The American dream

As a one off for HiddenWires, we head to the US to look at a residential entertainment complex complete with a bowling alley, swimming pool, and rooftop paddle tennis court. Amy Wallington looks around.

Home entertainment can cover a multitude of activities, some more common than others. For some, it means a home cinema or media room. For others, it can mean a games room, gym or activity simulators. For this family, home entertainment involved a bowling alley, swimming pool and a rooftop paddle tennis court complex.

A simple and clear brief, the client wanted an entertainment space that could work for just the four of them to have fun in, but also to host larger family gatherings and parties. TSP Smart Spaces was eventually selected for the project, as Michael Oh, president and founder says: “They were great clients to work with as they gave us complete design freedom, even though there was already an initial design which had been budgeted from another integrator. They allowed us to make significant changes to the design and bring our own approach to the project.”

The previous design had been drawn up already by the integrator who installed technology into the main house six years ago. However, the homeowner has been having multiple issues with the technology and service from the previous installer so decided to commission TSP Smart Spaces instead on the recommendation from their builder, KVC Builders.

Working in a pandemic

Over the past couple of years as people have been stuck at home throughout the pandemic, many homeowners are investing much more in home entertainment and home technology in general. However, this family were early to the game.

“The project started construction at the beginning of the pandemic, but it became a lot more relevant as the family was staying for an extended period in the location,” Oh adds. “They pushed hard to complete during the pandemic and their expectations for how much they were going to use the space changed.”

Starting the project at the beginning of the pandemic meant that the integrator had to adapt the way they worked with their client in order to progress the design and project. “Much of the design process that we went through was virtual, as we were working through many of the design details just as the pandemic was starting,” Oh says. “For some clients, this could have been challenging, but even though this was the first time working with this client, they had already built a few homes with smart home technology, so they understood a bit better. We were able to present them with our design virtually – including ‘mood boards’ of keypad and speaker aesthetics – and they signed it off.”

“We were treated as an equal in the design and planning process, mainly because we made sure that we brought answers to the table, not just problems that needed solving.”

This was made possible using a virtual walkthrough tool. He continues: “One of the tools that we used with a lot of success was Matterport, a cloud-based service that synthesises multiple 360-degree photos to create a virtual walkthrough of the space. As the homeowners were not onsite and travel was highly restricted at the time, we were able to capture a mesh of 360-degree images of the construction site and then use Matterport to walkthrough the site with the clients and make specific decisions such as keypad locations and heights and to coordinate the location of speakers and future artwork. Even in a situation where coordinating multiple parties to meet onsite was impossible due to the pandemic restrictions, we were still able to make key design decisions and keep the project moving forward.”

Teamwork

One of the best things about this project is the fact that all parties involved worked together to find the best solutions for the client. There are many projects where interior designers or architects often limit the technology to take a preference on the look of a space. However, in this instance, TSP Smart Spaces were given a lot of freedom to change designs and work with the interior designer, Manuel de Santaren, to build the best space.

Oh reveals: “We were treated as an equal in the design and planning process, mainly because we made sure that we brought answers to the table, not just problems that needed solving. For example, it was our idea to bring invisible speakers into the project. Sometimes people are sceptical that invisible speakers can sound as good as those with exposed grilles, but of course the interior designers are very curious about the aesthetic effects of being able to plaster and paint in speakers. Once we showed them that the performance would be as good as any other architectural speaker solution, they were happy to have less clutter on the walls and ceilings.”

Both Manuel de Santaren and TSP Smart Spaces worked together to decide which technology would work best being visible or invisible. “When we talk about visible vs invisible, we mean that with today’s technology there are so many options for components that it’s important for there to be tight coordination between the design team and the integrator,” he adds. “No longer can we make our design decisions independently and without understanding the vision of the interior designer. Details like trim-less lights, colours/finishes of the lighting control keypads, thermostats, and even other vendor’s wall devices such as alarm panels, need to be coordinated.”

It was decided that only essentials would be left visible on the walls, which included a Savant Touch, controlling everything via scenes, a Savant thermostat, 2N access control units, and alarm panels. Everything else was made to be invisible or as hidden as possible without sacrificing performance.

Scored a strike

The bowling alley was a new avenue for TSP Smart Spaces, as Oh explains: “This was our first bowling alley installation and we didn’t realise how much technology there is just for the bowling alley itself. Like with most areas of technology, those have progressed a lot in the last few years, and now they operate as fully contained gaming systems of their own, with interactivity, audio and video content, even its own lighting control system.”

Using a Qubica AMF bowling alley system, the integrators had to learn how to integrate other technology alongside the system. “Once we had a good sense from Qubica what the system’s capabilities were, we had to adapt our AV design to accommodate,” he continues. “Initially, we thought the system would just need video output, but instead it ended up being a full AV source of its own, with audio and video which needed to be routed from multiple computers within the bowling alley systems, including a ‘front desk’ interface.”

