In the peak of luxury

Boasting a unique style, this project was a once in a lifetime chance to create a smart home that had never been attempted before. Amy Wallington finds out more.

Set in the heart of the beautiful Derbyshire Dales in the UK, this home presents a unique construction to match its surroundings combined with a modern interior using home automation. With a view of Chatsworth House, the home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the property complements its idyllic location.

Surrounded by hundreds of acres of natural beauty, the owners of the property wanted a home that would fit in total harmony with its remote, natural landscape. The building that existed on the site already was demolished because it was not in keeping with the surroundings, and construction of a new home began.

Presenting an exceptionally unique construction, the house curves to and fro to follow the natural contours of the land and the materials used were also in keeping with the area, using stone in much the same way as ‘dry stone walling’, which was traditionally used in the area to contain livestock.

As lovely as it is to build a house that completely complements its environment, it did mean that installing modern home technology into the property was not going to be without its challenges.

Taking on this unique, once in a lifetime project was integrator, SMC, who was recommended to the client by the architect after having worked together previously. The two trades had to work closely together in order to make it a success. With such a complex construction, it was perhaps more crucial than in other projects that the integrator was involved from the first phase and that they work harmoniously with the architect in particular.

Planning

A project with this much intricacy requires thorough planning. Working with the clients to establish their needs and expectations for their completed home, a brief was built. Robin Courtenay, director of SMC UK says: “The brief was to provide building technology that worked with the ethos of the building yet provided convenience, entertainment and safety for a young family. This was first and foremost a family home so simplicity, ease of use and discreetly hidden technology was paramount.”

He adds: “This type of building construction had not been attempted before and provided many challenges to integrating modern technology.”

“The cinema has brought huge enjoyment for the family and the Control4 automation brings great convenience.”

The home and its integrated technology was designed to specifically suit a young family. Having as much hidden as possible doesn’t just make for a nice modern interior design, but it was safer and more practical with young children to prevent any damage to the technology or themselves. Being child safe and easy to use were the most important factors.

Home automation and technology was completely new to them so the integrators were able to guide them with what would be useful in order to fulfil their needs. “The scope of the services we provided included whole house control of lighting, temperature, music and video in addition to access control to the site, CCTV and an intruder alarm,” Courtenay explains. “The basement housed a dedicated home cinema, with a drop-down projection screen, a fixed LED screen, and seating for 12 people.”

Architectural

Design and architecture always play a big role in any residential project. But in this instance, the unique construction of the architecture to fit in with the natural surroundings was the most important part.

Although it was very much a modern house, it also exhibits a very traditional look because of the materials used. Courtenay explains: “In some ways, the building used one of the oldest forms of construction, using dry stone walling techniques used in the Dales for centuries. However, using it for a modern building of this size resulted in many challenges. The choice of stone materials was critical and the weight of the stone on the roof was substantial, as well as providing a waterproof membrane that would last for many decades.”

Post-build, the home became an award-winner at the RIBA Regional Awards. Architect, Amir Sanei of Sanei Hopkins Architects comments: "It was challenging because it was all natural stone on the inside and outside. But the coordination between ourselves and SMC was great because they could see how the technology and the controls were going to fit in with the fabric of the building. There wasn’t many plastered walls to fix things to and we had a lot of specialist joinery that needed to work, video entry points, control sockets; the kit needed to be coordinated. We had many discussions and it ultimately came down to good workmanship and execution."

He continued: "A lot of what you see inside is the structure. There’s no finishes, the structure is the finish. And when you’ve got glulam beams supporting the stone above, and floor to ceiling windows, there’s not really anywhere to run wires. That was quite important to try and coordinate how the wiring would get to various points without being visible on the inside. There was very little possibility to run anything without it being exposed.”

Modern technology

The client had a strict budget in place for the build of the property and technology installation. SMC worked with them to get the best for their money and the result is impressive.

