The Dallas Design District is a destination unto itself and the place to find the finest in furniture, textiles, fine art, and interior design showrooms. It is also where you will find Elliston Systems & Design, a 21-year-old custom installation company that fits right in with its design-centric neighbors and serves the communities that surround it well.
“Our building is over 10,000 square feet, with the showroom making up 3500 square feet, our warehouse is 6000 square feet, and an 850-square-foot rack building and testing center,” says owner Steve Elliston. “The home theater used to be an office and our main showroom used to be our shop, but we reworked the design to the current layout about four years ago, providing everyone on our team with the space they need while also providing architects and designers a partner they can come to — and bring their clients to — for education.”
The showroom resembles a luxury home, featuring a bedroom, living room, and kitchen, as well as the home theater. The space also has a boardroom space with a hidden projector and screen to conduct lunch and learns.
For clients, the process begins with the company’s website, which features an online configurator where they can get an idea of what services are offered, what they need, and how much it might cost. “Just like a car, you can go online and run a configurator to estimate what you think you want, but the full experience usually requires a test drive, and that’s what our showroom provides,” says Elliston.
“When we start discussing systems more complicated than the typical flat panel, soundbar, and wireless speaker, having visual context and showing them options that will create a visceral reaction is important,” he continues. “We’ve invested considerable resources into team training and online tools like our configurator. That helps to set expectations since you can always discuss a top performing theater, but until they hear and see what’s possible, it’s often hard to understand where the dollars are spent.”
That philosophy works with architects and designers, too, and Elliston Systems partners with many of them. “We work with a large architectural firm who regularly attends our events and connects us with their clients,” explains Elliston. “We provide them with the ammunition they need to answer the client’s basic questions and give them the ability to refer us should their client want to see the technology in action. Designers and architects don’t have the time to keep up with technology changes. By being a CEDIA outreach instructor, we allow architects and designers to earn CEU credits while learning how to work together for the benefit of our mutual client.
“Since we often work with architects and designers, we focused on showing discreet technology when designing the showroom. Aesthetically pleasing solutions like invisible speakers, small aperture openings from James Loudspeaker, and the Samsung Frame provide top-quality sound and video with minimal design impact on the room. Trades love to impress their clients with how clean everything looks in the showroom while wowing them with the latest and greatest in AV. Demonstrating quality and discreet AV solutions, which isn’t often done by integrators, helps eliminate one of the biggest points of friction with designers.”
Designers are able to get a peek at Elliston Systems’ rack building area, too, where they can see the CAD drawings and racks being created. It is also easy for designers to quickly get what they need. “We have fabric swatches for walls and shades, including the top 40 Lutron shade fabrics, so designers can swing in, grab a sample, or have a discussion with our team on what options exist,” says Elliston. “The same is true for keypads, speakers, and even examples of different shade mechanics.”
Not content to just work with the trades, Elliston Systems is adding them — the company recently added a master electrician to its staff so it could offer high-voltage solutions. “For most integrators, high voltage really means light switches and the occasional raising of an outlet for a flat panel,” says Elliston. “We’re looking at everything in the home, as electricity is probably the number one cause of noise gremlins, and we have the ability to think through the issues from day one rather than trying to fix them after everything is done. From deciding which breakers and lines appliances go on and where electrical outlets need to be located for on-wall TV placement, to increasing the amount of lighting loads and discrete scenes while reducing the number of switches on the wall, it’s a well thought-through process that creates a totally different experience for the client as well as the various other trades that may be working on the home.
“Having a master electrician on staff means he can answer any questions from us, the trades, or the end client, keeping things on time and reducing those costly redoes when trades are acting in silos.”
A highlight of the showroom is the Keith Yates-designed home theater, which packs a lot into a relatively small footprint, including speakers from Meyer Sound and content from Kaleidescape, and sets a standard for noise isolation, air purity, and dialog clarity — three of the areas a KYD theater are known for. Plus, with a flick of a switch clients can get a glimpse behind the walls.
“From a cool factor, clients love when we turn on the backlighting behind the wall material so you can see the studs, speakers, and acoustic materials required to get the room to that level of quality,” says Elliston. “Too many rooms are built with the idea of squeezing the largest screen possible into the room or placing huge tower speakers and a center channel on the floor. Instead, we want to show the client, whether it’s the end-user, their home manager, designer, or architect, that a dedicated or shared home theater space can work within the aesthetic and design language of the home, while still performing at a level far superior to the average public theater.”
Another showroom highlight is the Ketra lighting area, where Elliston Systems shows the dramatic effect changing the warmth and intensity of the light can have on the objects it shines on. “We show two of the same paintings side by side,” explains Elliston. “We use a standard dimmable light on one and a Ketra light on the other. As we adjust both options, it becomes immediately apparent how tunable lighting is going to improve how they enjoy their home. Our lighting fixtures deepen the engagement with the artwork, helping reveal the artist’s intentions at various color temperatures and dimming levels. The Ketra reaction is often immediate and emotional, whether they have an artwork collection to display or want to enjoy a home where the lighting helps contribute to wellness and relaxation.”
The showroom is appointment-only, so all visitors arrive with a purpose and, thanks to the online configurator, an idea of what to expect — or at least what they think they know what to expect, until they get dazzled by the demos, which works for end-users and designers alike.
“We have had film critics and audio engineers all tell us they’ve never heard a room sound as good as ours,” concludes Elliston, “and that’s the level we look to reach with every client.”
At CEDIA Expo? See for Yourself
Elliston Systems & Design and industry consultant MRKTMKR are going to be hosting an event in the Dallas showroom during CEDIA Expo on September 28 from 5:00–8:00 PM. The evening will include food and drinks as well as discussions from industry icons and a variety of manufacturers. Registration before the event is required — go to mrktmkr.com/CEDIA or email [email protected] to get added to the list. Transportation to and from the convention center will be provided. Space is limited, so sign up today.