Full Control: From TVs to Tiki Torches

An intricate control system manages every aspect of this 25,000 square foot Hawaiian estate.


Photo by Don Bloom

It takes a good imagination, close collaboration and strong determination to pile a mountain of electronics into a home without disrupting any of its natural beauty and tranquility. The electronics design team at Art and Automation in Wailuku, HI, demonstrated those qualities by infusing this 25,000-square-foot Hawaiian rendezvous with miles of cabling, dozens of speakers, several flat-panel TVs, and one control system intelligent enough to manage the operation of everything from a music server that can hold as many as 250,000 songs to an assortment of gas-powered tiki torches by the infinity-edge swimming pool.

It would be a job some professionals would have a tough time pulling off, but Art and Automation lead designers Paul Bailey and Mike Ruger were up for the challenge. Former Walt Disney Imagineers, they had acquired years of experience designing shows, displays, exhibits and rides for Disney’s theme parks. “At Disney, the objective was always to blend technology and art,” says Ruger. That philosophy was obviously carried through to the design and electronics integration of this custom-designed home.

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Brimming with elegance, sophistication and an open design that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor living, you’d never guess the resort-inspired paradise holds enough electronics to make it a worthy winner of our Wow Factor category. Consider the 32-inch LCD TV in the master bedroom. It’s hardly ever out in the open, having been tucked inside a custom cabinet at the end of the bed. By pressing a button on a portable AMX touchpanel, the homeowners can command the set to lift up from its hiding spot and turn on. When they’re done watching a show, they simply press another button to turn off the TV and DVD player and lower the set back into the cabinet. To ensure that the picture on the screen would remain bright and vivid, motorized shades were applied to the room’s magnificent wall of windows. The same touchpanel that controls the TV lift signals the shades to lower over the panes to prevent sunlight from washing out the picture.

The crown jewel of the property is the great room. Absolutely no technology is visible there, save for a wireless 7-inch color touchpanel resting quietly on an end table. What you will notice is the seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor space, accomplished with a major cantilever design at the corner of the room that opens via expansive Fleetwood doors. The controls provided by the AMX touchpanel only enhance the open and elegant feel, making it the homeowners’ favorite spot to entertain. From the touchpanel, they can cue a piece of music to play through the SpeakerCraft CRS2s planted throughout the house, disarm the security system, activate the outdoor hot tub, and arrange the settings of dozens of indoor and outdoor lights, including the poolside tiki torches.

An AMX keypad resides in every room, giving the homeowners and their guests a handy way to control the lights, indoor temperature, motorized window shades and other electronic components—as well as a place to view the current outdoor temperature and stock reports. Art and Automation simplified the control process by designing the main menu of each touchpanel to present only the buttons needed to operate the components in each respective room. Also custom designed was the color of each screen. “We worked with the interior designer to determine the planned color scheme for each room, then used complementary colors for the screens,” Art and Automation CEO Bailey explains. “We went with a muted sage color to match the master bedroom and bathroom and a creamy color for many of the other areas.” The outdoor keypads were also given the royal treatment: Art and Automation engineered them to be completely resistant to damage from water and salt.

About the only place in the house that reveals the owner’s penchant for electronic toys is the dedicated home theater. Viewers there can enjoy two types of displays: a 32-inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV for casual viewing with the room lights on or a 130-inch Stewart Firehawk screen for watching big blockbusters with the lights off. Each setup has its own dedicated source equipment, conveniently stored on custom shelving. A JVC high-def video projector, designed to drop from the ceiling on a motorized lift, and PSB Platinum speakers round out the serious projection system.

The home theater gear may set the tone for this space, but the room also looks great when there’s nothing on either screen. A fiber-optic ceiling, backlit movie posters and dimmable lighting create an elegant and sophisticated spot to simply chill with friends or relax with a good book.

The electronic systems in this home may seem far out, but there’s absolutely nothing superfluous about them, Bailey maintains. “The homeowner loves technology, but everything we selected had to have a very specific purpose for being there.” The homeowners identified those purposes by collaborating closely with the architect, Greg Bayless, and the interior designer, Leona Bayless, well before construction commenced. “The homeowners live all over the globe, so our design team traveled with the architect and the interior designer to those other homes to find out what type of family the homeowners are,” Bailey continues. Based on a prominent display of vacation photos they discovered in one home, for example, the team decided it was important to make this new abode look and feel as much like a four-star resort as possible.

Mission accomplished. A full-blown control system blends in seamlessly with the tropical environment, giving the owners a place that feels as luxurious as any top-rated vacation resort. Add a bevy of portable touchpanels that can control anything from anywhere, and this Hawaiian getaway holds all the magic of a Disney attraction plus all the wonderful comforts of home.


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