May 04, 2009
by Steven Castle
This Manhattan loft has a bit of everything in its 5,600 square feet. There’s a minimalist aesthetic, but paired with lots of high-tech goodies. There’s some good-old analog audio—with vinyl records, no less—combined with the latest in digital streaming. There are hundred-year-old walls and energy-efficient lighting and shading. And to top it off, there’s an 1,800-square-foot roof deck and spa a few steps above.
The owner appreciates technology, but didn’t want to see a lot of equipment. “The architectural approach was very minimalist, and he wanted to match that aesthetic with the technology,” says Mark Hermann of electronics design and installation company EPI Systems Integration of Brooklyn, N.Y.
The entire space was gutted, save for the scalloped ceiling, and 14 zones of audio put music to the clean design of architect Jasmit Singh Rangr.
But boy, do the musical choices vary. The owner loves listening to his LPs on a Basis turntable and through stereo Vandersteen tower speakers in the library. But he isn’t a diehard from the analog age; he also loves Internet radio, and for that he can queue up a Logitech Transporter digital streaming device that plays Internet radio stations or his digital music files in any zone. In addition, a VINYL button on one of the Crestron home control panels sends music from the record player to speakers throughout the house.
He can also listen to music from the cable TV system or from one of three Crestron iPod iDocks throughout the spread. It’s all operable via EPI’s award-winning customized interface on the Crestron touchpanels.
EPI mounted several of the owner’s Vandersteen speakers on the walls between the windows in the kitchen, dining and living room areas, where they fire through the drapery fabric. In the bathroom and dressing areas, Snell bookshelf speakers are placed above cabinets and pointed up to achieve optimal acoustics with the curved ceilings. In one bathroom, two spherical Anthony Gallo A’Diva speakers are used for this purpose.
“We had to find a way to provide directed sound from invisible speakers, so we reflected the sound off the parabolic shape of the ceiling.” says Hermann.
The media room and master bedroom utilize Thiel ViewPoint speakers on either side of the Runco plasma screens, with Thiel HigherPlane in-ceiling speakers used for the surround sound in the media room. There’s no center speaker, but EPI carefully calibrated the sound via the media room’s Lexicon MC-12 audio processor to create a phantom center channel. Two in-wall Snell subwoofers fire from below the screen. A dozen Boston Acoustics Voyager speakers are concealed on the two roof decks, some along a railing behind live bamboo.
There are other sustainable touches as well, such as the energy-efficient and dimmable cold cathode lighting fixtures and motorized shades that ascend and descend via timers to let in natural light and block out the summer’s heat. A Lutron lighting system governs all the lighting, including modern in-floor uplights that streak the interior hallways and roof parapet and hidden fixtures that reflect light dramatically off the ceiling.
The shades ascend and descend depending on the time of day. There are also custom shading scenes for the weekends and for the kitchen and living room areas. Lutron Sivoia QED blackout shades descend in the master bedroom, and on the south side Somfy motors raise reverse counter-weighted shades from the floor to preserve the old-style brickwork.
Simplicity is the key to controlling all of this. The owners can use in-wall Lutron seeTouch panels to turn lights on and off as they enter spaces, and all the graphical interfaces on the Crestron touchpanels are the same and can control any of the 14 audio zones. Several party modes with preset lighting and music scenes are available, and some of the audio zones like the two on the roof can be combined.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates