When prospective customers visit your showroom, they don’t want to walk through and find a setting that doesn’t seem comfortable. A person typically wants to think about how that space may mimic their own home — or at least their dream home.
There are all kinds of ways integrators can successfully achieve this effect. For one dazzling example, let’s take a peek at how Echo Systems recently created that dream home and turned it into a compelling, 10,000-square-foot demo.
Located in Omaha, Neb., Echo Systems’ recent $2.5 million project includes a state-of-the-art entry space, complete with slick, black slate floors and a slate reception area, granite countertops, a starfield ceiling, and a stone wall with a Planar mosaic video wall displaying the company’s name. The actual tour begins at the front door of the “home,” with a connected doorbell, intercom and camera system.
The personalized and welcoming experience starts right when prospects walk through the door, as they are treated to Echo Systems’ ability to take the extra step when it comes to customer service.
“We got some great tips on the psychology of selling and realized we are on the right track when we offer clients an espresso or a cold drink upon entering our showroom,” says Doug Dushan, senior sales consultant and marketing coordinator at Echo Systems. “Apparently, when you do something nice for them, most people feel an unconscious obligation to do something nice in return. Hopefully it will be the sale.”
Once customers cross through the entryway, there’s a high-tech kitchen area, living room, study, bar, bedroom, and even a bathroom. It also features dueling A/V spaces, with an entertainment room and a dedicated home theater.
Visitors can walk through any and all of the rooms, whether it’s to gather ideas or just stand in awe of how technology can be practically and beautifully incorporated into a home.
“It was really meant to give our clients a visual expression of what could be done,” says Dushan. “We really wanted this to be a place for inspiration, so that when people walked out they had multiple ideas across multiple platforms. And it’s really been successful on that front.”
Theater Makes Impressive Impression
The home theater is an especially popular showpiece. Presented to illustrate how the at-home experience can be better than going out to the local Cineplex, this spot features warm Lutron Electronics lighting, 16 plush CinemaTech Le Grande home theater seats, and immersive audio via the Steinway Lyngdorf LS system. The company’s engineers and technicians worked with Steinway to make sure that every spot in the room was the sweet one.
“We knew that this was going to be an entertainment theater and that the experience everywhere in the room was important,” says Dushan. “We were able to set up this system so that really just about anywhere you sit you have a very similar experience, acoustically. That’s pretty remarkable.”
The theater’s crowning A/V jewel is Digital Projection’s Insight 4K Dual-LED, a three-chip DLP projector that can deliver crystal-clear 4K 4096 x 2160 resolution via combined LED illuminators.
One of the few spots in the country where the projector is on public display (and the only one in the Midwest, according to the company), the unit can crank out eye-popping images with an expanded color gamut and brightness beyond the REC 709 color standard. It boasts 3,000 lumens, 3D support, flexibility, and a cool operation.
“We chose to show the LED Insight projector in our showroom because we could combine the benefits of a very bright LED projector with the best 4K picture available,” says John Palser, vice president of Echo Systems. “The LED light engine allows for a much broader color space that we felt gave us the best picture possible. The LED, of course, also boasts a tremendous life expectancy.”
In this setting, guests can view those stunning Ultra HD images on an acoustically transparent 15-foot-wide Stewart Filmscreen Director’s Choice screen. This model features both horizontal and vertical masking, so it can accommodate a wide variety of content, including gaming.
In a bit of a departure from the normal Blu-ray (or Ultra Blu-ray as the case may be now that such players have entered the market) content to demonstrate the video capabilities in its theater, Echo Systems has an Xbox One hooked up to the system. Not only does it show customers how one little console can bring in an endless amount of streaming entertainment, but it also demonstrates how to really get in the game — by immersing prospective customers with those beautiful, big-screen images.
“It is very easy to lose yourself in the experience of the theater itself,” says Palser. “You may need to set a time limit for yourself before you begin the demo.”
Adds Dushan: “We really wanted to be able to transport people to what was being shown in the theater. We wanted to really detach them from the external world and let them connect emotionally with what they are seeing, what they are hearing, what they are feeling. It’s really an exceptional room.”
And just like it should in a regular home setting, the action in the theater room doesn’t disturb any of the other areas in the show home. When the theater doors are closed, the sound inside can’t be heard throughout the rest of the demo space. That’s because the company acoustically treated the room, with help from design firm and consultant Paradise Theater.
“I don’t mean over-deadened like you see all too often with an experience of theater designs, but it is absolutely isolated from the outside world,” Palser says. “It’s also an excellent nap room after lunch, by the way.”
More A/V, Aesthetic Solutions Abound
Moving along from the dedicated theater experience, the A/V doesn’t stop as the tour continues with an entertainment-filled living room that features a custom Séura mirror TV and Steinway audio system.
For more than just an everyday background listening experience, though, one push of the “Theater” button on the Savant control system triggers a motorized system to expose ceiling speakers and a projector, as well as drop down a 120-inch Stewart Filmscreen screen.
The other areas of the show home are just as impressive, highlighting wares such as “invisible” Sonance speakers and a subwoofer in the dining room and in-wall speakers in the home office to two video options in the master bedroom.
“One is on a motorized lift from the ceiling and the second — and the one that gets more attention is the Media Décor lift that reveals a television,” Dushan notes.
High-tech is showcased even the master bath, with a lit Séura mirror TV over the sink. There’s also a white glass Séura Hydra TV located in the shower, with a transducer that can turn one of the shower tiles into a background audio speaker.
Of course, Echo Systems doesn’t just highlight items in specific rooms, but also shows how solutions can be connected throughout the entire house, such as lighting and audio. Everything in the home is linked to a Savant control system that can be accessed anywhere in the demo home.
Undoubtedly prospective clients will be amazed by the amount of high-tech goodies integrators can pack into one space as evident by this showroom tour. Additionally, while it does give customers a good idea of what it’s like to live with technology, Echo Systems has made sure to also show how technology doesn’t interfere with everyday life.
“It was really designed to show how technology doesn’t have to impede on a home’s aesthetic,” says Dushan, echoing the sentiment of many of today’s homebuyers.
Inside the Production Room
There’s one part of the Echo Systems tour that customers won’t find in the typical home setting, but an important spot for integrators to emulate. The production room is a place inside the show home where the company builds out all of its jobs.
“We have found that people generally have a fairly short tolerance for frustration with technology, so really our aim is to simplify operation, to increase reliability of systems — and that all starts with proper engineering and production,” explains Dushan. “So after engineering signs off and the product is ordered, it goes then to our facility.”
It includes all sorts of technology, including Meridian speakers, separate in-ceiling speakers, and Lutron lighting controls. The area even has two separate Stewart screens paired with a Digital Projection E-Vision 8000 1080p projector.
However, this setup isn’t just to show how technology works, but was designed to make sure technology works correctly once installed in a client’s home.
Dushan says that the company starts system production 45 days before it’s actually installed in a customer’s home.
The company gets the systems fully racked and fabricated in the production room, where they also do all of the programming, wiring, and testing. Then, each product is packaged up and sent to the jobsite when it’s ready.
“That also keeps our time in a client’s home to a minimum, so that we’re not there onsite building their system that hasn’t been tested,” says Dushan. “We’re actually showing up with a system that is preprogrammed, tested, and ready to go.”
Visiting clients can see how all of technical pieces of the puzzle get put together, inside the show home, which also features a high-tech kitchen, master bedroom, bath, and multiple entertainment spaces.
“That’s been an important part of our tour, so clients can see what’s really behind the scenes,” says Dushan.