Discovering a treasure chest of hidden smart home tech

From the outside, this is just another house in an upmarket part of London but hidden behind the front door is a whole host of smart technology for luxury living. Amy Wallington takes a visit.

The problem with smart homes is that they are very rarely completed. There are always new additions and changes to be made as technology develops or the homeowner thinks of something else that will make their home even better for them.

This homeowner had his first taste of home automation when he bought this London property three years ago, which came complete with a basic Control4 system, as well as some KEF in-ceiling speakers and a TV in the basement. After playing with the system and seeing its potential, he decided to make several additions, which is still developing today. 

Calling on integrator, Custom AV, who was introduced through the developer that built the property, the brief was initially to create a home cinema in the basement, and add a projector into the pool room next door to the cinema to allow the homeowner and his friends to watch the football while in the pool.

Underground playroom

Hidden in the basement of the property is the home cinema room with a small outdoor courtyard and the swimming pool, sauna and gym to the right of the cinema. Due to the outdoor courtyard and the view of the pool, both side walls in the cinema room are glass, making it acoustically challenging. In addition to this, when the house was bought, the room already had a Samsung TV embedded into the front wall which led to restrictions with the cinema transformation.

Chris Cook, director of AV Custom explains: “The room was a bit of a problem as a cinema because of how it is. The TV was existing in the wall and had to stay. The only place for us to put speakers was in the front wall around the TV. There was no option for side or rear speakers; the rest were installed in the ceiling. And obviously, we’ve got all the hard windows and hard floors, so we had to put curtains in. There is no acoustic treatment in there, just the in-ceiling speakers, the in-wall speakers around the TV and two subwoofers, one at the front and one at the back.”

A Trinnov system was used with Krix speakers in the cinema room as the best solution to deal with the harsh acoustics. “It sounds like it shouldn’t,” says Cook. “It sounds like the room was perfectly built to be a cinema and that there is no glass in there at all, thanks to the Trinnov system that allows you to adjust it accordingly. And considering we couldn’t put any side speakers in, we could only put them in the ceiling, the room sounds amazing. We were also limited with the size of the front speakers because the front frame had to stay the same. That’s also why we couldn’t have any in-wall subwoofers.”

The AV in the cinema room is supported by distributor, Invision, who worked closely with Custom AV to build the cinema to the best specification possible.

With the TV fixed in the wall, the only option was a drop down screen that would cover the TV. “He can use the TV ordinarily and then when he wants to watch a movie, he can drop the screen down,” Cook continues. “It’s an ambient light rejecting screen so works well in the room with the curtains open or shut. The projector is mounted on the ceiling.”

“And considering we couldn’t put any side speakers in, we could only put them in the ceiling, the room sounds amazing.”

The projector installation was another tricky aspect of the cinema build. The client wanted the projector hidden in the ceiling but there was a concrete beam at the throw distance. Cook and the client looked into having it moved but it was deemed unsafe so the projector had to be mounted on the ceiling instead.

The ceiling in the cinema room had to be dropped in order to create the areas for the curtain tracks along the glass walls. The lighting and ceiling speakers were also integrated into the dropped ceiling.

Not just for movies, a full-size pool table is behind the sofa of the cinema for extra entertainment.

Under stair hideout

Perhaps the most important part of the brief was adding a projector in the swimming pool room so that the homeowner and his friends could watch football while in the pool. The projector had to be hidden and also protected from chlorine and water and any other elements it might encounter from being in the pool room.

A SIM2 Supercube projector was chosen as it is small and compact and could be hidden in a box underneath the stairs that lead down to the basement which is behind the glass wall of the room. Cook adds: “It had to be very small to fit in there. They are the original steps and we have made a box that looks exactly the same as the steps so it is not noticeable and doesn’t look untidy. The projector then shines through the double glazed glass panel which shouldn’t really work but does work very well.

“It shines onto the stretch fabric panel wall opposite to create a big picture that can be viewed while in the pool. You don’t even know the projector is in there, being outside of the swimming pool room. It’s also protected from the chlorine and any other elements.”

