May 01, 2008
by Arlen Schweiger
Forget the small LCD for watching TV in this Philadelphia kitchen. It has one of those, but the 20-inch LCD is certainly not the primary display here. That nod goes to a motorized 100-inch screen that drops down from the ceiling on command from homeowners Marguerite Rodgers and James Timberlake.
The view behind the screen is pretty spectacular in its own right. That’s because this kitchen resides on the top floor of a 31-story high-rise, with floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase the city lights and skyline.
It’s no coincidence that a kitchen area in Rodgers’ home would cook up such unique and creative aesthetics. She runs an interior design firm in Philadelphia and served as the kitchen and home interior designer during this remodel project, which came about when she bought a neighboring space and combined the two areas.
Electronics installation firm Frankentek of Medford, NJ, had worked with Rodgers on several previous projects, so it was only fitting that they join forces for her own home renovation. “We do a lot of work with her, and she pays extreme attention to detail. She wanted all the audio/video stuff but didn’t want to see it,” says Frankentek CIO Edward Wickham. “The kitchen was their most used space, and they’re big movie buffs, so they wanted a big screen to watch on.”
Keeping the electronics hidden served to reduce potential clutter in a confined space. Frankentek and Rodgers worked with builder Jim Campbell to construct a cabinet to house both display devices. To the right of the sink, the homeowners can turn on the built-in Sharp LCD in the mornings and catch up on the daily news headlines and weather. On the cabinet side that faces the windows, a Sanyo PLV-80 720p projector is barely noticeable behind a circular cutout that appears like an oversize peephole. The projector has a semilong zoom lens to cover the 20-foot throw distance.
“In such a designer space, Marguerite didn’t want to see a big honkin’ projector,” Wickham says. “For the screen, there’s a custom pocket designed into the ceiling, and we built it into the Lutron [Sivoia] shading. There’s a blockout shade and a regular shade, and there’s a third roller that housed the Stewart motorized screen, so when it’s up, it’s out of the way.”
During the day, Marguerite and James can pick either a translucent shade or a total blackout shade to roll down, depending on how bright it is outside or whether they want to watch something on the Stewart Filmscreen Luxus Model A screen. At night, leaving the shades up and allowing the dark sky to enter the room has no ill effects on viewing the projected images, according to Wickham. “It’s not like there are blinding lights because they’re so high up,” he says. “It’s really awesome at night, because it looks almost like runway lights when you’re landing in a plane. There’s no problem seeing the screen.”
Using an AMX Mio R4 remote, the homeowners can hit a projector button on the color touchscreen to command the shade and screen, and then grab whatever video content they want from a Marantz DVD changer or high-def cable box. Or they can press one of the lighting scenes on a Lutron custom keypad.
They can also select audio from an Audio Design Associates distributed preamp system, which provides for surround sound, or pick tunes from their iPod that’s placed on a Sonance iPort dock.
Sonance was also Frankentek’s loudspeaker choice. The company’s Z4 Architectural series in-ceiling speakers weren’t completed in production yet, but Sonance worked with Frankentek to install them on-site—the first time the truly flush-model square and rectangular speakers had been installed, says Wickham. He says a chase built into the bottom of the windowsills allowed for inconspicuous wiring and was a fortunate alternative, because running wire through the concrete floor and ceiling wasn’t an option.
“How many times have you heard people say that the kitchen is the most used room in a house?” adds Wickham. “They wanted a screen, and now they have it with a little wow factor.” For these homeowners and their two kids, it sure makes nightly dinnertime an event to look forward to.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.