Hawaiian Home With a Galactic Theater

The owners of this Hawaiian beach house enjoy one-button activation of all things important, including a theater that’s out of this world.


There are a couple of ways to play Blu-ray movies on more than one TV in your house. One approach is to rack up your player, along with other sources like a cable box and media server, then put them in a central location in your house, connect them to some kind of distribution hub, and run wiring to every display. The other option: Equip each TV with its own set of sources. End of story.

Although super-savvy when it comes to home electronics, the owner of this roughly 10,000-square-foot contemporary stunner in Honolulu, Hawaii, opted for the latter design. Why? “It’s just a whole lot simpler,” says Mark Gleicher of Modern Home Systems in San Diego, Calif. “His kids tend to play the same DVDs over and over, so he thought it would be easier if they were able to put in their movies right at the TV instead of having to go to a utility room to load in a DVD.”

The first setup, while definitely more high-tech, would have also required the installation and programming of sophisticated switching and distribution equipment to preserve the quality of the high-def images as they traveled over a network of cabling. That’s not to say the crew at Modern Home Systems wasn’t up for the challenge. The company has designed and installed numerous whole-house audio and video systems for other clients. “These homeowners just wanted the video part of their house to be as straightforward as possible,” says Gleicher. “To them that meant having a local system at each of the home’s six flat-panel TVs.”

Nipped in the Bud
It also meant having a separate remote control for each setup—also straightforward but not completely bulletproof. Gleicher explains: Should a family member lose the remote for the living room TV or mistake it for the clicker that runs the system in the master bedroom, he or she wouldn’t be able to use that living room entertainment system until they found the right remote. This never became an issue, however. Before any of the entertainment equipment was installed, Modern Home Systems swapped the original remotes for portable 6-inch touchscreen-style controllers from Crestron. Modern Home Systems could have programmed these touchpanels to offer the family all sorts of fancy control options, but again, the goal was keeping it simple. “They touch the WATCH DVD button and that’s it,” says Gleicher. The TV, DVD player and surround-sound equipment power up, the components set to the correct inputs and the DVD starts playing. It’s the same no matter which Crestron remote they pick up or which TV they’re going to watch.

Control: Crestron
Displays: Pioneer and Samsung
Speakers: Artison, Revel, Sonance and Sunfire
Theater Screen: Stewart Filmscreen
Projector: Runco
Surveillance: Nuvico and Pelco
Heating and Cooling: Mitsubishi
Lighting: Lutron
A/V Components: Integra, Lexicon

This uniformity of control and one-button access to movies shortened the learning curve dramatically for the family, which is particularly helpful when you travel as much as they do, according to Gleicher. “They didn’t want to have to relearn how to use their system after being away from the house for a month or have to pull out an instruction manual in order for their guests to watch a movie.”

There was just one last hurdle to clear in the design of these local, independent entertainment setups: hiding each TV’s connected Blu-ray player and satellite receiver. The family requested that the only visible technology in each room be a flat, wall-mounted TV. The Blu-ray player and satellite receiver would have to go elsewhere, where they wouldn’t be seen. In most cases, the equipment was tucked inside a nearby cabinet and wiring fished above the ceiling and down the wall to the TV. The speakers are undetectable, too, having been recessed into the walls and ceilings during the home’s construction then painted to match the decor.

Capitalizing on Capabilities
Not about to sell the Crestron system—or the family—short, Modern Home Systems integrated lights, thermostats, surveillance cameras, iPods and other components into the control scheme. From the same touchpanels they use to cue DVDs, the family can brighten and dim the lights, adjust the temperature, bring up a view from surveillance cameras onto a TV screen and select a piece of music from a docked iPod to play through any and all of the home’s 58 interior and exterior Sonance speakers.

The portable touchpanels, as well as sleek wallmounted keypads at each room’s entrance, offer quick adjustments of the room environment. When the family is leaving the house to run errands or returning home from a vacation, they can issue these same commands from a larger 15-inch wall-mounted Crestron touchpanel located in the hallway to the kitchen, the master bedroom, and the foyer. Unlike the small portable units, these ample-size panels can display views from the surveillance cameras, and commands that affect the entire house. These “global scenes,” were very important to the family, says Gleicher, “and we spent a lot of time talking with them to determine specifically what each scene should do.” A GOOD NIGHT scene, for example, activates the sensors that guard the perimeter of the house—the interior sensors stay off so the family can move around without setting off an alarm—and sets each of 16 heating and cooling zones to a predetermined temperature. The command also shuts down the decorative fountains outside and the whole-house music system, with the exception of the master suite. GOOD MORNING resets all of the subsystems, and raises and lowers certain motorized window shades to the owners’ liking. And because no two parties are alike, Modern Home Systems created scenes that set the lights and music volume differently for QUIET PARTY and LOUD PARTY.

Intergalactic Theater
Where things really get interesting, though, is in the home’s dedicated home theater. The design of the 20-by-14-foot space is a huge departure from the wide-open, clutterfree interior of the rest of the house. Where the common living spaces are virtually devoid of technology, this room is brimming with gadgets—and rightfully so, as it was created from the get-go as a tribute to Star Wars.

Modern Home Systems had no problem designing and installing the audio and video systems for the room, but they felt it would be best to bring in a theater design specialist to handle the space-age accoutrements. Acoustic Innovations of Boca Raton, Fla., went wild with the concept, incorporating life-size R2D2 and C3PO robots that talk, a three-dimensional fiber optic starfield on the ceiling, and acoustical paneling designed to resemble the doors of a spaceship. The “crew” even enters the theater though a motorized pocket door.

Still, the owners couldn’t shake their penchant for a clean aesthetic. Acoustic Innovations implemented a clever way for two full racks of equipment to disappear completely. Attached to a mechanism that rotates 180 degrees, the racks can be turned manually so the equipment faces away from the room. In this position, two concave doors close over the rack. The owners open the doors and turn the rack around to load DVDs or fiddle with the gear.

A Runco DLP projector stays out of sight, too, having been tucked inside a custom-crafted and ventilated soffit at the back of the room. Three front Revel speakers and two subwoofers sit behind a curved, anamorphic 107-inch Stewart Filmscreen display. The screen fabric is “acoustically transparent,” explains Gleicher, which allows the sound to pass through unaffected. The remaining four speakers were installed within the framework of the theater as it was being built, and covered with a fabric weave that lets the sound pass into the room.

The Star Wars theater is controlled like every other room in the house. Using a portable Crestron touchpanel like the ones found in the family room, kitchen and other areas, the owners can cue up a movie, switch between lighting effects and adjust the temperature. “When all of the equipment is running, the room can get quite warm,” says Gleicher. And when they’re ready to leave this galaxy for another, the owners hit the SYSTEM OFF button to shut down every light fixture, A/V component and robot in the room. Quick, easy, and simple: exactly how the homeowners and Modern Home Systems intended it to be.


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