In This Issue: Summer is here! Let's celebrate enjoying the outdoors again by learning about the hottest connected tech products for outside and the trends driving their popularity. Then delve into some of the best installations of the year, including a home theater under a hand-painted starry sky, a fully automated and modern home and a tower in Seattle chock full of smart technology.


Most parents like me will tell you that summer is not the time to kick back and relax. Especially as most of us have been getting out again more, our lives have suddenly gotten hectic and busy again. That’s where technology comes into play. 

In this issue, you will see how smart products can make outdoor living spaces more enjoyable and easier to navigate. We talk about how simple fixes to a design can do wonders to a home network, and how shades can truly invite a homeowner to depart their daily stresses and relax. You’ll also hear from experts in the industry on what their current challenges and inspirations are.

Throughout our installations, witness how the smart home brings cohesiveness and and ease to projects large and small. From a small game room to a massive tower in downtown Seattle, technology can and does make life more fun and simpler. And like you’ll see throughout our Summer issue, smart technology and design happily intermingle both inside and outside.

Thank you for reading Connected Design.

Erinn Loucks Signature

Erinn Loucks, Chief Editor, Connected Design


Summer living outside can be as beautiful as summer living inside, made so with the many connected products designed just for your special oasis.  In our Summer issue, we take you on a tour of wonderful products that can enhance the outdoor experience.   We also provide a review of the wide choice of tech for the inside of homes that spotlights the many “E-Sports at Home” products sure to please gamers of any age. 
Of course, all this impressive technology would not work without stable, state-of-the-art interconnectivity, so make sure to read our feature on “Three Keys to a Solid Home Network” — a must-have for every home.

Also in our Summer issue, we cover smart shade technology, and the distributor that everyone is talking about. Want to know who it is?  You will have to look in the issue to find out.

In addition, we feature beautiful installations full of amazing tech from One Touch Media Design, TYM Homes, Electronic Concepts, and a few more top-shelf integrators.   Make sure you look at their designs for some inspiration and great ideas you can draw from when speaking with your clients.

I ask you to subscribe to a print or digital issue at www.connecteddesign.com.  Our dedicated staff works very hard to get an amazing and beautiful product onto your screens and into your hands.  I am so proud of them.     

Warmest regards,  

Tony Signature

Tony Monteleone, Group Publisher CT Lab Global Media


The Three Keys to Create a Solid Home Network

By Nick Bovill

A great network is the foundation for every successful connected home installation. With a solid network in place, integrators can ensure a smart home system will perform at its best. Simply put, when integrators get the network right they generate higher levels of customer satisfaction, providing a route to increasing revenues and creating future business opportunities. 

So what’s important when designing a network? Reliability, performance and serviceability should be the top three connected considerations in the integrator’s mind.   

One of the effects of the pandemic has been a seismic shift in the amount of time clients spend working from home. Not only that, but we’ve also seen a boom in the use of streaming services for entertainment. Both trends have placed a fresh burden on the network and are showing few signs of reversing to pre-pandemic levels. In this context, the reliability of the home network has moved from becoming an important factor to mission critical on every installation. Now and in the future, the home network has to work all of the time. 

Hand in hand with reliability is getting the performance of the network right. Today’s network hosts numerous applications, which assume no limits when it comes to bandwidth and delay. Irrespective of the number of internet-connected devices, bandwidth consumption or the quantity of audio and video content being streamed to loudspeakers and displays, the network has to be able to handle the volume and manage the network traffic efficiently. We’re talking enterprise-grade solutions with the flexibility and the capability to deliver anything clients request while adhering to the latest and greatest technologies. 

Finally there is the serviceability factor. While integrators strive for a flawless network, when working with technology, sometimes network products may require a fix or a reboot to get the system up and running again. When there is downtime for whatever reason, integrators must be able to resolve issues as quickly as possible. Given the mission critical nature of the network today, being able to deliver rapid, responsive and accurate service and maintenance is a prerequisite for any integrator.  

As networks grow in complexity, installations can become cumbersome with each access point requiring individual on-site configuration and updates. Through an advanced remote network management solution, integrators can remotely configure and deliver updates to entire networks with just a few clicks, including setting SSIDs, network names, broadcast frequencies, encryption methods, establishing passwords, priority networks, public networks and more. This can save hours of setup time and offers granular control and access for even the most demanding residential systems, while ensuring customers can leverage all the latest features and be protected by critical security updates.

