Best Hidden Technology Installs of 2013
These homes show what is possible for clients who want the latest goodies in their master bedrooms but don’t want to sleep in rooms that feel like home theaters.
Bedroom suites present a challenging double-edged sword to custom installers. On the one hand, there may be no more desirable place in a home to have all the best electronics goodies and gadgets installed, to thereby maximize that room’s comfort. But on the other hand, most couples want bedrooms to feel like, well, bedrooms, and not like distraction-driven home theaters or living rooms.
The solution? Technologies that hide these essential devices until the moment they are required. These master bedroom suites, taken from the pages of Electronic House magazine, represent the best in technologies that can make home electronics invisible.
A 60-inch TV Buried in the Floor
Blessed with wonderful lakefront views and stunning architecture, the master bedroom of this high-end Florida home had all the makings of a relaxing respite - not a high-performance media room. Still, the owners were convinced that this space could be redesigned to accommodate a big-screen TV and a surround-sound system, without interfering with the view or the clean, uncluttered aesthetic. But with curved walls covered in glass and flanked with pockets for hiding motorized drapery tracks, mounting a TV to the wall was out of the question, says Jeff Galea, CEO and president of Boca Theater & Automation, Boca Raton, Fla. The custom electronics pros at Boca also considered installing a mechanism that could slide the TV out from underneath the bed, but again, lack of space (due to electronic mattresses) prevented it.
The best solution, says Galea, was to bury the display 10 feet into the ground and assemble it on an electronic lift. Able to respond to commands from a portable AMX touchpanel - the same one the owners use to monitor and manage the lights, thermostats, and other gear throughout their 10,000-square-foot house - the lift would raise the 60-inch Sony TV into perfect viewing position.
Although a seemingly simple solution, it was one that would involve some serious excavation and engineering. After ripping up the concrete floor and foundation, crews dug into the earth to create a cavity for a specially constructed, watertight and ventilated fiber-glass housing that would hold and protect the display while it was in the down position. A motorized lift from Inca was incorporated into the design, customized to bear the weight of the TV and the front left, right and center speakers, and move the entertainment system up and down 80 inches.
After the “dirty work” was complete, the floor and windows were replaced, the TV was wired to a rack of A/V equipment located in an equipment closet elsewhere in the house, and speakers for a 5.2-channel surround-sound system were installed. Special ordered from Bay Audio, the size of the front, left, right and center speakers frame the display perfectly, so much so that they look as if they are simply a part of the TV bezel.
The rear Sonance architectural speakers were installed flush into the ceiling near the headboard of the bed. Two Sonance subwoofers complete the audio arrangement, also having been tucked into the ceiling while the room was being renovated. - Lisa Montgomery
TVs Hidden Behind Paintings and Mirrors
There’s more technology in this master suite than you’d typically find in an entire house - all integrated seamlessly. Of course, at 2,000-square-feet, there was plenty of space for the custom electronics pros at CBA Technology, South Pasadena, Calif., to fit in all sorts of high-tech elements. From top to bottom, wall to wall, there’s an amazing assortment of goodies. In A/V alone, the room boasts nine speakers and four TVs. Not that you’d ever notice any of them. “Stealth was the homeowner’s main concern,” recalls CBA Technology principal Michael Fehmers. “He wanted every bit of the technology we installed to be hidden and unnoticeable.”
Most of the time the suite’s two Samsung flat-panel LED TVs look more like a piece of art than an entertainment display. The disguise comes in the form of VisionArt, a piece of canvas artwork selected by the homeowner, which is motorized to roll up and down from a decorative frame wrapped around the TV. A third TV hides behind the bathroom mirror. Only when it’s turned on does the screen of the 19-inch Seura LED screen become visible. When turned off, it disappears completely.
Rather than completely defeat the goal of low-key A/V by outfitting each TV with its own set of components, CBA organized all of the equipment inside an unused closet. Connected to a SnapAV matrix switcher, HDMI signals from a Logitech Squeezebox, Apple TV, Kaleidescape media server, DirecTV receiver and an Oppo Blu-ray player can be distributed to any TV as well as SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers in the master suite, and to TVs elsewhere in the 6,000-square-foot house.
Naturally, it would take a beefy remote control to access and control such a large library of A/V equipment. Add motorized skylights and window treatments, architectural lighting, a smart thermostat and a gas fireplace to the equation, and having the right type of control device became even more paramount to the project. “Before the remodel, the owner was using wall-mounted touch panels to operate various electronic features. He found the system difficult to operate and unreliable,” says Fehmers. This control system had been installed by the previous owners of the house. During the renovation, CBA replaced it entirely with a new Savant Apple-based home control system. “He’s a Mac user, so enabling control over the entire master suite environment through an iPad made the most sense,” Fehmers explains.
From the iPad or any other iDevice the owner is able to control every piece of electronics in the master suite, as well as throughout the entire house, which also underwent a drastic makeover. CBA designed the graphic user interface of the iPad to display a well-organized and intuitive menu of commands. Simply touching the reading lamp icon, for example, turns on the reading lamps, activates the gas fireplace, and so on. The homeowner can also use the iPad to select what he wants to watch or listen to, and choose where to have that content distributed - the TV and stereo speakers in the sitting room or the flat panel and surround-sound speakers in the sleeping quarters, for example.
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