Before & After
Bronze Winner
JVC QMotion
Colonial Cabin Makes Smart Home History
Cutting Edge Cabin
View Slideshow
May 12, 2014 by Grant Clauser

System Design & Installation
World Wide Stereo
Montgomeryville, PA

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Most before-and-after projects focus on a very specific part of the house, like a basement renovation or a backroom overhaul. In the case of Shaggy Bark (named after a type of tree that grows in the area), the home of Victoria Graves and her husband, the before-and-after job in Bucks County, Penn., has been house-wide and ongoing since 1744.

The property was born as a one-room log cabin built before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Since then, the home has been expanded, updated and renovated numerous times by numerous different owners to reach its current size of more than 9,100 square feet, but the cabin’s original bones are still the heart and inspiration for the rest of the house.

When the Graveses moved into the home in 2005 they contacted World Wide Stereo, Montgomeryville, Penn., to add a state-of-the-art music system. This system served them well and whet their appetites for even more technology, which most recently involved the installation of a full-blown Elan g! automation system.

Integrating modern technology into a historic residence posed a significant challenge, especially since its owners were adamant about preserving the home’s rustic charm.  “The biggest challenge was fishing wires to the different places,” says World Wide Stereo’s Mark Jones. “When we started the project, wireless wasn’t an option.”  Prior to the construction, the home had no useable crawlspace, so while the kitchen was being rebuilt, a crawlspace was added.

World Wide Stereo president Bob Cole adds that sometimes the crew would encounter buried walls they didn’t know were there. “A simple trench that would take half an hour any other place would take four hours here,” he says.

Designing with LEDs

In a large house filled with designer elements, lighting is bound to be an important factor. For this project, World Wide Stereo integrated a Lutron HomeWorks system that offers the homeowners control over every light via their iPads or wall-mounted keypads. Multiple lighting scenes were programmed into the system so that the owners could change the mood of the house with the touch of a button. There’s a breakfast scene that lights up the coffee area without making the rest of the kitchen look too bright. A cooking scene increases the intensity to make preparing dishes easier. A dining scene lowers the kitchen lights and sets the proper level over a large dining room table. At night, the homeowners press one button to turn off all of the home’s lights.

Victoria Graves, who is an interior designer, also wanted to make sure that the high-tech remained as hidden as possible. Shaggy Bark was outfitted mostly with in-ceiling or in-wall Bowers & Wilkins speakers for their minimal footprint. The couple mostly relies on iPads to interact with the Elan g! system, which helped to minimize wall clutter.

A total of 13 audio zones were integrated, including multiple zones outside. World Wide Stereo used Lexicon and Rotel amplifiers to drive the speakers, both for the sound quality they provide and their ability to handle the volume levels the owners sometimes like to reach.

Outside, around the large patio, garden and pool area are Sonance speakers and an in-ground subwoofer. Several of the patio planters and even a sitting bench are actually Madison Fielding speakers.

This project didn’t start out with an end-plan in sight because Victoria Graves has a designer’s instinct and likes to experiment and make changes. “It was totally design-built,” Graves chuckles. For example, the World Wide Stereo team arrived one day to do some wiring work and found that the entire center of the house was gone. What had been the kitchen was demolished so that a new kitchen with an additional level could be added. “It was an evolution,” says Graves.

Since this project continues to be a work in progress, upgrades are always on the table. That’s what happens when homeowners who are open to new things meet an integrator they trust to keep their best interests in mind.

Great ideas for home technology planning:
What Makes Smart Lighting Smart?
Tech Integration Ideas for Dining Rooms
Maximizing Your Network for Streaming Media

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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B&W 4 CCM664 In Ceiling Speakers
B&W 2 CWM663 In Wall Speakers
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