Greater insight and system control is not only an excellent problem-solver but also reduces costs, improves relationships between integrators and clients and generates revenue. Many minor issues can be solved before clients are even aware they occurred and, with network monitoring in place, integrators can charge subscriptions fees for priority remote management services. Seamless integration with an RMM platform is fundamental to the implementation of a reliable, high performance home network. 

In support of this networking ecosystem, network training and education including guided, hands-on learning provides integrators with the foundational knowledge of how networks function, how networks should be designed and how they should be configured to make them more efficient and capable. 

Like many industries that rely on technology, the future of the professional smart home sector is heading toward larger, ever-more-powerful systems. These systems will only perform as well, and the client experience will only be as amazing as the home networks that underpin them. That’s why paying attention to reliability, performance and serviceability matter so much when creating robust and secure networks.

Nick Bovill leads the integrator training for Snap One’s networking solutions and the OvrC remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform.


Electronics Custom Distributors

Providing electronics and customer service for more than 60 years

By Vanessa Zitzmann

In July of 1960, Electronic Component Distributors opened their doors selling components for television and electronic repair. As the market changed over the years, the company did as well, moving on from TV components and into audio-video equipment, prompting the name change to Electronic Custom Distributors (ECD). 

ECD provides many services to its dealers. With four locations, there is a warehouse to accommodate dealers throughout Texas with a list of delivery options. In addition to the traditional freight and shipping, the locations offer 24-hour pickup, local delivery and drive-through service. Providing a full offering of audio, video, control, lighting, network, security and wire makes ECD a one-stop-shop. Add in its incentive and rewards programs, along with competitive pricing, keeps dealers coming back.  

“Our emphasis is customer convenience and customer service,” said general manager Mark Harris. “That comes before everything else.” 

Carrying a large line card with top brands such as Sony, Samsung, RTI, Yamaha and JVC gives dealers options that are vital with the current industry supply chain issues. The team at ECD is being proactive by pursuing suppliers that have products on hand and continually looking for alternative sources and partners. The partnership with Powerhouse Alliance has greatly helped in this regard, providing additional buying power and opportunities. 

According to branch manager ECD Dallas, Bob Harrell, what sets ECD apart from other distributors is the way they do business. “The ownership has the utmost integrity at the highest level of the company,” said Harrell. “This works its way down to the employees, then to our dealers, and creates familiarity and trust that built over time, which is rare and unique in this industry.” 

Family-owned and operated for the last three generations, the tradition continues with current CEO, CJ Provenzano, and president Brett Provenzano. ECD’s four locations are managed by Bob Harrell, branch manager of ECD Dallas; Larry Tribel, branch manager for ECD Houston; Mario Pulido, branch manager of ECD Austin; and Victor Davalos, branch manager of ECD San Antonio. 

Electronic Custom Distributors
Corporate Office
4747 Westpark Drive,
Houston, TX 77027



Taking the Indoors Outside

A look at the many products taking outdoor spaces up a notch

By Chris Smith, TheCoTeam

As I write this I am sitting in Jackson Hole, Wyo., it is snowing – making it hard to believe that it’s nearly spring! As the snow melts and the flowers begin to bloom, it’s time to begin enjoying our outdoor spaces. Pools are being readied for the season, BBQ’s are being scrubbed clean and awaiting that sizzle, and outdoor furniture is emerging from hibernation topped with cushions. What are we missing? The outdoor technology that makes it all that much better!

The options for music, movies, lighting, shading and network connectivity are just as plentiful in outdoor spaces as they are indoor. Special consideration, materials and placement are all required when using technology outdoors. When done correctly, it is possible to achieve amazing results with beautiful aesthetics.

