and video components.

Thanks to the Savant system’s Apple friendliness, the controls for every bit of this technology can be accessed from the screen of the owners’ existing iPhones and iPads, as well as from the iMacs which Interior Technologies set up in each bedroom.

Consolidating all of these controls could have equated to an unruly number of buttons and commands to hunt through just to do something simple like activate the whole-house music system. Custom programming of the graphic user interface (GUI) that would be displayed on the screens of the iDevices, therefore, would be the key to ensuring ease-of-use on this project. To minimize time and energy spent scrolling, swiping and searching for the appropriate commands, Interior Technologies designed a GUI to present on the only the most important buttons. “We gave them a few custom ‘dashboards,’” explains Interior Technologies’ Troy Bolotnick. “One of these dashboards shows the eight most popular lighting commands and a button that signals a whole-house audio system to pipe their favorite music to the two most frequented rooms of the house.”

Another dashboard that pops up occasionally—like when someone presses the button on the Holovision intercom station at the front door—is an image of the visitor captured by a surveillance camera. From any iDevice the homeowners can converse with the guest and unlock the door if they choose to do so.

In addition to facilitating these and other housewide controls, the iDevices can focus on the control of components within specific rooms. For example, using her tablet, Mom can open and close motorized Lutron Sivoia draperies; extend and swivel a motorized TV mount so that the 46-inch Samsung TV can be viewed easily from either the bed or from the office area or cue music from a central rack of equipment to the frameless Revel speakers mounted in the ceiling (finished to blend in with the wooden tongue and grove ceiling panels). Also in the room to help out is a Savant SSR handheld remote and Lutron keypad. The remote lets her quickly start the gas fireplace and select what she would like to watch on TV. The wall-mounted keypad, meanwhile, offers quick and easy adjustments of the room lights—where one button turns on certain fixtures when she enters and another that shuts everything off when she leaves.

While it’s nice to have your own special controls for your own special room, the ladies of this beach home usually prefer to convene in the great room to watch movies and sporting events Here, an 80-inch Sharp LED TV and 5.1 surround-sound system are ready to play a plethora of content. Tucked neatly inside an equipment rack inside a closet are three DirecTV receivers, a Blu-ray player (another player stashed inside the closet of Grandma’s bedroom is also accessible), a security camera DVR, Savant music server, AppleTV, and Integra surround-sound receiver. To broaden their entertainment options, the Apple TV can pull content from the owners’ iMacs, and the Savant music server can grab music from their iTunes accounts.

For Interior Technologies, installing a system that can push such a full range of entertainment to this room’s TV and speakers, as well as to all other TVs and speakers in the house, is a fairly common practice. What really makes the great room system extraordinary is the ability to present four programs at once. A multi-view setup had been in the plans from the beginning of the high-tech plan, says Bolotnick. Initially, he and his team had planned install one large screen flanked by three smaller units, but when Savant released its innovative SmartView Video Tiling system midway through the project, Interior Technologies jumped at the chance to incorporate it. SmartView basically divides the TV screen into four quadrants, each of which can display a different program, which in this residence is typically a variety of sports broadcasts. The size of the quadrants and their position on the TV screen can be altered via an iPad by pinching, swiping and expanding an exact replica of TV screen layout. “This has been a big hit with the homeowners are exemplifies the power of Savant,” Attoian says.

What could have been a very complicated and confusing process of controlling a very sophisticated video system, not to mention a bevy of electronic devices throughout the house, was simplified significantly through the integration of an automation system. Savant’s Mac-based operating platform streamlined the learning curve of a family of avid Apple users, both young and old

More pictures of this home in the slideshow.

If you’re considering a high-tech project, also check out:
6 Important Pieces of Info to Share with Your Tech Installer
Integrated Control vs. Multiple Apps for Home Automation
How to Add Lighting Control to Your Home
Furniture Trends That Can Please the Whole Family

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