Originally a school auditorium, this beautiful 4,644-square-foot space is now home to a family of four and is equipped with smart home technology and media systems that are so intuitive to use, virtually no schooling is needed. This cavernous structure was transformed into livable areas with a little ingenuity on the parts of the builder and interior designer, plus some very new-school tech courtesy of Smarthomes Chattanooga.
The main living area still functions as one large open space, with the main media system acting as a central gathering spot. What’s special about this media room is that, even though it resides in a great-room like environment, it contains equipment worthy of a dedicated home theater or even a commercial cinema. “We wanted to provide a lifetime of entertainment for the homeowners, but it had to be installed in a discreet manner to help keep the contemporary design intact,” says Noah Stein, Smarthomes Chattanooga’s systems designer.
With deference to the homeowners’ top priority of maintaining the home’s aesthetics, Stein and his team had to ensure that the A/V gear could go into hiding when not in use. This would involve the installation of a 137-inch Da-lite Tensioned Advantage Electrol motorized screen above the ceiling. On command from a Control4 SR-250 handheld remote, the screen descends into prime viewing position; at the same time, a commercial-grade Sony VPLFH31 3LCD projector gets ready to pump out 4,300 lumens for a stellar image. “We needed a really bright projector to stand up to the ambient light conditions in the room,” says Stein. “Depending on the time of day, the homeowners can use the Control4 remote to raise or lower the motorized Hunter Douglas shades for additional lighting control.”
Balancing aesthetics and functionality presented plenty of design hurdles for the team at Smarthomes Chattanooga to overcome. The projector’s placement was hands-down the most challenging aspect of the project, according to Stein. He and his team housed the video projector inside a huge bulkhead on the ceiling, which kept it completely out of sight. Although it was a great hiding spot (see top photo on the next page), the installation required drilling through a structural floor joist and the surface of the bulkhead so that the lens could shine through. Service and maintenance was another consideration. Stein found a company that makes custom concealed hatches that open from the ceiling to allow access to the projector for service and cleaning. Finally, a thermostat-controlled Cool Components fan was installed in a floor register in the master bedroom, which is located directly above the media room, to expel heat from the projector enclosure so that it functions properly. An HDMI video distribution system funnels high-definition video to the media room, as well as to the guest and master bedrooms.
A 7.2-channel Paradigm in-wall surround-sound system provides audio that is just as spectacular as the video, and allows the homeowners to enjoy engaging audio without compromising the overall aesthetic of the room. But state-of-the-art sound isn’t limited to the media room. Smarthomes Chattanooga added a Sonos whole-house audio system to provide better audio to the rest of the home’s TVs by way of Sonos Playbars and Subs.
In addition to the living room theater equipment and blackout shades, virtually every other function in the home is automated. Smart light switches, thermostats, and battery-powered roller shades provide light and climate control throughout the home. Wirepath security cameras, Yale electronic door locks, pet-immune motion detectors, and an alarm system provide the homeowners with the peace of mind that they are safe in their new home and that it is secure when they’re away. All of these subsystems are tied together by a Control4 automation system, which is intuitive enough so even the homeowner’s youngest child can navigate it. (In addition to the Control4 handheld remote, the homeowners can use in-wall touchscreens, smartphones, and tablets to monitor, manage, and control the various electronic systems.) Of course, as per the prime directive, you won’t find the automation processors and other gear anywhere in sight; it’s all neatly tucked away in a small utility closet.
For the homeowners, Smarthomes Chattanooga’s integration acumen passed the test with flying colors. Not only does this converted school auditorium maintain its unique character: it now boasts a high-tech home automation and entertainment system that the homeowners love and use every day. At the very least it’s a lesson in smart home ingenuity. EH
Photography by Noah Stein