Home Theater

Look Inside Part DIY, Part HelloTech Media Room Project

Avid DIY-er enlists 'Do It For Me' website HelloTech.com to help renovate her 1930s media room with Sonos, Amazon Echo, Lutron and Samsung SmartThings.

Look Inside Part DIY, Part HelloTech Media Room Project
When DIY, wireless and a rental home come together on one project, it starts to look a lot like a new paradigm in custom home automation.
Credit: Katya Grozovskaya

Photos & Slideshow

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This story, which originally appeared on CE Pro's sister site Electronic House, details how one DIY-er transformed an outdated living room in her rental home to a multipurpose media room. The client enlisted the help of installers from the popular "Do It For Me" website HelloTech.com. For a look into how this new custom installation paradigm might play out in a client's home, read on.

Pearson Brown has always loved home technology, following the trends and trying to keep her 1930s Spanish-style home in the outskirts of L.A. as current and up-to-date as possible.

Also an avid DIY-er, she took on the renovation of the family rec room as a hobby of sorts, incorporating gear over the years as she saw fit.

However, high-tech additions like a large video projector don't always mesh well with furnishings and decor. Add the fact that her home is a rental, and Brown's options become even more limited. Most landlords frown upon the addition of new wiring so Pearson kept her search to only wireless devices.

Rather than continue to force a square peg into a round hole, Brown decided to renovate every aspect of the 2,000 square-foot space, enlisting both an interior designer and the electronics installers from HelloTech to help bring her vision of a modern, high-tech media room to fruition.

The team didn’t get to work, however, until Brown had obtained all of the A/V gear that she wanted—based on months of research. She left the equipment boxed up, leaving the installation and configuration to the technicians at HelloTech, a process that took only a few hours, she says.

Out with the Old; In with the New

With the objectives set firmly in place, interior designer Andee Ferrer’s first order of business was to rid the room of its outdated furniture and electronics. 

The Colonial-style entertainment was sent off to the woodpile, via TruckBuddy.

Next, the sagging drab olive sofa and loveseat, bulky coffee table, 26-inch TV, DVD player, stereo receiver, five-CD changer, speakers, and other vintage electronics and furnishings found new homes via Craigslist.

From living room to media room: before and after. See more photos.

Now, with a blank canvas with which to apply her creative talents, Ferrer and Brown could collaborate to select pieces that would look and perform well together.

Wall Paint & Projector

Even the paint color chosen for the walls would have a big impact on the family room facelift. Ferrer went with Sherwin-Williams Passive Gray – a color that would be able to render bright, vivid images from the new ZTE Spro 2 projector chosen for its small footprint and streaming capabilities.

“Although the projector the size of your palm, it can produce 10-by-12 foot images from any device to plug into its HDMI or USB ports,” says Brown.

Hugging a wall that doubles as a projection surface is a custom-built cabinet from Cabinet Tronix. Hidden inside on a motorized lift is a 43-inch TCL Roku TV that appears only when the Brown family presses a button on Logitech Harmony remote, which was programmed by HelloTech.

Having a TV that slides up and down leaves wall space available for projection, too. See more photos.

“It’s the real centerpiece of the room,” says Brown. “Because the TV has Roku built in, we were able to ‘cut the cable’ cord, and monthly cost.”

Sonos Sets the Tone

Audio comes courtesy of a Sonos Playbar that connects to the TV via optical cable.

“We elected to not install rear speakers,” says Brown. “ The soundbar fills the room without compromising the décor.”

Additional Sonos speakers did, however, make their way into other rooms, enabling the Browns to stream music from the Sonos app throughout the house.

To make sure their music requests are acknowledged by the Sonos system and to that there are no hiccups in playback, a TP-Link VR900 modem/router was paired with an eero extender system.

Amazon Echo: Lights, Climate, Shading Control

While the A/V systems were a top priority for the room makeover, Brown didn’t forget about all the little extras that can enhance the viewing environment.

A Lutron Maestro motion sensor turns the room lights on and off, and a wireless Lutron Caseta system lets Brown and her family dim the lights to just the right level—by simply speaking the command to an Amazon Echo device.

The Echo also relays voice commands to a automated Lutron window shades, a iDevices plug in module that controls a table lamp and fan, and a Honeywell Lyric thermostat.

Safe & Secure

Brown finished off the project by installing a Samsung SmartThings hub and home monitoring kit. In addition to enjoying all the high-tech creature comforts of her renovated living room, she can rest easy knowing that her family and belongings are well protected.

Should a sensor detect someone’s presence or the opening or closing of a window or door, she is immediately notified via text message.

Audio, video, control, and security … it all came together in just a few weeks but the facelift will provide the family with years of enjoyment.

See photos of the media room.



  About the Author

Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in addition electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home. Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Lisa at [email protected]

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