A two-sided visual spectacle that you can check out from two adjoining rooms... therein lies one of the cornerstones of the high-tech, 18-zone set-up to be found in a home located in the Hampstead area of North London. Clarke Infinity, a leading U.K. provider of home entertainment systems, relied on Crestron and its integrating solutions to coordinate the six-bedroom installation. Highlights of the system, which took nine months to complete, include integrated lighting, CCTV, multi-room audio, a high definition basement home cinema system, and as noted, a television installation where two flat screens are mounted back to back.
A Crestron 2-Series Control System served as the processor through which the automation elements of the property were integrated. The CP2E has three built-in COM ports, eight IR/serial ports, eight I/O Versiports, eight isolated relays, and an Ethernet connection to control the lighting, security, and audio-visual components of each room, including the basement home cinema.
Clarke Infinity called upon Future Automation, an innovator in flat screen mounting solutions, to handle the installation of the home's flat screen plasmas and LCDs into on-wall mounts. Automation was also responsible for actualizing the homeowner's vision of having two screens mounted on the same position within the kitchen work surface area so occupants could watch television simultaneously from both the kitchen and the breakfast room.
SOLUTIONS FOR TWO SCREENS
"Because of the unique position of the counter worktop, there wasn't really an option of having the TV rotate, as the client wanted the ability to watch the screen both in the kitchen and in the breakfast room at the same time," said Simon Clarke, Managing Director and chief System Designer for Clarke Infinity. "Future Automation has a very open and forward approach to tackling these problems. It really was just a case of explaining the installation and the client's requirements."
The client also wanted both screens to rise when activated and completely disappear when turned off. Keeping this in mind, Future Automation devised a bespoke motorized lift mechanism for the two 26" LCDs, which is controlled by the Crestron TPS 2000 touchpanel.
"Foremost we want a very stable and easy to use control that had to be intuitive for the client to use," Clarke said, commenting on the desire to make a complex system as client-friendly as possible. "Crestron really made the whole system simple to use."
The Crestron stamp can be witnessed throughout the property, including TPS-4L compact wall mount touchpanels and an MT-1000C MiniTouch compact wireless touchpanel, giving the occupants a feeling of perpetual control of the home's automation elements. Getting wet while having automation access is fine as well; Crestron devised WPR-48 waterproof RF wireless "remotes on a rope" for use in the pool and shower.
LIGHTING AND ENERGY CONSERVATION
In terms of the home's lighting integration, Clarke felt that Lutron HomeWorks was the only option for an installation of this magnitude. The client was impressed with HomeWorks astronomical clock and vacation modes.
The Clarke team also paid attention to energy conservation and cost. "We are in the forefront of energy saving within the home," Clarke maintained. "The use of occupancy sensors and roll off features alongside setting the dimming levels to 90% or less on all lamps throughout the home increases the bulb life and reduces energy cost."
MUSIC FROM THE CEILING, MOVIES IN THE BASEMENT
Beyond the two-sided TV and flat screen mounts, the home features an assortment of other audio-visual delights. An array of musical selections can be heard wafting through the house via in-ceiling Sonance speakers. A CEN-IDOC IPOD interface was placed in the living room, allowing for 2-way touchpanel control and navigation. An Ipod can be simply plugged into the interface's docking station to allow for residents' sonic selections to be controlled by a Crestron touchpanel. Still, it is one of the original visual inspirations for audio innovation that inspired excitement in company and client alike-movies.
"We offer the very best in custom integration and the home theater was a major feature the client didn't want to compromise on. They love their films and so do we!" Clarke said. To insure a 360-degree immersion in the sound field, Clarke Infinity utilized Dolby Digital Surround Sound 7.1 with in-wall speakers. "We finished off with cinema seating so this would give the client a real feeling of being at the movies," Clarke added.
Nonetheless, Clarke Infinity faced some challenges with the cinema installation. "We were given a budget for the cinema in the basement and we asked the client to spend 10 percent of this on acoustic treatment," Clarke noted. "Like many projects, it's difficult for the client to see the value in this, so it was vetoed at an early stage. We said that we would not be prepared to install a cinema in the existing environment as it would not be the sort of room that we could put our name to."
The company refused to install the basement home theater until the requested carpeting was added to the floors and fabric added to the walls, which the client finally agreed to. The Clarke team was also mindful of the other workers involved in the basement cinema installation process.
"We could have sent in our own carpenters in to help build the cinema. In fact, we have an in house team that will do it all," Clarke said. "But the more you work with other contractors, the more likely you are to build your reputation and not step on the toes of those already working on the project. The challenge, even with the best drawing in the world, is making sure the work is carried out correctly by tradesmen outside of your control."
A UNIFYING VISION
Clarke attributes much of the cohesion of the Hampstead property's installation to the homeowner's vision, which also made room for financial considerations. "The client had a general idea of what and how he wanted the technology in his home to work and all we did was provide a real focus for those ideas," Clarke noted. "The budget was by no means unlimited but the client was realistic about cost set against the quality of the products involved. Because of this, the installation was a very enjoyable experience for all."
Clarke and his team knew that their work had been well-received and worth the work when they got a note from the client thanking them for "turning his house into a home."
Clarence Haynes in a writer in New York City