Making Smart Home History in a Colonial Cabin
This cutting edge cabin was built before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Now it features the technologies of a modern smart home.
Grant Clauser · June 20, 2014
Most before-and-after projects focus on a very specific part of the house, like a basement renovation or a backroom overhaul. In the case of Shaggy Bark (named after a type of tree that grows in the area), the home of Victoria Graves and her husband, the before-and-after job in Bucks County, Penn., has been house-wide and ongoing since 1744.
The property was born as a one-room log cabin built before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Since then, the home has been expanded, updated and renovated numerous times by numerous different owners to reach its current size of more than 9,100 square feet, but the cabin’s original bones are still the heart and inspiration for the rest of the house.
When the Graveses moved into the home in 2005 they contacted World Wide Stereo, Montgomeryville, Penn., to add a state-of-the-art music system. This system served them well and whet their appetites for even more technology, which most recently involved the installation of a full-blown Elan g! automation system.
Integrating modern technology into a historic residence posed a significant challenge, especially since its owners were adamant about preserving the home’s rustic charm. “The biggest challenge was fishing wires to the different places,” says World Wide Stereo’s Mark Jones. “When we started the project, wireless wasn’t an option.” Prior to the construction, the home had no useable crawlspace, so while the kitchen was being rebuilt, a crawlspace was added.
World Wide Stereo president Bob Cole adds that sometimes the crew would encounter buried walls they didn’t know were there. “A simple trench that would take half an hour any other place would take four hours here,” he says.
Victoria Graves, who is an interior designer, also wanted to make sure that the high-tech remained as hidden as possible. Shaggy Bark was outfitted mostly with in-ceiling or in-wall Bowers & Wilkins speakers for their minimal footprint. The couple mostly relies on iPads to interact with the Elan g! system, which helped to minimize wall clutter.
A total of 13 audio zones were integrated, including multiple zones outside. World Wide Stereo used Lexicon and Rotel amplifiers to drive the speakers, both for the sound quality they provide and their ability to handle the volume levels the owners sometimes like to reach.
Outside, around the large patio, garden and pool area are Sonance speakers and an in-ground subwoofer. Several of the patio planters and even a sitting bench are actually Madison Fielding speakers.
This project didn’t start out with an end-plan in sight because Victoria Graves has a designer’s instinct and likes to experiment and make changes. “It was totally design-built,” Graves chuckles. For example, the World Wide Stereo team arrived one day to do some wiring work and found that the entire center of the house was gone. What had been the kitchen was demolished so that a new kitchen with an additional level could be added. “It was an evolution,” says Graves.
Since this project continues to be a work in progress, upgrades are always on the table. That’s what happens when homeowners who are open to new things meet an integrator they trust to keep their best interests in mind.
Designing with LEDs
In a large house filled with designer elements, lighting is bound to be an important factor. For this project, World Wide Stereo integrated a Lutron HomeWorks system that offers the homeowners control over every light via their iPads or wall-mounted keypads. Multiple lighting scenes were programmed into the system so that the owners could change the mood of the house with the touch of a button. There’s a breakfast scene that lights up the coffee area without making the rest of the kitchen look too bright. A cooking scene increases the intensity to make preparing dishes easier. A dining scene lowers the kitchen lights and sets the proper level over a large dining room table. At night, the homeowners press one button to turn off all of the home’s lights.
Apple 4 IPAD Apple Ipad
Artison 1 SB1 Passive Sound Bar
B&W 4 CCM664 In Ceiling Speakers
B&W 2 CWM663 In Wall Speakers
B&W 2 CWCM65 In Wall Speakers
B&W 1 M1B Satellite Speakers
Dynaudio 2 AUDI52 Book Shelf Speakers
Elan 1 HC12 Elan Controller
Elan 1 S12R Elan Controller
Elan 1 D1201 Elan 12 Channel Digital Amplifier
Elan 1 VIA10OEM 10 inch wall panel controller
Elan 1 VIA6OEM 6 inch wall panel controller
Furman 2 ELITE20PFI Power conditioner
Furman 1 F1500-UPS UPS Power Supply
Lexicon 2 DD8 8 x 125 watt 8 channel amplifier
Lutron HOMEWORKS and QS Lighting control system
Madison Fielding 1 Lake Placid Bench outdoor speaker
Madison Fielding 2 TC8.20 Planter outdoor speaker
Middle Atlantic 1 Rack Equipment rack
NAD 1 C275BEE Integrated Amp
Nuvision 1 NVU55 55 inch LED TV
Pakedge 2 SW8-4PB Network Switch
Pakedge 2 SW5-6W Network Switch
Pakedge 1 SW16-GB Network Switch
Pakedge 1 RSB-24KC Network Router
Pakedge 3 WAP3G WAP
Panamax 2 BLUEBOLT IP Controlled power center
Rotel 1 RDV1045 Preamp
Rotel 1 RA1062 Amp
Runco 1 SP42 42 inch plasma
Samsung 1 UN46ES8000 46 inch LED
Sonance 1 LS47SUBPKG Landscape speaker system
SpeakerCraft 12 PREAIM7FIVE In Ceiling Speakers
SpeakerCraft 2 ROX820 Rock speakers
Sunfire 2 CRS3C LCR speakers
Sunfire 1 TSEQ10 10 inch high pressure subwoofer
Sunfire 1 HRS10 10 inch high pressure subwoofer
Sunfire 1 SZA2200 digital amplifier
Sunfire 1 TGB5 Surround processor
Sunfire 1 T6A5200 Surround amplifier
URC 2 MX980 Universal Remote Control
CE Pro’s sister publication Electronic House named this home the bronze winner for 2014 Home of the Year Awards in the Before & After category.
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Grant Clauser is a technology editor, covering home electronics for more than 10 years for such publications as Electronic House and Dealerscope. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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