Tech mansion

From being non-tech savvy to having a mansion full of AV, this family of four are enjoying their new automated home. Amy Wallington takes a look inside.

Located in Buckinghamshire, a beautiful part of the UK, this home has undergone a huge transformation over the last four years. From being completely stripped out, extended and rebuilt with the addition of smart home technology and AV, it is now a forever home for the family of four and their two dogs.

Having experience in new build houses as an investor in property development, the owner had a good idea of how he wanted his new home architecturally. However, not being too tech savvy, he didn’t know a lot about what was available in terms of home automation and AV.

In steps integrator, ARP Smart Homes. “We had never worked with the homeowners before and we got the job through a recommendation,” says Rob Garrett, director at ARP Smart Homes. “They didn’t have a clue what they wanted, so we sat down with them and went through a couple of quite lengthy workshops where we had a look at different options and what would be beneficial to their lifestyle. It was very much a case of telling them what is available and working with them to decide what to put in.”

The original brief was simply to have whole house lighting, AV, smart home control, intruder alarm, fire system and a building management system (BMS).

Structural work began in 2018 to completely strip the house bare and extend the basement. “Although, technically, it wasn’t a new build, it might as well have been. It was completely bare which meant there was no existing infrastructure to have to work with,” he says.

Left to own devices

ARP Smart Homes was involved with this project very early on, even before demolition had started. With such a big project, there are usually various trades working together, mainly architects, interior designers and integrators. However, this was slightly different.

“There was an architect at the start, and we worked very closely with them in the initial phases of this project,” explains Garrett. “But there was no interior designer. The client’s wife more or less took on that role as she was very creative and knew exactly what she wanted everything to look like. She designed the entire house and even had customised, made-to-measure furniture shipped over from the US in three containers. The light fittings were all from the US too, so we had to adapt them.”

“There was over 120 metres of LED lighting above the pool.”

The integrator ended up playing a much larger part in this install than previously expected. “We took over a lot of the lighting design and the building management. There was an M&E designer at the beginning of the project but he quickly disappeared, so it fell to us. We worked with the furniture makers and installed lighting into some of the furniture. We also had to link all the boilers and air source heat pumps and the pool.

“It wasn’t too bad really. The M&E was actually designed quite well. There wasn’t ever really a main contractor; it was very much a case of people sitting around a table and inputting into their respective places. But there wasn’t really anybody that pulled it all together.”

House of fun

Audio and lighting were the main parts of this project, with a Savant Pro system to automate and control everything throughout the three-storey house. Lutron HomeWorks XS was chosen as the lighting control and runs through most of the home.

The annex above the garage and the top floor bedrooms were the only places in the property where Lutron lighting control was not installed. The three bedrooms on the top floor were guest bedrooms and will eventually be permanently occupied by the homeowner’s parents. Because of this, the residents decided they did not want too much technology on that floor, and it saved them in costs too.

They were not completely void of technology though, featuring Sony BRAVIA 55” commercial TVs in each of the three bedrooms with Lutron lighting on the landing and a 5” Savant touchscreen.

The rest of the house included more technology, but in a subtle way as the homeowner didn’t want too much on show on the walls. “All of the thermostats are hidden throughout the house,” Garrett highlights. “There are no visible thermostats anywhere in the house because she didn’t want anything on the walls.”

“We took over a lot of the lighting design and the building management.”

Heading down a floor, we find the master bedroom and two children’s bedrooms. He continues: “The master bedroom is very big and is split into two sections. There is a custom Aquavision mirror TV on one wall and a 65” TV on another wall. It also has 5” and 8” touchscreens flush mounted into the wall as well as a Savant remote controller. Lutron lighting control was included everywhere on this floor.”

The master bedroom also has four Origin Acoustics Director Series speakers in the ceiling which plays Savant Pro Audio. Speakers can also be found in the master bedroom dressing room and bathroom.

Also on the first floor, the two children’s bedrooms are exactly the same. Both bedrooms have a 5” touchscreen in the wall, speakers and TVs, as well as a Savant remote. They also have their own dressing rooms and ensuites which both also have speakers in them.

Some families limit the control their children have over the house to prevent them from changing any settings or playing about with overall home control. In this case, however, the children had full access to everything. “The children have full control of everything in the home as much as the parents do. The touchscreens that are installed into their bedroom walls are defaulted to their rooms, but they can use them for anything.”

The landing of the first floor features audio, Lutron lighting and another touchscreen.

Moving to the ground floor, we find the main living areas of the house. The integrator installed another custom mirror TV above the fireplace in the drawing room with two zones of audio as the room is so big and split into two areas.

A study is also found on this floor, featuring in-ceiling speakers and a TV. The reception hall has an 8” touchscreen as well as audio installed. There is a TV, Savant remote and speakers in the living room. The breakfast room, kitchen and dining room all feature audio through in-ceiling speakers, while a TV room has video and audio.