Project by SAV Digital Environments, Photos by Audrey Hall, Doug Burke, and Peter Gibeon

Music Anywhere

While it is still possible to buy a “rock speaker,” why would you? They don’t even look like rocks! Instead, take a look at the fantastic landscape systems by James and Sonance. The speakers look like landscape lights and come in various finishes to match the styling of your outdoor space. They can be mounted in planters or hung like pendants from the trellis. The bass portion of the speaker is buried in-ground and out of sight. These systems scale infinitely, allowing for coverage of even the largest spaces. Another outdoor music favorite is the Bollard line from Coastal Source. It’s a different approach than landscape, and the sound is impeccable. For the price conscious, the team at Sonos have made battery-powered options like the Move and Roam. Think about it like owning one lightbulb and taking it room to room.

Movies by Moonlight (or Sunlight!)

Outdoor entertainment is not limited to music. When you want to turn your backyard into a sports haven or watch movies by the pool, there are more options than ever. The great folks at Seura have multiple options for bringing the viewing experience outdoors year-round! For areas that are sheltered they have a more affordable approach and when the display must compete in direct sunlight, they have a premium UltaBright range. For the cost-no-object solution, look no further than C-Seed. This massive screen hides underground and emerges like a missile launching before unfolding in truly theatrical fashion. It’s one of those products where watching it operate might be just as cool as what you are watching on it.

Light The Night

Once you have experienced proper landscape lighting you will never go without. The lighting products by Coastal Source are beautiful solid brass objects but what they bring to your outdoor space in a visual capacity is truly magical. What you choose to shine light on and how makes all the difference. The layering that can be achieved with illuminating the structures, foliage, pathways, decking, stairs, water features, etc. is nothing short of stunning. You’ll need a specialist to help you achieve the desired effect, but it’s well worth it. 

A Shade Above

Sometimes we need a bit of a break from the sun. Outdoor shading options allow for much needed respite from the rays – and also the bugs! Exterior living spaces can be open on multiple sides and, with the push of a button, immediately screened in. The ability to still have the breeze and sunlight fill a space comes with the added benefit of reducing UV exposure and protecting you from insects. These can also be integrated with wind sensors to raise and protect the shades in heavy wind or hurricanes.

Connect Anywhere

In an “always on” world, it is necessary to have access to the internet – everywhere. Besides, how would we get the kids to join us outside if we didn’t have rock solid internet in the backyard? Solutions from Ruckus and the network nerds at Access Networks allow you to have the same great speeds and reliability outside that you have grown accustomed to inside. These products can be concealed and placed to provide seamless “hopping” as you navigate throughout a property both inside and out. 

I have been around consumer technology for twenty years, and I can honestly say that the current crop (pun very much intended) of outdoor technology solutions has never been better. The qualitative performance is unparalleled while the design aspects of finish, materials and concealment are nothing short of beautiful. Enjoy time outside with all of the comforts of inside.

A special thanks to Scott Abel and the teams at SAV in Bozeman, Mont. and Premiere/SAV in Jackson Hole, Wyo. for contributing all of the images for this article.


Chris Smith is the Principal and Founder of TheCoTeam. Bringing 20 years of industry experience to the custom installation space, they Coach | Consult | Collaborate with integrators and manufacturers to solve
problems and run a more efficient business.



Designers’ Top Four Outdoor Trends

What’s hot now in outdoor entertainment design and products

By Katye McGregor Bennett

(Left) Photography Credit: Tile of Spain.

Theres no question about it — outdoor living continues to heat up as a home design trend in 2022. Driving it is the homeowners desire to connect with nature and outdoor entertaining, partially spurred on by the pandemic and the desire to gather safely outdoors. In this years “The Future of Home Design” survey conducted by the New Home Trends Institute (NHTI), just 28 percent of respondents chose an open yard in the survey compared with other more popular features, such as covered outdoor rooms/open-air rooms (73 percent), patios (68 percent), and decks (55 percent). Say goodbye to the sprawling lawns of yesteryear.

According to NAHB, the percentage of single-family homes with patios has risen to 63 percent. Home buyers across generations have also noted interest in exterior living, with millennials indicating an interest in front porches as well to foster a sense of community. In the face of dwindling lot sizes, 38 percent of architectural designers included roof decks in their designs in 2020—another growing trend.

Bringing it all together, we polled top designers and design-minded integrators to determine what their favorite trends and brands are for outdoor living projects this year.