“We started with very simple necessities, such as security and how to allow access onto the site,” Courtenay discloses. “The AV requirements started simply with providing TV and audio to the principal rooms. In discussions however it became clear the clients would like one room – the cinema – that gave them an exceptional experience for which the cost had to be justified. That resulted in many proposals from a good entry level system to the exceptional quality produced with a Steinway Lyngdorf system.”

Much of the budget went into this room to create that incredible experience the family were after. Using a Samsung 65” 4K TV with the choice to also utilise the Sony 4K projector and Screen Research 140” drop down projector screen, the family could use this room to watch any content whenever they wanted to via the Sky box, Apple TV or Blu-ray sources. The room also has an Xbox for the gamers.

Delivering the audio was a surround processor, LCR and surround speakers, and two subwoofers, all from Steinway Lyngdorf. This system delivered premium and immersive audio for a first-class cinema experience.

Throughout the home, Bowers & Wilkins ceiling speakers are installed as well as nine zones of Sonos multiroom capability. Externally, weatherproof speakers from Bowers & Wilkins are used in the gardens. Rotel’s six-channel power amplifiers were also installed.

The whole house, including the cinema room, is controlled through Control4. “Control4 brings together the control of the AV and video entry,” Courtenay continues. “This could have gone further to interface much of the mechanical plant which in itself was controlled by KNX, but the client preferred to keep them separate.”

“This type of building construction had not been attempted before and provided many challenges to integrating modern technology.”

Working alongside the Control4 system is the KNX building management system. He adds: “KNX was the preferred building control system as it integrated the control of the lighting, blinds and heating without the need for a separate building management system, saving the client money but still providing very sophisticated control across multiple zones of the house. The KNX Gira keypads provided a very compact and intuitive control interface with minimal wall clutter.”

WyreStorm was chosen for the point-to-point video distribution, while a Ruckus Zone Director and smart Wi-Fi access points provided the Wi-Fi and data network throughout the home.

Results

The four-year project was worth the wait, resulting in a modern home with complete control and automation that totally harmonises with its natural surroundings that the young family loves. “The cinema has brought huge enjoyment for the family and the Control4 automation brings great convenience,” says Courtenay.

While the client has full management of the systems installed day to day, SMC can access the entire system at any time to provide remote support if and when it is needed, and they also make occasional site visits for maintenance purposes.

Courtenay also added what they had planned to do if there was more money available. “If the budget had allowed, we would have done more integration to include the mechanical plant which comprised the heating, cooling, ground source, heating pump control, alarm reporting, etc.”

There are many projects I write about where it is often a case of too many cooks in the kitchen with the different trades and specialities playing their part in the project. Of course, everyone wants to take ownership of the job they are doing but in the case of many projects, the architect often has more control than the integrator which can limit the integrator’s freedom.

In this case however, building a relationship and working together meant the integrator could overcome the difficulties they faced with installing technology into such an unusual architecturally built home. This once in a lifetime project is proof that home technology can be installed anywhere with thorough planning and the right equipment.

Tech Spec

Apple TV

Blu-ray Sources

Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 Weatherproof Outdoor Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins CCM665 In-Ceiling Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins CCM7.3 S2 In-Ceiling Speakers

Cisco Switching

Control4 Home Controller

KNX Home Controller

Middle Atlantic Rack

Rotel 6-Channel Power Amplifiers

Ruckus ZoneDirector

Ruckus ZoneFlex R300 Dual-Band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi Access Points

Samsung 65” 4K TV

Screen Research 140” ClearPix2 Drop Down Projector Screen

Sky

Sonos Speakers

Sony 4K Projector

Steinway Lyngdorf LSR-12 Subwoofers

Steinway Lyngdorf Model S15 LCR and Surround Speakers

Steinway Lyngdorf P1 Surround Processor

Xbox

WyreStorm HDMI 4-Way Splitter

WyreStorm Point-to-Point Splitter