May 01, 2008
by Steven Castle
Breakfast with a floor-to-ceiling view of the Tucson mountains seems enough of a sensory feast. Now add some music from nearly invisible speakers in the ceiling, maybe an HDTV show on one of two screens or some camera feeds of wildlife visitors, and you have a brunch buffet of stimulation—both natural and man-made.
This wide-open 28-by-42-foot kitchen is also the social center for a sprawling southwestern contemporary home. “The direction was to have the kitchen be a hub for controlling the entire house but not look like a command center,” says Chad Bessette, the systems designer for electronics installation company ASL Home Entertainment Group. “A large 17-inch Crestron touchscreen in the wall allowed us to do that. It shows events scheduling, it can be used as an intercom, and they can also use it as a TV.”
The 17-inch in-wall touchpanel is actually a secondary viewing monitor in the kitchen. The primary TV is a 32-inch Sharp Aquos HDTV located in a cabinet above the ovens and viewable from the counter area. When not in use, it’s concealed behind bifold doors.
The family can enjoy HDTV from both satellite and antenna feeds—the area doesn’t receive all high-definition satellite channels—or DVD movies stored on a Kaleidescape hard drive server and music from DirecTV’s XM Satellite Radio feed. The homeowner also points some of his exterior cameras away from the house to spot wildlife that roam onto the property.
Audio from the TVs or music system comes through near-invisible Elan in-ceiling speakers painted to blend in perfectly with the ceiling and tongue-in-groove woodwork (there’s one near the skylight). Each speaker is driven by it’s own 100-watt channel on an Elan D1200 12-channel digital amplifier located elsewhere in the home. The Class-T amp, rated as such for its low heat output and high efficiency, is one in a rack of identical 12-channel amps that service the house.
Lighting, including rope lights near the ceiling, are operated by the Crestron control system via a touchpad under the in-wall touchpanel. The top button raises the room’s lights or shuts them off accordingly.
When the light or heat from those floor-to-ceiling windows becomes too much, Roman shades descend from the soffits. The family can double tap the Crestron panel to stop them at any position.
Bessette worked closely with ASL’s project manager, Erik Dunham, programmer Bryan Schlegal, and installer Paul Brown on this three-year whole-house project. ASL didn’t program many complicated macros or preset scenes for the family, though that may come as they live in the house and see how they use the systems. “[The homeowner] really loves his technology,” Bessette says. “He has it set now so if it’s past 10pm at night and a car goes past a certain point on the driveway, the exterior of the house lights up.”
Guests who spend the night will get to enjoy the mountain views and a lot more.
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