A Savant system was chosen for the entertainment complex control. “Once we understood what needed to be controlled, we were confident that a Savant system would solve all of the whole home requirements. Because of Savant’s flexible AV over IP architecture and compatibility with third party devices like Lutron and Sonos, we were able to create a whole home control layer which gave the client a multitude of options for control – app, remote, keypads, and touchscreens – without overcomplicating the system.”

Technology was able to be more visible in this space than in the pool area but the design was still a major consideration and the teamwork between each party was essential. Oh explains: “We chose LG commercial displays which had bezels which were less than half a millimetre thick, allowing us to maximise screen size, enlarging the diagonal from 50” to 55” without the bottom of the screen being too low for tall bowlers to pass under.

“The homeowner also wanted a projector in the bowling alley which was added into the project at a later stage by the client. He wanted to use the space at the end of the bowling alley, but wanted completely clean lines throughout, so a ceiling-mounted projector was out of the question, and rear projection wasn’t possible due to the bowling alley mechanical equipment. LG had just released the HU85LA ultra-short-throw projector, and it had the aesthetic that could blend right in at the end of the bowling alley. We used the unique ‘paint on screen’ paint to create the projection surface and worked with the builder to create a custom shelf to allow the projector to nestle in between the lanes. This was a small but very key addition to the technology in the project, and it required us to work with our vendors, builder, and painters to come up with the right solution with the right aesthetic approach.”

Riding light waves

Most of the technology installed in the pool room is hidden. One of the most prominent features in this space is the lighting. Combining Lutron’s HomeWorks with Ketra lighting allowed the integrators to create scenes that brought the area to life.

Oh discloses: “Ketra Lighting, while not available in Europe yet, is really the pinnacle of colour changing light fixtures. Not only do they have RGB capabilities like the popular Philips Hue, but they also have LEDs which have full colour spectrum capabilities, so that the white light can simulate the full range of natural whites from 1,400K to 10,000K.

“For the pool, that means we can bathe in blue light, but it’s not the piercing blue that we see with cheaper RGB fixtures – reminiscent of club lighting. Instead, it’s a natural blue like that of the light reflected from the ocean. Combined with Lutron scenes, we can have this slowly change over time to act as natural waves of light.”

“This was our first bowling alley installation and we didn’t realise how much technology there is just for the bowling alley itself.”

Lutron HomeWorks was specified to give a reliable backbone to the system with vast flexibility in terms of control. It allows tap, double-tap and hold options on the keypads to give 24 options for control on a single eight button keypad. He adds: “That is great for lots of control options, but it can be hard for the user to know what all those buttons do. Throw in Ketra and the options for natural light settings and full-spectrum colour, and the control element can get confusing. A lot of companies have used colour wheels and iPads, but in the case of this owner, they wanted to be able to press a button to set up specific scenes.

“We used Savant’s built-in scene programming to be able to set off a sequence of events,” Oh continues. “It not only provides the right light for midnight bowling but also lowers the blackout shades, turns on three video displays and the projector, routes the video and audio, and gets the bowling alley ready to go.”

Oh also mentioned how well the lighting design fitted in with the interior designer’s visions. “I think the entire team, including the interior designers, were surprised at how well the Ketra lights added an additional layer of visual richness to the interiors. The ability for Ketra to highlight the vibrant colours of the furniture and to transform a space from an ‘everyday’ bowling alley to a party with a single button press was something that created that extra ‘wow’ factor.”

Future work

Since completing the entertainment complex in summer this year, the integrator has already worked on other projects with the client. Oh explains: “Because of our work in the complex, the client had a lot of trust and confidence in our ability to switch out the older systems in the main house and we are completing that project this autumn. We are also working on multiple projects in their main home in Boston, where we are making updates to their lighting system and adding lighting fixtures for a unique performance space from the 1890s.”

Overall, the entertainment complex addition to the main house cost roughly $500,000 USD.

Tech Spec

2N Door Entry Systems

Amina ALF80 In-Ceiling Subwoofers

Amina Mobius7i In-Wall Loudspeakers

Amina Mobius5i-S200 In-Ceiling Loudspeakers

Artison In-Wall Subwoofers

Axis Network Cameras

Cisco Meraki Networking

Ketra Lighting

LG 55SVH7F-A Commercial Displays

LG HU85LA 4K UHD Laser Smart Home Theatre CineBeam Projector

Lutron HomeWorks QS System

Lutron Sivoia QS Roller Shades with Blackout Side Channels

Mobotix Network Cameras

Palladiom and Pico Keypads and Remotes

Qubica AMF Bowling Alley System

Revel Extreme Climate Landscape Speakers

Savant Smart Thermostats

Savant In-Wall Touch Screens

Savant AV over IP 4K Video Distribution

Savant Pro Remote