BY DEFINITION A “MULTIPURPOSE ROOM” should be a space where many different types of activities happen. Often, this is a great room that serves both as a casual relaxation spot and a high-end home theater, or a room that doubles as a library and a media space. This 4,900-square-foot area in the lower level of a London estate does this, plus a whole lot more. Conceived by the clever minds at London-based home systems integration firm James + Giles, and controlled by a specially programmed automation system by Control4, the palatial escape shifts effortlessly from one amazing entertainment environment to the next, and the next, and the next.
“I’ve never known a space to have as many uses as this one does,” says James + Giles managing director Giles Sutton. “It made the project extremely complicated to design and implement.” To create the room—which can easily hold 200 people—the home’s existing basement had to first be excavated to extend the smallish square footage into a vast entertainment space. The homeowners envisioned using every square inch of it, and for a wide variety of activities.
In addition to a squash court, incorporated into the space is a 50-foot-long swimming pool, a well-heeled home theater, a 2,400-square-foot dance floor, a business presentation area, a fitness suite and spa, and a formal dining area. Only the squash court and the fitness area, however, are completely self-contained. The rest—home theater, dining room furnishings, swimming pool, dance floor, and business presentation setup—occupy the same general vicinity. The challenge presented to James + Giles, therefore, was to incorporate technology that could alter the room environment effortlessly from one venue to the next.
The solution would involve physically changing the design and layout of the room. For instance, when the homeowners are hosting a charity event, the entire swimming pool can “disappear” and be replaced with a dance floor. Heavy-duty motors lift the stone and mosaic tile base of the pool into dance-floor position as the water from the pool flows into cisterns underground.
When movie viewing is on the docket, a 9-foot-wide (diagonally) Da-Lite screen slowly lowers from the ceiling and a hidden Sanyo video projector fires up. When it’s time to conduct a PowerPoint presentation, the room changes into its business attire, leaving plenty of space for chairs, while pulling down the screen and cueing up the projector and a microphone to play its audio through two Paradigm speakers positioned at the front of the venue.
A Mirror Image
Hiding a video projector above the ceiling and motorizing it to drop into place only when it’s time to watch a movie is a common setup for many rooms that function both as a living room and a home theater. Although home theater is one of the many purposes of this award-winning space, its video projector goes largely unnoticed, staying completely above the ceiling, during movie (and business) presentations. The homeowners requested specifically that the projector remain out of sight at all times, so the home systems integrators at James + Giles, London, England, devised a creative solution. By incorporating a mirror into the ceiling and positioning it appropriately, images from the projector reflect off the glass and onto the 9-foot-wide (diagonally) Da-Lite projection screen. Another advantage of this setup is that the noise generated by the projector stays contained within the ceiling. The result: an entertainment space free of visual and audible distractions.
The physical transformations—which required the installation of many different types of motorized equipment—are orchestrated by a Control4 home automation system. As the space shifts, so do the settings of the lights, thermostats, and loudspeakers. “By using the Control4 software we were able to alter every aspect of the environment to suit the chosen purpose of the room,” Sutton explains. For example, when the homeowners tap the Night Swim button on the Control4 app on an iPad, iPhone, or a Control4 touchpanel (a few of which are built flush into the walls), colored LED lighting washes in and around the swimming pool, the HVAC system raises the temperature and humidity level, and the audio system calibrates itself so that all of the room’s 12 speakers play at a consistent volume level. This is just one of 16 different “scenes” created by the designers at James + Giles. One of the most dramatic of transformations occurs when the Rave scene is engaged. In perfectly choreographed sequence, the dance floor appears, fiber-optic lights start to twinkle, and the sound system adjusts automatically to provide heavier bass. Explains Sutton, “We incorporated processing equipment that would allow the audio characteristics of the sound system to change depending on how the room is being used.” While bass plays heavily through all speakers when the room is functioning as a disco, it tapers considerably and only two speakers are active at the front of the room when the owners are using the space for a business presentation. Naturally, the lights are also more subdued and the temperature shifts from a cool setting, which is good for dancing, to warm.
Although the transformations are elaborate, involving every element of the room environment, initiating the changes is remarkably simple. The owners never need to think about tweaking the settings of the thermostats or dimming the lights. They never fret over the audio system being too loud or not loud enough. And they never worry about their guests feeling cramped or crowded. The Control4 system handles all of the particulars for them. They just choose what they want to do—be it take a dip in the pool, watch a movie, perfect their dance moves, or host a dinner party for 100—and the custom-programmed Control4 system arranges the space and the environment perfectly. EH