Kaestner uses Challenger Designs for outdoor cabinetry for a customizable low-maintenance and long-lasting experience. Photography Courtesy of Kaestner Designs

Trend #1: The Kicked-Up Outdoor Kitchen

According to Michael Kaestner of Kaestner Designs in Philadelphia, the outdoor living market has been rapidly expanding, especially when it comes to outdoor kitchens.

“We have seen a large uptick in project requests for both the inside the home as well as outside. In order to keep up with this momentum shift, I’ve partnered with vendors who supply materials that focus on enhancing my clients’ outdoor lifestyles,” said Kaestner.

Lynx Pizza Oven in an outdoor kitchen. Photography Courtesy of Kustom Home Design

Kimberly Kerl, owner of Kustom Home Design in Greer, S.C., adds that its not just kitchen cabinetry thats becoming more sophisticated for the outdoor kitchen, its also the appliances. 

Grills are still a staple, but cooking technology has really evolved to include infrared heat, indirect heat, pellets, rotisserie and wood chips rather than just gas or charcoal,” she said. Beyond the grill, side burners and power burners that can heat a large stock pot for seafood boils and turkey frying are common. Teppanyaki style grills, which are basically very large griddle surfaces, are gaining in popularity along with pizza ovens and even warming drawers. Smokers are popular and have several different heating and monitoring methods, including app-based tools. Finally, refrigeration is frequently requested and often coupled with an ice maker or built-in cooler.”

Modular Outdoor Kitchen Units by VLAZE

Tristan Gary of Tristan Gary Designs gave us the scoop on some other amazing outdoor kitchen finds spied at KBIS, notably John Michael Outdoor Kitchens with collections featuring marine-grade 316 stainless steel exteriors, coupled with high-quality 304 stainless steel interiors. The outdoor collection is featured with Blum Movento soft close door hinges and drawer slides for impeccable functionality. Outdoor cabinets are fitted with a rubberized gasket to keep elements outside. Gary also loved the Modular Outdoor Kitchen Units by VLAZE, with mobile prep tables, dining room tables, and planters in stunning colors and finishes.

This residence uses REHAU windows and doors, including sliding doors that incorporate the exterior with various rooms and sections of the house, generating panoramic views of the natural environment surrounding the residence. Photography Credit: REHAU.

Trend #2: Blurring the Line Between In and Out

Making your outdoors like a continuation of the interior of your home is still a strong trend. 

Many people are spending more time at home, often in spaces that no longer accommodate their needs,” said Jesse Collins, REHAU director of marketing and communications. As a result, we are seeing more projects that are elevating outdoor components of the home to create more livable space as well as renovating indoor spaces to connect more with the outdoors.”

Coverings 2022, North Americas largest international tile and stone exhibition, saw this trend take root even in flooring options. Tile of Spain notes that rooms that have access to outdoor living continue to trend, and many companies from Spain answered the call with tiles that gracefully go from an indoor room to an outdoor space. 

Wellness design consultant Jamie Gold noted the proliferation of new porcelain pavers, outdoor tile with slip resistance and outdoor-friendly countertops. There is also an emphasis on home entertaining outdoors with bars, taps, outdoor ice, beverage fridges, and freezers,” she said.

Melanie Niemerg of HTA-certified Integral Systems Florida uses Coastal Source to both light up her clientshomes in the evening and fill outdoor spaces with sound.

Trend #3: Covered Outdoor Living Room

Covered outdoor rooms address the space allocation debate and meet the desire for privacy. Often set up to mimic the comfort—and even the finishes—of the homes interior, these spaces are an indoor-outdoor hybrid.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are seeing a lot of these,” said Molly Switzer of Portland-based Molly N Switzer Designs, explaining that these spaces are an extension of the need to meet safely but wanting more than a simple round of folding chairs in the lawn. These open-air spaces have more elaborate lighting or skylight windows and are often finished beneath with wood. “Where we see tech is in the lighting and the extension of the sound system, which naturally ties into the rest of the home. We use fans to move air during summer months and heating elements for the longer-lasting non-summer months.”

According to Switzer, there are also various shade and screen systems that offer wind protection as well as light control and bug protection. These spaces are being outfitted with robust outdoor Wi-Fi so that guests and homeowners can stay connected at all times.

