When people think about relieving stress, technology is usually not something that comes immediately to mind. In fact, if designed and installed poorly, living with home technology can be a real strain on the brain. But thanks to thoughtful engineering and conscientious design, smart home systems turned out to be the stress-reducing antidote for anyone who stays at this 16,000-square-foot guesthouse in Palm Beach, Fla. Resting on the property alongside the main 25,000-square-foot automated residence, the guesthouse was designed expressly to function much like a four-star hotel, where the owner’s business partners and clients could enjoy a comfortable, restful stay, and head into meetings held on the property feeling refreshed and inspired. At this “getaway,” however, the owner relied on more than the ubiquitous high-quality sheets and top-end toiletries to ensure a luxurious stay for his guests. At the “Zen House,” a Savant home automation system and a host of other smart, connected technologies play the biggest role in creating a soothing, relaxing atmosphere.
17 iPads Put Home Control the Palm of a Hand
Because the Zen House would be used primarily by guests, we had to ensure that the environment could be easily controlled by a variety of different people with no learning curve required,” says project manager Joey Kranz of 5th Element Productions, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based firm that designed and installed all of the high-tech gear. Users can monitor manage every electronic system in the home from a Savant TrueControl iOS app that’s accessible from any of 17 iPads that float around the residence. Because most people are comfortable handling an iPad, this setup mitigates any trepidation that some people might feel about interacting with technologies like an elaborate whole-house music system, sophisticated video processors, a suite of high-end home theater gear, and an architectural lighting system. The engineers at 5th Element Productions simplified matters even more by consolidating the control of all systems into just a few taps of a button on the Savant app. “There are five Savant chassis that run the systems in the house,” says Kranz, “but you’d never know that there was this much processing horsepower based on how easy it is to operate everything.”
Tiling System Divides TV Screen into 9 Video Windows
Perhaps the most indicative of 5th Element Production’s simplification of high-tech gear is a video tiling system that can direct nine different streams of video simultaneously to any and all of four huge flat-panel displays (between 60 and 90 inches diagonally) located in the common areas and the master bedroom. Using the Savant control app and clicking on the tile icon, a user can divide a single screen into as many as nine different quadrants and choose to display something different in each window. “For example, while his business guests are visiting, the owner can run a PowerPoint presentation in one window, while the other windows display sporting events or programs on Netflix,” Kranz says. A user can reconfigure the arrangement of video tiles from an iPad, and even direct content from a well-stocked central rack of video equipment (see list below) to five additional TVs.
Zen at the Tap of a Button
This sophisticated, nine-shows-at-once video setup may deliver a wealth of entertainment options to guests, but it also serves as an effective relaxation tool. Per the request of the homeowner, 5th Element Productions added a digital signage player from Info-Motion that through a connection to a Savant video processor can play a loop of Zen photos and videos on every display. Music complements the peaceful vibe, as a Savant whole-house audio system pipes a specially curated Zen playlist from a Savant media server (there are two total) to every built-in JBL speaker in the house, including a yoga studio and a massage room. This all happens instantaneously whenever someone touches the Zen Scene button on the Savant iPad app.
Hibachi Grill Gets Colorful
In most areas the lights join in, adjusting on command to evoke the proper mood. For example, in the Hibachi Room, where guests are treated to cuisine prepared by a professional chef, the room lights dim to intensity level that’s perfect for as many as 16 people to dine at the onyx counter around the hibachi grill. Hundreds of LED light fixtures, including amber colored LED panels planted within the top of the onyx counter, add to the effect. The Zen command also activates a “frost rail” along the bar. Any drink placed on top of it stays ice-cold over the course of the entire meal. Guests stay cool, too, as misters can be activated and a motorized sliding glass door opens with a few more taps of a finger. Decorative waterfalls, fountains, and lights on the patio and Zen garden can be controlled, too, right from the app.
After dinner and a nightcap, guests can retire to their respective bedrooms and still have access to all the music and video provided by the Savant system, as well as to their own local Apple TV set-top box. 5th Element Productions tailored special lighting scenes for each room to accentuate the architecture and décor of the space: wall art, under bed lighting, ceiling features, and other features; and, of course, there are scenes that set the lights for reading, sleeping, and middle-of-the-night trips to the refrigerator.
No matter where guests happen to be or what they happen to be doing, the Savant automation system and its connected subsystems deliver an experience that’s good for the heart and soul, and promotes peace and tranquility. Uncomplicated to use and a joy to experience, the system requires no extra brain power to operate, as music, video, and lights adjust perfectly with just tap on the screen of an iPad.