Shading System Shines in Historic Mansion

Whole-house control and motorized shades highlight a contemporary kitchen tastefully done inside this 19th century mansion.

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Seven motorized shades cover the 40-foot span of windows and doors to keep this kitchen cool. Photo by William Psolka.

Stroll through this 19th-century New Jersey mansion once owned by the Astors—that’s right, 19th century, as in grand staircases, rich woods, gold trim—until you arrive at a stunningly contemporary kitchen? No, we didn’t place the wrong pictures with this article. This ultramodern kitchen and dining and family room area are part of a 5,000-square-foot addition to this mansion from the monied set.

“The addition made this a very interesting installation,” says Dave Randolph, vice president of engineering for EDG (Electronic Design Group) of Piscataway, NJ. “The homeowners tried to preserve everything they already had.” Whole-house control and audio had to be completely hidden in the old part of the house, while some of the cutting-edge goodies are on display in the new wing.

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In the kitchen and dining area, the family wanted a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors that was 40 feet long. Add a steel beam to span the length for structural support, and there’s no problem—until the sun shines in. The solution was a Lutron Sivoia motorized shading system. Seven shades stretch across the space, and the low-voltage motors are recessed into the header, where the shades disappear when opened.

There are two sliding doors for the kitchen and adjoining family and dining room, so the controls had to be flexible and easy to use, Randolph explains. There are up and down buttons for the kitchen windows, kitchen doors, family room windows and family room doors, in addition to all up and all down. Some are operable by buttons on a lighting control keypad in the hallway as one enters the kitchen, while more complicated control is reserved for the in-wall Crestron touchpanel.

“In this case, the shades need to work like a light switch, and people need to be able to walk in and operate it intuitively,” says Randolph. To make it simple, and to make sure it didn’t intrude on the family’s lifestyle, the shades are not triggered by a timer or solar sensors, says Randolph.

Although the homeowners may not have intended it, the shades provide significant energy savings by keeping the room cooler in warm months.

In addition to the motorized shades, the family can control the Lutron lighting system, and they enjoy whole-house audio with three pairs of in-ceiling Sound Advance speakers made invisible by hiding behind a thin coat of plaster. And what contemporary addition would be complete without a flat-panel TV in the family room?

Check out Motorized Shades for Home Theater.

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