Music, movies, control and lighting are of course a must for any well-appointed outdoor haven. A qualified integrator will need to be onboard with the design from the beginning stages in order to execute correctly and limit cost overruns.

Trend #4: Performance Materials for Rugged Outdoor Use

While using materials better suited for the outdoors has always been de rigueur in al fresco design, materials used for the outdoors are only getting more durable. Jessica Duce, who owns interior design firm JDuce Design and Vacation Rental Designers, has installed outdoor furniture for just about every climate, from beachfront homes to Rocky Mountain homes to Blue Ridge Mountain homes to the heat and humidity of the South. Her favorite outdoor furniture is  Polywood, which she uses pretty consistently for vacation rental projects. She also loves Southern Home Outdoor, a family-owned company based in Mobile, Ala., that creates beautiful lasting outdoor furniture all in-house. The use of performance fabrics that can withstand the elements for cushions, pillows, ottomans, etc, is everywhere. A rattan look with the endurance for outdoors is also popular,” she added.


Integrator Roundtable

Industry experts discuss current challenges, favorite products, and advice for other professionals

Vanessa Zitzmann
and Erinn Loucks

What is the biggest obstacle that you are having to overcome right now?

“Extended lead times and keeping up with our busy workload. Business has been very strong ,which has put a strain on our resources. We hired new installation technicians this year to help keep the momentum going.”

– Brian Perreault, COO for Barrett’s Technology Solutions, Lombard, Ill.

“Having to say no. It’s hard to turn down good work, but the integration business is not one that scales easily, so I’d rather turn down a job than may over-stress my team, than run the risk of pushing my people too far for the sake of profit as that is a short-term gain but a long-term loss.   It’s certainly about the best problem that we could have.  We have all been very fortunate in this business the last few years. We definitely make sure we prioritize our long-term relationships first as when things inevitably slow down.”

  Brian Richards, president of Precision Media, Englewood, Colo. 

“Supply chain issues.”

– Christian Andrade, senior systems designer, Acoustic Architects, Miami

“Product & supply chain issues! It becomes difficult keeping installations on schedule and maintain customer relations with the uncertainty of the shipping dates.”

– Andrew Vaccaro, CEO, Phoenix Systems, North Haledon, N.J.

How are you dealing with supply chain issues?

“We are ordering products for our projects well in advance of our usual order times.  In some cases, this could be 12-14 weeks out.  Additionally, we continually monitor our stock position on our “staple” products as well as those that are in short supply and make sure we always have quantities either in stock or on order. When possible, we modify our system design approach to avoid some of the products with serious supply chain constraints. “  

 – Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions

“We‘ve definitely been caught with our pants down, that’s for sure.  I’ve certainly had regrets that I didn’t place larger “stock” orders with certain manufacturers, but hindsight is always 20-20. I think as we battle through this, integrators need to come together and help each other when one has what the other needs.  In most cases there IS enough product out there, but we are all hoarding gear which is exacerbating the problem.  I think this is where reps come into play as they have access to the knowledge of what each integrator has purchased and can/should be a bridge to connect integrators together who are in a dire pinch. It’s good Karma anyways.”

  Richards, Precision Media

“We’re switching out products to something comparable if available. Over the last year, we have gotten to try out some new brands we never would have looked at without the supply issues.” 

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems

Which manufacturer that you currently use gives you the most support?

“This is a hard question to answer because I feel like we get good support from most of our vendor partners.  There are a lot of brands to choose from, so we tend to stay away from vendors that cannot provide a high level of support.  If I had to pick one vendor, it would be WhyReboot.  Bjorn and his team continue to provide unparalleled support, so much so that we really look at WhyReboot as somewhat of an extension to our own team.”  

– Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions

“We’ve been fortunate and have several great manufacturers that take care of us. Although right now, I am going to have to say ClearOne. They have gone above and beyond for us this year.”

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems

What advice would you give to new integration companies that are just getting started?

“Many CI companies, including ours, cater to the luxury market which can be very demanding.  I would let them know that this is not an easy business and it will require many layers of support to provide an excellent experience for their clients. I would suggest they spend the necessary time getting themselves educated on all facets of the business and stick to the types of projects that best fit their capabilities.

– Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions

“Take great care of your employees and retain them. Do really high-quality work always, even when it makes a job less profitable. Realize that the larger your business gets, the easier it is to run because you have more people to delegate tasks to. Do what the larger firms are doing.  Follow their lead. The reason they got big is they already made a bunch of mistakes, so when it comes to business practices, product choices, etc., there’s good reasons why they landed where they did. Choosing the wrong control system, lighting or shade solution, or security solution, etc. has a very long tail and enormous tangible and intangible costs over time.”

  Richards, Precision Media

“When designing a system for a client, always check with the manufacturers on lead time, availability, and always extend the expected ETA on equipment.  Also, check with any other contractors involved on their lead times to ensure a jobsite is coordinated properly.”

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems

Who was your mentor when you started out?

“Joe Barrett. I have had the privilege of working with Joe for over 30 years.  Coming fresh out of school at the time I joined Barrett’s I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much from Joe over the years.”

– Perreault, Barrett’s Technology Solutions

“My ex-boss who fired me 17 years ago. He told me, ‘Brian…you can do this. You’re a crazy hard worker and I know you could start your own business and be successful.’ And my best friend, who stuck his neck out for me with his biggest client to get me my first big job. It’s all history from there.”

  Richards, president of Precision Media 

“Joshua Hamann and Spencer Hauldren are the reasons for my success. They have shared their trials and experience in a formula I can apply to every interaction”

– Christian Andrade, Acoustic Architects

How do you feel about dealing with interior designers, builders etc.?

“Take care of them at all costs. Builders/designers/etc. are creatures of habit, just like all of us.   Once they have their ‘guy,’ you have to screw up pretty bad to lose them, but never take that for granted. You still have to earn it every time. We are a 100 percent referral business and do zero marketing, so we rely solely on them and our previous clients for enough work to keep 32 employees very busy.”

  Richards, Precision Media

“Architects, builders and designers are the core of our business. We love being a part of the initial schematic design process and getting involved before the MEP as it enables the client and avoids change orders and construction delays.”

– Andrade, Acoustic Architects

“Over the past 30+ years, I have dealt with many high-end designers, architects, and builders. The majority of them are easy to work with and are able to discuss design and functionality. It makes everyone’s job easier if we are all on the same page from the beginning and not trying to figure it out after the walls are up and paintings are hung.”

– Vaccaro, Phoenix Systems


Bringing Wellness Inside

Designer Ebony Stephenson, CLIPP, CAPS is known for making her homes not only beautiful, but also safe and accessible for her clients through life’s ups and downs of life.

By Erinn Loucks

Designer Ebony Stephenson, CLIPP, CAPS is known for making her homes not only beautiful, but also safe and accessible for her clients through life’s ups and downs of life. Along with being a Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP), as well as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), Stephenson was an NKBA 30 Under 30 member and currently serves as the president of the VA State Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Connected Design spoke with young designer to find out more. 

How did you get your start in interior design?  

“I got my start in interior design as a child. I loved building doll houses and my very own Barbie Dream Homes from scratch, and I also loved rearranging and decorating my room all the time. My parents and art teacher both saw my love for architecture and design, so in elementary school they enrolled me in a special art school for gifted and talented children in Virginia Beach, Va. I continued to attend there through middle school, and then in high school I was enrolled in a vocational program at the local community college where I studied architecture and drafting.  After high school I continued my studies in college at Virginia Tech.”

How would you describe your style?  

“I would describe my style as ‘Biophilic Contemporary Chic.’ Yes, I made that style up, but it 100 percent describes my home. I love plants and I have more than 100 inside my home, not including the ones in my garden outside. I have plants in every single room of my home and I balance them with sleek black floors and lots of light. For my clients I like to bring in a little biophilia to enhance wellness and a connectivity to nature, while at the same time respecting their own styles and aesthetics.”

What is your biggest challenge in your business today?

“I would say that my biggest challenge in my business today is keeping up with the growing demand for professional designers like myself who hold certifications such as CLIPP and CAPS.  More people are staying in their homes and remodeling rather than taking their chances with buying a new home in this high stakes real estate market. Because of this the number of leads that we receive even on a daily basis is like nothing that we have ever seen before.”

