Commissioning a Theater Masterpiece

Custom cabinetry and art keep a home theater under wraps in this high-rise condo.

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Photo by Alexia Forder

When Marvin and Carol Schwartzbard retired and bought a condo on Williams Island near Miami, it was meant as an escape from the New England winters. It quickly became their primary residence, though. And why not?

The ocean views from their 5,400-square-foot space on the 27th floor of Bella Mare are as magnificent as the Schwartzbards’ glasswork and paintings by famed artist Dale Chihuly. And the audio, video and automation system only cost a little more than the cosmopolitan couple’s prized Chihuly piece that was roughly $150,000.

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One of the chief challenges for Miami-based system designer and installer Fusion Home Entertainment was blending the electronics into such a lavish environment without clashing with the beautiful art, which also features items from Tolla, Harvey Littleton and Lino Tagliapietra. But when the Giants games kick off on fall Sundays, Marvin wanted a front-row seat for a large-screen TV.

“My husband wanted a gigantic TV to watch football, and I don’t want to look at it,” says Carol. “The artwork is very important to us. We wanted electronics to fit in with it; we didn’t want the art to get lost in lots of buttons and boxes.”
When she did want to watch TV (and control other aspects, such as the window shades), Carol also needed to be able to work the darn thing. She says two previous systems installed in their Massachusetts home were so convoluted that they soured her on the experience.

The Schwartzbards managed to include their passion for art while finding a solution to conceal the 60-inch Vidikron plasma (which even came with a lovely pewter finish that separated it aesthetically from other TV options). After getting the measurements from Fusion owner Fernando Salazar, Marvin and Carol commissioned an Italian artist to custom build a wall cabinet system that would open to reveal the TV and that essentially would look like another piece of art rather than furniture when the doors were closed.

“When people come in, they think the wall’s opening. They don’t realize it has a TV in there,” Carol says. “I love the fact that we have the artwork and electronics working in unison without one overbearing the other.”

Fusion had to ensure that the brightness of daylight and the blinding setting sun would not affect the viewing and that the art and architecture of the room would not impede the audio.

Motorized shading that can be preset allows the room to maintain a nice view outside while blocking UV rays and retaining optimal picture quality on the plasma. For the acoustics, Salazar used Bay Audio in-wall speakers and Natural Texture by Hinson Fabric on the walls to act as grilles in support of the 7.1 surround system. The audio includes a subwoofer stored below a rack of china that, because it is isolated and plays through fabric, doesn’t shake any of the fine pieces above it.

“Acoustically, glass and marble are our biggest enemies, and this unit has a lot of marble floors and glass on each side,” says Salazar. “I had Bay Audio rep Michael Chafee, who’s a studio musician and engineer, come out and calibrate the media room with me. I never would have imagined it could come out sounding this good.”

As far as making the family room’s components easy to use, Carol says Fusion passed the test with flying colors—and it was forced to. Early in the project, she fell and broke her left shoulder, immobilizing her for several weeks and making the television her best friend. “The only thing I could do was push a button, so I said, ‘OK, I’ve got to get used to this system,’ ” she says. “It took me all of 10 seconds. I have all kinds of college degrees, but I couldn’t master electronics, so for me, this is so easy and workable.”

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