Integrating The Old With The New

An installer tackles his own home, including the attic.

I get control over all the electronics, and she gets control of everything else. That's the deal we made with each other at the beginning of the project. After all, being the manager of the residential systems division and lead residential systems designer at All Pro Sound, would you expect me to not do something special in my own home? After 17 plus years of doing it for everyone else, I was getting to do it for me . . . and Laura, my wife.

My first decision was to do a completely integrated system. Integrating all subsystems including audio/video, automated lighting control, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) control, security control, and motorized window treatments. Laura picked out the colors of the wall-mounted devices, such as the lighting and shading control keypads and touch screens. She also picked the fabrics for the motorized window treatments.

The electrical-lighting control system has 89 zones or circuits of light. In a non-automated-lighting home, this would represent how many light switches your home would have. Instead of having 89 light switches, I have 22 keypads with up to seven buttons per keypad. The keypad is the same size as one light switch.

One reason an automated lighting system is desired is the fact that one keypad can eliminate a location that might have had five to seven light switches. Interior decorators appreciate the fact that we can eliminate a lot of wall clutter with an automated system. With a single button press of the system, I can turn all lights in the house on or off. I might want an "all off" feature to shut down the home when we leave. The "welcome" scene might turn on some of the lights in the common area of the house upon arrival. The "entertain" scene will turn on more lighting to set the house up for guest viewing house-wide. The lighting system also has timed events so at dusk the landscape lighting turns on and goes off at dawn or at whatever time is programmed into the system.

The lighting control system actually controls the motorized window treatments. Motorized window treatments include blinds, Roman shades, and curtains. I can control any window treatment from any keypad or touch screen in the home. I also have timed events for controlling the window treatments. At certain times, the window treatments will close to help regulate room temperature and protect artwork and antiques from the harmful rays of the sun. I can also control the amount of light in the room by adjusting the artificial light.

The home's HVAC system is set up as a three-zone system, one unit per floor. This design just made sense given home's three-story layout. During the home's restoration, we use spray foam or Icynene insulation wherever possible to help with energy efficiency.

Scott from Smith Security designed the home's security system with control over the perimeter devices on a separate patrician as the interior devices. So I can arm just the doors and windows with out arming the motion detectors. That lets me arm the alarm when I am home and still give me the ability to walk around the house without setting the alarm off. Pet-safe motion detectors were used so we can arm the interior with the animals in the house.

I was very concerned with the fire-detection devices, so we went beyond code. We added heat-detection devices located at all electronic equipment locations and at the HVAC units. A fire would be terrible in any home, but in a one-hundred-year-old home with antique fixtures and finishes, it would be a disaster. We also incorporated water sensors at the HVAC units, the hot water heaters, and the fish tank leak pan. If I have a leak, the security company can notify the appropriate services to come and handle the problem. If I am out of town, they can let the service people in to take care of the problem without me being bothered at all.

The lighting design was very involved, and we worked with Jay from United Lighting. We used the original, antique lighting fixtures as well as the antiques fixtures from the San Carlos Hotel that had been added sometime in the past. We also purchased some antique fixtures and two Fortuni fixtures from Venice. Then, we added ceiling fans locations house-wide. After placing these fixtures into the plans, the rest of the lighting design was completed with recessed fixtures house-wide— accenting the antique fixtures and other pendent lights and providing highlights to walls—antiques, built-in bookcases and bars, kitchen cabinets, and artwork.

As far as the audio/video system was concerned, I took the same attitude as I did with the rest of the subsystems: I only have one shot so let's do this right, which included pre-wiring for features we might want to add in the future. This update had to last the next hundred years, so we went all out.

I put speakers in every room, including the laundry area, powder room, guest bathroom and bedrooms. In some rooms, like the kitchen and billiard room, I used four speakers to get better coverage and to keep the level of the sound down so that it would not drown out conversations. The home has a total of 49 speakers, including 30 flush-mounted, 10 outdoor, and the rest are part of the surround systems. I added two surround systems—one in the living room with a 65" television for day-to-day television and movie viewing. The second is a dedicated theater room on the third floor with a 106" screen and projector and a top-notch sound system for movies and events. I even added a 23" television in the theater powder room to play the same program as the one in the theater so during breaks you won't miss any of the action.

