Our ambitious clients have transformed this modest 1970s Bristol property into a modern luxury smart home. The main features are its imposing gable walls, its vast windows letting in natural light, a gigantic open plan kitchen/dining/living area which opens out via floor to ceiling sliding glass doors onto the garden, featuring hot tub, swimming pool, firepit and BBQ areas. Last but not least, a Cinema room sits hidden away underground. John Morris Architects, supplied the vision and incredible design for the project.
When Bedford based Home Automation company Fade, first met the homeowners, they knew that due to the large size of the house, and its use as a family home, home office and a place to entertain guests, they would need fast and reliable wifi throughout, some good quality audio visual systems, innovative lighting and an easy way to control it all. They were worried from previous experience however, that a large amount of technology could become unreliable and could complicate things more than it simplified.
Fade AV talked to the clients about the house, room by room, finding out how each area would be used. We then designed a cabling infrastructure and fully integrated suite of Audio Visual and Smart Home products, based around the ultra reliable RTI and Rako control systems. The final result is a home which is easy to live in, where the tech just works day in day out.
The main living area is where the family spends most of its time, so the ability to watch TV and listen to the radio or music, with simple control, whilst maintain the clean and clutter free appearance, was paramount. In the kitchen area, we installed a flat screen TV, recessed into the wall for a super clean finish. In the living area, we installed a 75 inch Sony 4K TV, supported by a 7.1 channel surround sound music system, giving the family a great place to sit down together and watch Netflix or sport. To keep things minimal, we used Monitor Audio in-wall and in-ceiling speakers including the subwoofer, and placed the Yamaha AV receiver out of site in the kitchen cupboard. With a single button press the TV is switched off and the room kicks into music mode; we used a Sonos player to stream internet radio and Amazon Music. Finally we used a single programmable RTI Surfir remote control, to give simple and reliable control of this complex AV set-up.
The layout of the property on the side of a hill gave the homeowner the opportunity to dig out a large basement space for a Cinema room. The room has 2 purposes; it is a monster screen gaming room for the kids and their Sony Playstation; it is also where the whole family heads for some serious movie or sports viewing. We specified a 136 inch (3M wide) fixed frame screen in the 16:9 ratio, giving great flexibility to show the various different video formats (TV, Widescreen movies, Games console) and a Sony projector, suitable for both movies and gaming due to its low lag (the time it takes for the picture from the gaming console to display on the screen – this is critical for gaming). For sound we added a Yamaha AV receiver and 7.1 channel speaker system consisting of Mordaunt Short left, right and centre speakers, Monitor Audio in-ceiling speakers for the rears and surrounds and a Mordaunt Short subwoofer. For control, we used an iPad running the RTI Panel app, configured to give simple, one touch set-up of the Cinema room, and easy screens to control the various video/audio sources, Apple TV, Sky Q, Internet radio, music streaming via Yamaha Musiccast.
Lighting design and control:
The house benefits from many beautiful architectural features, such as glass staircases and balustrades, high and vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and natural stone floors flowing from the interior to the multi-level exterior. Asked to help with the lighting design we proposed a variety of downlights, uplights, pendants, LED strips, floor and table lamps which provided enough light for each area, whilst also showing off the stunning features. Due to the size of the property and complexity of the lighting we installed a Rako lighting control system, allowing the homeowners to pre-configure the lights in each room for a variety of uses; everyday family use, food preparation, TV watching, dining etc. Each lighting scene can be selected by pressing a single button on a light switch or from the Rako smart phone app. The spectacular lighting continues into the garden, showing off the different levels and the variety of textures and flora.
This started out as a bit of fun and an experiment, but soon became a vital and integral way to control various rooms in the house. We installed an Amazon Echo in the kitchen and an Echo Dot in the cinema. As well as all the fun stuff you can do with an Alexa (egg timers, shopping lists, weather forecast etc etc) it integrates fantastically with the RTI control system, allowing us to control much of the home tech by voice. This can be extremely useful in a large house where the remote control or iPad is out of site or has been temporarily removed by one of the kids.
The Alexa set-up here allows for some of the major tasks to be triggered by voice without the need to pick up a remote. As you need to remember exactly what to say to Alexa to trigger each task, we needed to keep the number of phrases down to a manageable level.
‘Alexa turn on/off the front light’: The front external lights are automatically triggered to turn on at sunset and off at 11pm. In some circumstances, the lights need to be switched on/off at other times. There is no physical light switch, so the homeowner must use the Rako app on their phone, but to make things even easier they can now just tell Alexa instead.
‘Alexa turn the house off’: When going out, this command makes sure that all the TVs, amplifiers and the Cinema room are all off, and after waiting 5 minutes to allow you to exit the building, then turns off the lights.
‘Alexa turn the Playstation on’: Fires up the Cinema room, getting the projector and amplifiers switched on with optimal settings for gaming. The kids just have to pick up the Playstation controllers and off they go.
‘Alexa turn the cinema off’: Allows Mum to switch off everything in the basement, when the kids inevitably forget to – also a good way of getting them to the table when food is ready.
'Alexa turn Sonos on': This turns off the TV and starts playing the favourite radio station in the living room.
'Alexa turn on/off/dim the kitchen lights': Starts the most commonly used lighting scenes.
Infrastructure, data and wifi:
We designed and installed a modest cabling infrastructure, with Cat 6 data, Coaxial and Speaker cable running from various points back to a kitchen cupboard. In the cupboard, we used a small rack frame to house all the Audio Visual and Control equipment; the whole rack can be lifted out, giving easy access for maintenance work. For internet access, we subscribed to the fastest Virgin fibre plan, and provided strong wifi throughout using Ubiquiti access points.
The homeowners wanted to be able to watch their premium TV services (Sky Sports, Sky Movies, Sky Atlantic etc) on each of their 4 TVs and in the Cinema. 3 of their TVs were modern smart TVs, with built in apps for Netflix/Amazon Prime etc, but the 4th was an older plasma TV. The Sony projector needed something else to add the ‘smarts’. We designed a solution which included 3 Sky Q boxes, an Apple TV and a Wyrestorm 4x4 Matrix switcher, distributing all sources to all rooms and giving simple control, using RTI remotes in some areas and Sky Q remotes elsewhere. The homeowner decided that 1080P High Definition throughout gave the perfect balance of picture quality and value for money. In the future, the cabling is all in place for an easy upgrade to 4K Ultra High Definition.