In 2018, custom installer Christopher Matthews merged his business with that of Kevin Flower, a certified lighting designer. Together, they began work on a showroom in their Scottsdale, Ariz., space that would show off all that the combined firm, named Acoustic Designs Group, could do, completing it in the spring of 2019. The positive response to the showroom and its many demo and listening rooms has been so strong that, when the space next door became available last year, they decided to expand the showroom, creating a Focal Powered by Naim store that doubles as a Delos Wellness Experience center.
When clients first enter the space, moving around the reception wall, they are treated to a large open room that features a variety of experience centers — including a Meyer Sound Private Cinema, multiple 2-channel listening spaces, Game Room, Great Room, and a Sub-Zero/Wolf kitchen — plus, Flower designed an array of eye-catching lighting detail throughout the space.
The Great Room is a favorite of designers as it features Focal speakers and a Sony 85-inch television that completely disappears behind the wall. “Those are the Focal Kanta No. 2 speakers that pop out of the wall in a custom Future Automation display,” says Matthews. “The technology disappears, and all you see is the front façade with the fireplace on the wall. Our planned concept worked around the fact that whenever you see a fireplace and a TV, you see a speaker bar, and I wanted a more versatile and inviting space. We reached out to Future Automation, and they took their motorized TV mechanism and specifically designed for us the mechanisms that maneuver the two Focal speakers into the wall. With our display, the media room instantly transforms into an inviting and relaxing space to interact with friends and family without visible technology.”
Illusions With Lighting
The main room is filled with impressive displays of lighting — some subtle and others that demand attention. On the latter side, the far wall appears to open to a patio overlooking three different high-definition LED-backlit images displaying nature’s beauty, which is impressive considering the shop is in the middle of an industrial complex near the Scottsdale airport!
“Behind that wall is our Theater demo,” explains Matthews. “We wanted to create the illusion of a Great Room Patio, and the only way we could do that was with clever lighting designs and techniques using LED lights that backlight nature scenes created by Barrisol out of France. There are three sets of three doors, and each third has a different image that flows into the next and gives the feeling of overlooking a beautiful outdoor landscape rather than an industrial building with no windows. It gives our guests almost real-life access to the beautiful outdoors as though you are looking out your Great Room windows to see all the beauty that nature offers.”
The subtler use of lighting is firmly on display in the Kitchen area. “If you look in the Kitchen itself, Kevin added accent lighting and uplights in some sections and left them out of others. We tell our clients, ‘If you don’t want that detail, this is what your kitchen will look like and if you do, here is how it will transform the room.’ We intentionally did that so clients would fully appreciate that they don’t have to do this, but it will look so much better if they do.”
For another example of high-end lighting in action, look up. “The ceiling features nine three-headed light fixtures, so there are actually 27 different lights,” says Matthews. “In a typical house, you’d have 27 separate light cans, and who wants to see that? Here you get to see the woodwork in the ceiling with minimal lighting fixtures. Additionally, all those lights pivot so Kevin just aims them at areas he wishes to highlight. We went from 27 fixtures to nine but still offer the same luminosity. The effect is amazing.”
Private Cinema, Wellness, and Power
The Private Cinema area of the showroom features a Sony VPL-GTZ380 4K SXRD laser projector and speakers from Meyer Sound that, as Matthews shares, “is what Hollywood scores are mixed on.” And as impressive as the sights and sounds are for cinema lovers, the lighting also enhances the space.
“If you look in our Theater ceiling, there are no can lights,” says Matthews. “All of the lights on the side walls are run off a DMX controller, so we can change the colors. And then up top, it’s tape lighting bouncing off the ceiling to give ambient lighting. Plus, clients love the way the light is placed horizontally on the walls — most theaters are vertical and have static columns, we wanted our theater to be different than what people typically see.”
In keeping with the idea of being different than the rest, Acoustic Design Group has embraced two emerging technology spaces for the channel — wellness and smart power — and the showroom offers a hands-on experience in presenting these new categories to clients.
“Wellness is built into the Focal Powered by Naim space,” says Matthews. “It’s a Crestron-controlled Delos system featuring Ketra Lighting from Lutron, along with water purification and air purification throughout the space. As soon as clients walk into that space, the first comment is, ‘What a beautiful space. I want this to be my home.’ The second comment is, ‘It feels different in here,’ and it truly does.”
For smart power, Acoustic Design Group doesn’t just sell it — they also employ it for the business. “We dove in headfirst with the RoseWater Energy product,” explains Matthews. “To demo it, we put one in our warehouse, and it ties into the main showroom. Our lighting processor, all the AV — everything — is protected by RoseWater.
“Kevin and I love having RoseWater in our space. While we do have power outages, we never know when it happens because our internet keeps running and our lights stay on. It’s not an easy sell because it is an emerging category in the luxury technology space, but we’re definitely ahead of the curve on smart energy because all things energy are moving in that direction.”
Related: 2022 Showroom Showcase Gallery
Matthews sees having an experience center as an important part of the process to help clients, architects, and designers envision all that is available to them in a custom residence. “When someone walks in, they immediately begin to visualize what we designed into the showroom in their new home,” he says, “especially on the lighting side. If Kevin specs a fixture and all they see is a photo, model number, and price, they aren’t sold on the concept. But as soon as they walk in and see the aesthetics such as changing the color of the lighting, setting a mood, or eliminating several lighting cans in the ceiling while maintaining beautiful, well-lit areas, they suddenly understand the value of the lighting design presented to them.
“Our showroom has opened the eyes of the clientele in our market as they comprehend why we are different and what we’re able to do for them. The space pays for itself because once you experience what you’re purchasing it’s no longer a budget number, it’s now a part of the home.”
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