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My ‘In-Person’ Tour of the HGTV Dream Home

  The front of the snow-covered HGTV Dream Home in Stowe, VT, which features Lutron’s energy-saving lighting and shade control products for the entire home. For more pictures of the tour, click here.

The front of the snow-covered HGTV Dream Home in Stowe, VT, which features Lutron’s energy-saving lighting and shade control products for the entire home. For more pictures of the tour, click here.

by Jeremy J. Glowacki

I’ll admit that I had an unfair advantage over my editorial competitors during our visit to the HGTV Dream Home in Stowe, VT, last week. While they were seeing the beautiful “ski in, ski out” home featuring Lutron lighting and shades control for the first time, our tour guide had already given me a sneak peek of the place two weeks earlier.

OK, I’m being a little silly. You see my “tour” was actually a TV show that I happened upon while channel surfing through my AT&T Uverse cable listing. On my way to the free movie channels I happened to stop on the cable system’s “preview channel” where Uverse was promoting HGTV’s annual Dream Home giveaway by showcasing this year’s featured home in a video tour led by house planner Jack Thomasson. The tour was so thorough in fact that my wife thought it was ridiculous that I would even consider spending three days away from home for a two-hour in-person tour.

The living area off the kitchen features 168-inch-high windows with Lutron’s Sivoia QS Wireless shades. The dining room also features 144-inch-high windows with shades.

Needless to say, I didn’t cancel my trip, and I’m glad I didn’t. There are some things that you just can’t experience through the tube—things that you have to see and experience for real, to understand what’s going on.

My fellow members of the press and I were guests of Lutron senior residential public relations manager Melissa Andresko, who wanted us to see how integral her company’s technology was to the overall look and feel of what promised to be a spectacular home, in an equally stunning setting.

Late last year, Lutron had announced that it has been named a Participating Product Sponsor of the 15th annual HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes, having provided energy-saving lighting and shade control products for the entire home. To get involved in the project, Lutron first had to be an advertiser on HGTV at a certain dollar level. For some more money and donated equipment, then, the company was part of a very visible project on a pretty popular channel. In fact, according to Thomasson, Lutron was the first technology sponsor ever to be featured in a Dream Home.

The 3,000-square-foot lodge-style home will be awarded to a winning entry out of more than 76 million entries (as of last week) on or about March 12, 2011. The entry period ran from January 1 to February 18 on and

My first impression of the Dream Home was that it was not as spacious as it seemed on TV. It was beautiful and well appointed, but not a palace by any stretch of the imagination. What it offered was an unparalleled setting for a family that loves to ski and has lots of friends or a really good plan for timesharing. I was struck by the views of ski slopes through nearly every huge window of the home. But before that even became apparent, I noticed how warm the space was that included the family room and kitchen. After the bone-chilling cold outside, the room was cozy at first, but then I felt my face getting flush as the hot sun poured in through all of the 168-inch-high windows throughout the room.

The “thermal dynamics” of the home were further emphasized as soon as we turned the corner and entered the first bedroom on the tour where there was an eight-degree drop from 78 to 70. The reason? Window shades. To be more precise, Lutron’s Sivoia QS Wireless shades were drawn in the bedroom, but wide open in the much warmer common area.

I’ve seen my fair share of shades over the years, but until you experience that contrast in temperature in person, you don’t truly appreciate the energy management capabilities of the products.

HGTV Dream Home house planner Jack Thomasson began the tour of the Stowe residence by explaining the concept of a ski in, ski out lodge-style house. He controlled the home’s RadioRA 2 system and Sivoia QS Wireless shades during the tour with Lutron’s new RadioRA 2 iPad app.
Something else jumped out at me as well. Earlier in the day we had taken a tour of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream making headquarters nearby and when the tour guide took us through a catwalk of sorts overlooking the production floor, he opened automated shades to let us watch the action down below. The shades, as noted by Andresko, were clearly not Lutron products, because they were very noisy in operation. On the other hand, the shades inside the Dream Home were completely quiet when being raised or lowered via Thomasson’s RadioRA 2 iPad app.

A fact that wasn’t covered on the Dream Home TV tour was that one about Lutron being the first technology sponsor in the show’s history. With all of the homes we write about, that detail came as a surprise. That is until some of us chatted later with Thomasson and found out that technology (in particular TVs) are not the priority of either his or his interior design partner’s home concepts. He sheepishly noted, “We’re a TV show, but we don’t really like emphasizing the TV in our home designs.” Lighting and shades control technology definitely seem to be the exception to that rule, however, and Thomasson honestly seemed to have become a fan of his Lutron iPad app and how it could alter the mood a room.

Dream Home Details

The HGTV Dream Home 2011 is located at Spruce Peak in Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort. The 15th annual HGTV Dream Home is a custom-designed 3,400-square-foot home blending rustic mountain appeal with modern architecture. It includes three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, and a gourmet kitchen. The total $2-million Grand Prize package from HGTV includes the fully-furnished home, $500,000, and a GMC Acadia Denali.

A little detail of the overall home design that also was not evident on TV was the interior designer’s choice to cover the shades rollers and mechanisms above each window with naturalistic wooden soffits, rather than building them into the walls. I asked Tree Ridge Enterprises’ Martin Hawkes (who was chosen by Lutron to lead the integration of the lighting and shades in the HGTV Dream Home) about this aspect of the install. He said that the height of the windows made installation challenging either way, but that by not having the install the shades into the walls, he didn’t have to worry about extra wall depth and extra insulation.

Hawkes, a 34-year veteran of the business with 30 years working with Lutron, noted that this project wasn’t his “first rodeo,” but that the builder’s schedule and dealing with a TV show created a few scheduling challenges. He said that his company was involved in the project for a year and invested approximately 1,000 hours, just on lighting and shades integration. His company, which balances work evenly between resi and commercial, designed basic lighting and shades scenes and will be available to the new homeowner should they would to modify the system in any way. He noted that he loves the seamless integration of Lutron’s RadioRA2 lighting control and Sivoia QS shades on one keypad, he also noted the shades’ “super-quiet” operation and the simple ability to reset the roller limits. For instance, his integration team realized after initially programming that the carpet installed in the Dream Home was higher than they had anticipated, making the shades “too long” when they hit their pre-set stop. “That used to be a big hassle to change,” Hawkes said, “but now it’s not difficult at all.”