The High-Tech House Everyone Loves

A bevy of entertainment and control systems attracts family and neighbors to this Atlanta home.

The High Tech Home Theater Everyone Loves

Click to see more pictures from this home. "Standoff" (C) Fox. Photo: Scott Arthur.

Kids of all ages, from toddlers to adults, seem drawn to Jay McDonald’s house. While the home is immaculately accoutered in what Jay calls a “Ralph Lauren dress-casual style,” with traditional furnishings and English antiques, it’s not really the style of the interior that has his friends talking.

What’s got everyone excited about Jay’s place is the amazing assortment of electronic devices that blanket the property with music, movies and enough controls to send a rocket to the moon. “Some folks have said it’s like going to Disney World, while some friends have called the house ‘The Bat Cave’ from Bruce Wayne legend,” says Jay. “Children love this house, grown-ups love this house, folks of all ages enjoy this house.”

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Most of all, though, Jay loves this house. “When Jay bought the property a few years ago, he wanted it to be entirely automated,” recalls Jeff Braddock of Tech Homes, the Powder Springs, GA, firm hired to design and install the electronic gear. To get the whole thing automated meant using a single system that could manage the heating and cooling system, audio and video equipment, security system, lighting, the pool and hot tub, and several outdoor water features. It also meant peppering the property with controls that would allow Jay to access and manipulate the settings of every piece of electronic gear from anywhere inside or outside the house. This would be no simple project, to be sure. But Jay was convinced that an automation system like the Crestron PRO2 was the way to go.

“I’ve been around electronics all my life, and I have seen many businesses and homes that are managed by a centralized automation system,” he explains. “I wanted to enjoy that same level of convenience and control in my own home.”

Being able to adjust the thermostats, turn lights on and off and disarm a security system from a single touchpanel may sound like a great time-saver … and it is. But more important, the one-touch control has allowed Jay to create a warm and inviting atmosphere where his friends and family want to spend time. For example, an “Evening Party” scene, which can be engaged from any of 10 touchpanels, dims and brightens groups of lights around the house, cues the whole-house music system and deactivates the alarms so guests can stroll freely about the residence. And while the settings of the thermostats were programmed by Tech Home to shift automatically according to the time of day, Jay can always use a touchpanel to lower the heat so that no matter how many people join the fun, the indoor temperature never gets too warm.

Of course, there’s not much Jay can do about the climate outdoors, but he can easily move the festivities outside by using a touchpanel to activate an elegant waterfall and the swimming pool’s colored lights. Music can follow the party, thanks to the Crestron music distribution system, which feeds the tunes to weather-hardy Bose and Klipsch speakers.

There’s even a waterproof TV for catching a movie poolside. The 32-inch SunBrite LCD TV has access to all the DVD players and high-def satellite receivers indoors, so there’s always something good to watch. Even people who are paddling around the pool can see the action. The set was placed on an articulating arm so that it could be pushed out from the covered patio closer to the edge of the pool. Even in this position, there’s no need to worry about a killer cannonball hurting the screen, says Tech Homes’ Braddock. The SunBrite’s built-in humidifier and heater are designed to shrug off moisture and blistering heat.

The waterproof SunBrite set is a big hit, but it’s not the only TV in town. On the terrace level alone there are four big-screen displays. “They’re all within 30 feet of one another,” says Jay.

In addition to the outdoor TV, inside there are two 26-inch flat-panel high definition units mounted to the wall, as well as a 70-inch big-screen for more serious movie viewing. Obviously, this is a space where entertainment rules. The type of entertainment depends on which button Jay taps on the portable 10.4-inch Crestron touchpanel he keeps couchside. In an instant, the 70-inch Sony Wega rear-projection TV can spring to life, ready to present any of Jay’s 360 or so DVDs. The entire collection is loaded into a Sony changer. Braddock attached the changer to a Request digital movie server so that Jay could view his options on the screen of the Crestron touchpanel or on any of the TV screens.

The two 26-inch Sharp LCD TVs usually get in on the action when there’s a big game on. With the same ease as firing up the home theater system, Jay can direct the Super Bowl, the NBA finals or the Kentucky Derby to the wall-mounted screens, the big-screen and the outdoor LCD. This lets guests at the bar, by the billiards table or at the swimming pool all see what’s happening.

Even if the party heads upstairs, there is plenty of video to go around. The den features a 32-inch Sony high-definition plasma TV tucked into a wall niche, the kitchen sports a 17-inch Philips HDTV mounted underneath a cabinet, and the fitness room has a 26-inch Sharp HDTV attached to the wall above the workout equipment.