We have a television in the billiard room over the fireplace, hidden with a framed two-way mirror. When the television is off, it just looks like a nice mirror over the fireplace so as not to take away from the room's decor. The kitchen's television is hidden with a tapestry that is attached to a roller shade motor. When the television is off, it just looks like a piece of artwork above the refrigerator. This space is usually unreachable, so it was perfect for a tv/artwork location.

We have all the bedrooms and the study wired for TV locations. I can have my choice of satellite or cable or both at any location. I also wired the home for high-speed Internet in all rooms and wireless throughout the home. I will be able to use a server in an equipment location shared throughout the home's local area network or LAN system.

The home's automation is controlled by a system from Elan. The Elan system controls all subsystems of the home via 11 6.5" touch screens. By using these touch screens in strategic locations, I can relocate the normal devices, such as thermostat controls and alarm keypads, to closets as back-up controls. This also reduces wall clutter, making for a more esthetic ally pleasing wall. It also makes it very convenient to make adjustments to the home.

From the touch screens, I can turn on music, turn off the security system, change room or house wide temperature, change lighting, and open or close shades all from one location. I even have control over the second hot water heater. When I set my house in vacation mode, it turns off both units and sets the HVAC to an appropriate level. Over time, Laura has convinced me to be more environmentally-friendly. You might say how can that be with all these gadgets? My home actually saves energy by dimming lighting and turning off lights at appropriate times. Shading windows helps to control the heat, and zoned HVAC with timed events controlling the temperature also makes my home more "green" than the average home.

The entire retro fit of all systems had to be integrated into the home with as little damage as possible to the walls or ceilings. Any damage that did occur, my wife and I had to repair and faux finish ourselves to keep the home as original looking as possible. In doing so, we have created something very unique—a historic home with a unique history and antiques with the most up to date electronic appliances and features you will find in any modern home. In the end, Laura got what she wanted, and I got what I wanted. Little did she know that all I really wanted to do was to make her happy; the rest was just the cherry on top.

Laura Adds: The whole house is wired with every techno feature one can think of. Believe me, we went overboard. In addition to a theater room, the house has automated lighting, automated blinds, — they actually know it's a hot afternoon and close.

And, of course, there are speakers in every room. The "System," as Blake calls it, is integrated. Meaning we can control everything in the house with keypads or touch screens. I can come home and hit a button on the touch screen that says "welcome" and the lights in the foyer, kitchen, and living room will come on, and the sultry sound of a Diana Krall tune will flow through the speakers. The only thing the "System" doesn't do is pour my wine.

How, you may wonder, can an antique house retain its character with these uber-cool technologies? Well, it was a concern — of mine, anyway. Ultimately, we made every effort to hide or disguise the components of the house automation. The plasma TV over the mantle is covered by a framed two-way mirror. The TV in the kitchen is covered by a tapestry that rolls up when the TV's on. The alarm keypads and HVAC thermostats are hidden in closets or behind door swings, even the speakers are flush mounted and faux finished. The motorized blinds are mounted inside the window jambs and the automated lighting system's keypads are colored to match the paint or wainscoting in the rooms.

All Pro Sound

Sony VPL-VW60 projector
Dalite 106" tensioned cosmopolitan
Yamaha Rx-v3800 receiver
Panasonic Blu-ray
Velodyne DD-18 subwoofer
Paradigm Studio 40 bookshelf x 3
The speakers are under the screen behind the large grill, the sides are in wall, and the center rears are in ceiling.
SA-35 in walls
AMS-150R Ceiling
Phillips Pronto TSU3500

House wide equipment
Lutron Series 8 processor controlling 12 shades and 89 zones of Light with 22 keypads and the automation system is Controlled by eight 6" Elan touchscreens
Elan system 12 whole house audio video controller
Elan Z 660 amps
Elan V883
Elan SS1
Elan Via DJ four zone server
Elan Viamigo Ipod dock
Elan 8" ceiling speakers @ 30
Elan OM650 outdoor speakers @ four pairs