The projector is connected to KEF in-ceiling speakers through a Sonos Connect and controlled through the Control4 platform. The KEF speakers run throughout the swimming pool area, sauna and into the gym. There is also a TV in the gym area, which runs over the top of the pool with a glass floor, for entertainment while working out.

Again, the ceiling has been dropped in the pool room to match the cinema room next door. Above the pool are cut outs where lighting is integrated in such a way that it creates a relaxed vibe in this area.

A rack at the bottom of the stairs houses all the tech for the cinema room and pool area. Completely separated from either room, it is in a cupboard in the hall to ensure there is no extra noise in the rooms and that it is not affected by heat or moisture.

Everyday tech

Moving to the upstairs living areas, there is a kitchen, study and living room on the first floor, with automated glass panel doors that open fully to allow access to the garden in the middle.

There is nothing particularly unusual in the living spaces; everything is kept simple for an elegant and tidy finish. Again, KEF in-ceiling speakers are installed throughout this area with an 85” Sony TV in the study area and integrated lighting and automated curtains. The client also has a two-channel hi-fi system to listen to vinyl records in the main living room space.

Supercars

Walking through the front door of the property, it is a treat to see two McLarens parked in the garage behind a glass wall on your right. The homeowner has full access to the garage from the inside from another hallway, which houses more racks for the rest of the technology on the ground and upper floors.

Being a single door garage, the car parked to the far side is on a ramp that will slide the car over to the right so it can be reversed out of the garage. When the homeowner has the front garage door open and wants to keep his privacy, an automated blind comes down between the two cars to make it look as though it is a single garage. This is all controlled through the Control4 system.

There are also security cameras installed in the garage to keep an extra eye on the cars.

Upstairs in the bedrooms, the tech has been kept simple again, consisting of air conditioning, heating, lighting and QMotion blinds.

Developments

As stated earlier, smart homes are very rarely fully completed. The homeowner is now talking with the integrator about building a roof terrace with Sonance speakers, a bowling alley and other games and entertainment.

“The projector then shines through double glazed glass panel which shouldn’t really work but does work very well.”

“He has a maintenance contract on the property so we are always looking after the technology,” says Cook. “But we are called back mostly to make changes or additions to the place rather than undertake any maintenance as such. For example, he used to have a 50” TV in the study but we came back and changed it over to an 85” Sony TV. And of course, there’s now plans about extra development of the roof terrace that we will be doing for him.”

The client is also looking to buy another property in the countryside which he will also want to turn into a smart home. Cook and the team at Custom AV and Invision are prepared for another full home integration project from the client in the near future.

 

Tech Spec

Apple TVs
Control4 DS2 Door Station
Control4 EA1 Room Processors
Control4 EA5
Control4 Neeo Remote Controls
Control4 SR260 Remote Controls
Control4 T3 10” Touchscreens
CYP PUV44XPL-4K22 HD Matrix
Heatmiser Neo Stat Heating
Heatmiser Neohub Heating Cloud Interface
Hikvision NVR
KEF In-Ceiling Speakers
Kramer Interconnects Optimal HDMI
Krix Atmospherix A20 2-Way Rear In-Ceiling Speakers
Krix Atmospherix A20 Surround Pair
Krix Atmospherix AS Height Ceiling Speakers
Krix Symnetrix In-Wall LCR Speakers
Krix Volcanix 12” Subwoofer
Lutron HWQS Lighting
Middle Atlantic Slim5 Floor Mounted AV Rack
Nintendo Switch Games Console
Pakedge PE-08i PDUs
Planet Waves Interconnects
QMotion Advanced Roller Shades
Ruckus R310 Access Points
Samsung TVs
Screen Innovations Projector Screen
SilentGliss Window Tracks via Lutron
SIM2 Supercube Projector
SkyQ Main PVR
SkyQ Mini PVR
Sonos Connect:AMPs
Sony 49XF9005 49” TV
Sony PlayStation4 Games Console
Sony PlayStation5 Games Console
Sony KD-85ZH8 85” TV
Sony UBP-X1000ES 4K UHD Blu-ray Player
Sony VPL-VW570ES Projector
Trinnov Altitude 16 AVR
Trinnov Amplitude 8m Power Amps

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