So far, the house is very straightforward and it’s obvious the technology installed is going to enhance the family’s everyday lives. Everything installed is mostly hidden out of sight. The things that are in sight, such as the touchscreens and TVs, are flush mounted into the walls to give them a clean and tidy look.

“There are no visible thermostats anywhere in the house because she didn’t want anything on the walls.”

The main entertainment in the home is found in the basement, where there is a swimming pool, spa area, gym, a bar and cinema. “This is house really is enormous!” says Garrett. “In the basement, we have the swimming pool which has four speakers and a lot of LED lighting – over 120 metres, in fact, above the pool. There is also a massage room which features audio and a gym with audio, video and Savant remotes in.”

The house also has a pool lounge, which is linked to the pool, and has a removable iPad and audio installed. Speakers are also integrated into the changing rooms and hallway of the basement. Finally, there is a large bar area in the basement which features video and three zones of audio.

An Ubiquiti UniFi system runs the Wi-Fi with 22 nanoHD Access Points throughout the property.

Home entertainment isn’t complete without a high-tech cinema, and this home is no different. A 7.2.4 cinema, it features Procella speakers, a Sony projector and a Savant remote. It also has AudioControl AVR and amplifiers. ARP Smart Home completely soundproofed the room and covered the walls in fabric for a luxury finish. The video distribution for the cinema and the rest of the house was through Savant IP video.

Outside of the house, there is an outdoor living area featuring two Bijou amplifiers form AudioControl to feed the upper and lower patio landscape audio kits from Origin Acoustics.

Dedicated plant room

When installing all this technology into a house of any size, the equipment needs somewhere to live. Often, homeowners do not consider this and do not leave a sensible space to house the equipment. This project couldn’t be more different, though, as Garrett explains: “We were really lucky to have two plant rooms in the basement, fully air conditioned and built for purpose. One plant room was dedicated to AV and the other dedicated to plumbing.”

Using Middle Atlantic racks which are built into a custom wall in the plant room, the technology housed is neatly and safely stored with air conditioning so that it does not overheat. “We installed a 1GB leased line that we supply in there,” Garrett highlights. “There is a Draytek 2860 router and all the wired network is from NETGEAR. The audio network required an Extreme Networks AVB switch which is in the rack.

“We also installed four Pakedge Power Pack PDUs to give us the ability to reboot anything remotely. We have also used a SurgeX UPS for the critical kit such as incoming supply and the network switches.”

An important part of the install was the BMS system. “We used a North Commander building management system in this project,” explains Garrett. “This caters for the underfloor heating, temperature control, boiler control, Mitsubishi air source heat pumps and the swimming pool plant. We don’t have a lot of control over the swimming pool but we do pick up the alarms to tell us something is wrong and that’s the most important thing.”

Scenes

In a property like this, it is common to find scenes programmed into the system, usually to set the lighting to match the time of day or to an individual’s preference. ARP Smart Homes created scenes based on the homeowners’ preferences and programmed them into the Savant system.

Garrett adds: “One of the big benefits to using Savant is that the users can make their own scenes. We did all the basic things for them like programming all the lighting, building all the standard automation and creating personalised scenes. Then the homeowners can adjust them to their preferences as they use them without having to ask us to make changes. For me, that’s one of the biggest selling points is the ability to build base configurations for them and then they can edit them as they go.”

When the family is away, someone stays in the house to look after everything. She has full use of the Savant control system throughout the property and uses it regularly due to its ease of operation.

In terms of maintenance and support, the integrator visits the property every six months to make sure everything is okay and working properly. They combine it with fire servicing, alarm servicing and any firmware updates that need doing.

Since the project finished in 2021, Garrett has been back regularly to make additions. “We seem to be there all the time adding things because he calls us saying he’s figured out where we can install more cameras for example. But he’s really pleased with everything and I think we will always make small additions for them as and when they want to upgrade equipment.”

 

Tech Spec

Apple iPads

Apple TV

Aquavision Custom Mirror TV

AudioControl Amplifiers

AudioControl AVRs

AudioControl Bijou 600 Amps

Draytek 2860 Router

Extreme Networks AVB Switch (Audio Network)

Hikvision NVRs

Lutron HomeWorks XS Lighting

Middle Atlantic Racks

Netgear Wireless Network

North Commander BMS

Origin Acoustics AS41 Landscape Loudspeakers

Origin Acoustics Director Series Speakers

Pakedge Power Pack PDUs

Procella Audio Speakers

Savant 5” Touchscreens

Savant 8” Touchscreens

Savant Audio over IP

Savant Intercom

Savant IP Video Distribution

Savant Pro Audio

Savant Pro Climate Control

Savant Pro Host

Savant Universal Remotes

SkyQ Boxes

Sony BRAVIA 55” Commercial TVs

Sony BRAVIA 65” Commercial TVs

Sony Projector

SurgeX UPS

Texecom Premier Elite Alarm

Ubiquiti UniFi nanoHD Access Points