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The Philadelphia Story

Creative Systems Conquers Installation Challenges In Main Line Home

If only walls could talk. Theres a stone, concrete, and steel Tudor-style home outside of Philadelphia that would have a lot to say about its current incarnation as a 21st century fully integrated home.

Above the fireplace, a panel hides a Pioneer Elite 42-inch plasma and a Leon LCR bar speaker.Built in the 1930s, the renovated 25,000-square-foot home, with a recent addition that pays homage to the elegance of the original architecture, is the centerpiece of an estate on the historic Main Line. The expansive property features its own par-three, six-hole golf course, loggia, and manicured grounds. With interior design by Fury Design/Architects of Philadelphia, the home is a perfect cinematic backdrop for a systems integration two-year project with a budget approaching $1 million for AV and lighting alone.

The project was designed and installed by the Lititz, Pennsylvania, office of Creative Systems, headquartered in Natick, Massachusetts, following its win in a bid put out by consultant Paul Lerman, Paul F. Lerman System Design, of Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Jason Hendrie from Creative Systems Lititz office served as project manager, joined by installer Gregory Boynton.

A Dream Budget
Fulfilling the clients wishes for functionality and unobtrusive integrations, the home features Crestron Pro2 and MC2E processors as well as a Pac2 lighting processor. Nineteen Crestron touch panels, including TPS5000s with Internet weather feeds,
All equipment is sequestered in a basement room from which music and video scenes can be selected to set the entire property for entertaining. make it easy for the client to access information from myriad locations. The system features 36 keypads, 36 zones of audio, 14 zones of distributed HD video, 22 HVAC zones, full audio and video intercom capability as well as control of security and camera systems and 158 lighting circuits. Lighting, security, and HVAC can be remotely controlled via Crestron e-Control. Outside, 13 cameras, some in trees, provide surveillance of the property, keeping track of children and visitors.

When a visitor rings the doorbell or gate phone, all touch panels light up with the correct security camera and allow two-way conversation. The client also can set an alarm clock from the master bedroom, through customized Crestron programming, that will wake up the children to an audio source without allowing them to hit the snooze button.

The system also includes two ReQuests VideoReQuest DVD servers, six high-definition cable interfaces, and two satellite interfaces selectable at any TV in the home for multiple HD programming. Bay Audio speakers, including Model 885s and 985s, serve the house through the Crestron distributed audio system. All equipment is sequestered in a basement room from which music and video scenes can be selected to set the entire property for entertaining.

It was a unique project in the sense that this client wanted maximum effect without too much concern for budget, Lerman said. This is the dream budget the consultant looks for because you can go to the max.

Ready for the Super Bowl
The client, a successful software entrepreneur with a young family, renovated about 80 percent of the main house, leaving the enormous formal living room untouched. He also tore down a previous addition, rebuilding it to encompass the home theater, game room, wine cellar, family room, and extra bedrooms.

The basement theater, for which an additional two to three feet was dug out to accommodate its tiered seating for 14 (plus additional bar stool seating) features Clark Synthesis transducers on each of its leather chairs. A SIM2 HT500 E-Link three-chip DLP projector hangs from the center of the room, with images displayed on a 106-inch Stewart Filmscreen Luxus ScreenWall with Grey Hawk. Martin Logan Voyage in-wall speakers handle the room along with two 12-inch Snell ITS Sub24 subwoofers in the front of the theater and a B&K Reference 50 receiver. The effect is 7.1-surround sound room within a room, designed by Lerman; a theater that appears to be standard issue, yet is highly acoustically treated.

The client wanted multiple plasmas throughout the house, including in the game room (pictured, right), which is adjacent to the theater where four Sharp LCDs provide access to multiple sporting events by way of individual inputs. In addition, audio and multiple types of game devices or laptops can be plugged into the inputs for a variety of simultaneous entertainment options.

Completing the basement level is a wine cellar with a climate-control system tied to the alarm system should the temperature climb, and a wine-tasting room open to the game room. Individual selections can be called up through the distributed audio system from either space.

These clients like to entertain, and when they had their annual major Super Bowl party with 100 guests, they used the loggia, an open stone building with heaters and a system-interfaced, remote-controlled HD LCD over a fireplace. The Super Bowl also was on in the theater and on the various plasma displays throughout the entire house.

The Heart of the Home
If the theater is the entertainment center of the house, the family room, adjacent to the kitchen, is the heart. The room is distinguished by 25-foot high ceilings and hand-carved wood paneling, installed from wainscoting to the top of the peaked ceiling which is embellished by painted constellations.

Above the massive antique fireplace, a non-motorized sliding wooden counterweight panel hides the Pioneer Elite 42-inch plasma and a Leon LCR bar speaker mounted on the bottom of the plasma. Sonance Virtuoso 831D speakers, faux finished to match the paisley gold and blue fabric of the room, seem to melt into the acoustic treatment on the walls. A Martin Logan Dynamo 10-inch subwoofer is hidden in a window seat beneath a little turret in a corner of the room.

In the kitchen (pictured, right), a Crestron TPS5000 provides control for video in the room as well as whole-house audio, lighting, and other functions, and Bay Audio in-wall speakers provide audio. A 26-inch Sharp AQUOS LCD over a fireplace is camouflaged with a motorized VisionArt Premier Gallery screen.

Crestron TPS2000 touch panels are provided in the childrens bedrooms for lighting and music, not for television, which may be watched in a communal sitting area. The master bedroom sitting room has a Sharp LCD on the wall attached to full audio and video of house.

Creative Systems should be praised for meeting all the architectural and technical challenges in a way that made the client and consultant happy, Lerman said. We were all pleased.

Those challenges involved a lot of retro work in both sections of the house, Hendrie said. There are a lot of solid stone walls up to 18 inches thick, he noted. And with a house that big we had to find ways to get wire from the basement to the attic. There were long hours necessitating patience, persistence, and drilling through masonry with heavy-duty hammer drills. Normally you find a wall and make a path, but in these old houses, where theres a lot of concrete and brick, nothing seems to line up the way youd expect.

The basement theater features Clark Synthesis transducers, a SIM2 HT500 E-Link three-chip DLP projector, and a 106-inch Stewart Filmscreen Luxus ScreenWall with Grey Hawk. Creative Systems recently updated the camera security system on the property and is currently adding additional Sonance Mariner SS62 speakers on the golf course as well as a Crestron iPod docking station in the clients home office as another music source for the distributed audio system.

Its a fun and challenging project and we take a lot of pride in it, Hendrie said. The new technology enabled us to keep the old feel of the house, and to keep it nice and clean.

The biggest compliment, Collotta concluded, has come in the three referrals garnered from the Main Line project. We got them from this client letting us bring people through his house, he said. To be able to have someone let us take prospective clients through the house and recommend us is pretty special on a job this size.

Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colorado.