Guests can also venture into the master suite, where a 32-inch RCA high-definition LCD TV is concealed behind a two-way mirror over a dresser. The video can be seen perfectly through the glass when the TV is activated. There’s another high-def LCD TV — a 17-inch Philips model — in the master bath. Every TV, be it one in the multipurpose rec room, one on the main level or one in Jay’s suite, has access to the same set of components, which are all neatly hidden away inside a closet. A highway of high-speed Category 5 cabling delivers the video in full high definition to the displays.

Being able to watch high-def on any TV is a definite party pleaser. But Jay knows there’s more to entertainment than just staring at a screen. The same network of wiring that shuttles video all over the property delivers music from a variety of sources to dozens of in-wall, in-ceiling and outdoor speakers.

In a unique marriage of old and new, Jay’s vintage jukebox was integrated into the music distribution system. Guests can still call up the tunes the old-fashioned way, from the buttons on the Rowe Nostalgia 100-CD jukebox, or they can go to a touchpanel to get to the more than 2,000 songs housed there.

Probably Jay’s most popular music storage device, however, is his AudioRequest F4 server, which holds some 25,000 songs from an enormous collection of CDs. If that weren’t enough variety in Jay’s musical diet, there’s also XM satellite radio, AM/FM radio and satellite or cable TV music stations to choose from. Jay can also plug his iPod into the system by placing it on a docking station in the equipment closet. The iPod hookup is one of his friends’ favorite features, says Jay. “Anybody who comes over can pop their own iPod into the system.” Even if the songs on a guest’s iPod don’t strike everyone’s fancy, Jay can always pick out a different tune from a different source to play in a different area of the house. The F4 server can direct as many as four songs to four zones simultaneously.

Given the sheer number of songs available to Jay and the ability for him to send those songs to specific areas, it was important that the tunes be categorized into playlists. The AudioRequest server lets Jay organize his collection by artist or genre or create a random selection of favorites.

Organization is something we all crave. And whether Jay’s hosting a party of 100, flipping burgers at the poolside barbeque for the neighborhood kids, or relaxing all by himself with music in the den, he’s always in full control. A bevy of wireless Crestron touchpanels helps him manage everything from the setting of his security system to the songs that are playing through the whole-house music system without ever leaving the fun.

Equipment List: Home Control System

  • Crestron PRO2 home management system
  • Crestron CT1000 3.8-inch in-wall color touchpanels (7)
  • Crestron TPS-4000L Isys 10.4-inch color touchpanels (4)
  • Crestron TPMC-10 Isys 10.4-inch color touchpanels (3)
  • Crestron ML-500 mini LCD handheld remote
  • Crestron CNXHUB network hub
  • Crestron CNX-RMCLV room control units (6)

Equipment List: Whole-House Audio and Video System

  • Crestron CNX-BIPAD8 audio distribution processors (2)
  • Crestron CNX-PVID8x4 professional video distribution system
  • Crestron AM radio tuner
  • Crestron FM radio tuner
  • Crestron XM radio tuner
  • Crestron CEN-IDOC iPod interface
  • AudioRequest music server
  • B&K AVR507 surround-sound receiver
  • B&K AV1260 12-channel amplifiers (2)
  • Request Video Request digital movie server
  • Klipsch 6.5-inch in-wall speakers (4)
  • Klipsch 6.5-inch in-ceiling speakers (27)
  • Klipsch 8-inch in-wall speaker
  • Klipsch 8-inch bookshelf speakers (2)
  • Klipsch dual 4-inch horn-loaded center channel speaker
  • Klipsch 5.25-inch satellite speakers (2)
  • Klipsch 10-inch powered subwoofer
  • Klipsch 6.5-inch all-weather speakers (2 pair)
  • Klipsch 1,000-watt THX Ultra subwoofer amplifier
  • Klipsch 12-inch THX Ultra subwoofer
  • Klipsch 8-inch powered subwoofer
  • Bose 360-degree outdoor speakers (1 pair)
  • Sony 400-disc DVD changer
  • DirecTV/TiVo satellite receivers (2)
  • ChannelPlus color outdoor surveillance cameras (2)

Equipment List: High-Definition Displays

  • Philips 17-inch HDTV LCD TVs (2)
  • RCA 30-inch Scenium HDTV LCD TVs (2)
  • Sharp 26-inch HDTV LCD TVs (3)
  • Sony 70-inch XBR Grand Wega 3 LCoS TV
  • SunBrite 32-inch outdoor TV

Equipment List: Lighting Control System

Electronics Design & Installation

Tech Homes
Powder Springs, GA


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