Talk about your work with Living in Place and why you chose to be certified.

“If you know me or follow me on social media, then you know that I have always been very vocal about my own medical issues and physical limitations due to having Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which in my case comes with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. These medical issues have no cure and are often seen as “invisible illnesses.” That is why Living in Place is so important to me. Not only can I use my own personal medical experiences to aid and guide my clients as I help them to design for the future and to stay in their homes but having the formal education with my credentials makes clients know that they are in good hands.”

“I would describe my style as ‘Biophilic Contemporary Chic.’ Yes, I made that style up, but it 100 percent describes my home”

How do you see technology impacting interior design in the future?

“I can already see and get a taste of technology impacting interior design in the future, at least from the CAD side, which I use every day. Even before we get to the phase of working with an integrator for smart technology, I am able to use the ever-progressing technology with my design software Chief Architect to present to my clients without them even having to leave the comfort of their homes. This became even more important with COVID-19 and the need to social distance. I love being able to see my clients in person, but sometimes it is so much easier to show a walkthrough of my design virtually.”

What is a non-industry related fun fact about you?

“A non-industry related fun fact about me is that I am obsessed with eating shellfish. I would say that I find myself eating some type of shellfish at least five days out of the week. This is only a fun fact, because I am highly sensitive to shellfish! I’m not deadly allergic, but enough to break me out in hives and have my face swell. I just deal with it because I love shellfish so much.”

Going Dark for Movie Night


Going Dark
for Movie Night

Transforming the home theater, media room or living room with smart shading can provide the ultimate movie experience

By Scott Stephenson

From drive-in theaters to modern multi-theater cinemas, heading to the movies is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. The movie theater as we know it is strategically designed to “set the scene” for patrons – with the big screen, surround sound, the theater acoustics and maybe even the popcorn-crumbed floor – but what greatly enhances the theater experience is the low lighting. The lights dimming is the universal cue to shift away from reality and slide into the film. 

During the last few years, homeowners longed for the immersive qualities that cinemas provide and sought ways to recreate this experience at home. With streaming services becoming more popular and home technologies becoming more advanced, there’s more opportunity than ever to bring the cinema experience into the home, leveraging an extra bonus of comfort and convenience. Now the challenge for integrators is mirroring the movie theater experience at home – and with the right balance of home automation and shading, it’s certainly possible. 

Integrators can offer homeowners a range of AV and home technologies to create the perfect cinematic experience. When paired with lighting systems, thermostats and top-of-the-line AV systems, automated window treatments are one of the fastest growing asks for home theater projects. Made smart, shades offer a unique functionality, whether movie-loving clients are looking to upgrade multi-purpose rooms or a dedicated home theater space. They can adjust at a homeowner’s command to blot out incoming sunlight, match the lighting systems’ ambiance, and offer the nearly effortless, luxurious, immersive theater effect clients crave. 

Shades with honeycomb structures and fabrics with opaque fabrics can enhance the movie-viewing experience with versatile room darkening, adjusting on command to cloak any room with unparalleled darkness. With designs tailored to absorb and deflect incoming light, adding shades to an installation can help transform a bright, naturally lit space into a near-blackout viewing room, inviting the visual and sound systems to boast their features without outside distractions. A range of wired and wireless power options make smart shades a fit for any home, whether custom build or retrofit, integrating seamlessly into most popular smart home systems for pre-set automations or instant commands. The immediacy of the automation lends itself to more opportunities for the integrator and homeowner alike to transform and upgrade multi-purpose spaces, like shifting from the family room to the cinema.  

When the movie is over and the lights turn back on, homeowners also want their space to be designed for the home’s interior and architecture. While the functionality is critical, custom shading fabrics and designs also offer a significant advantage in achieving design goals. Integrators that can offer an array of styles, fabrics, designs created for each home, each window, each person, with the benefits that automation allows.

To deliver on the same automatic, lux experience offered by movie theaters, shade selection is crucial for a home theater. A home theater shouldn’t just be a clone of the commercial experience though; it should be personal. Custom smart shades are uniquely positioned to bring customizable style to the connected home. So once the movie ends, homeowners can return to reality whenever they choose, opening the shades and reverting the lighting with just the tap of a button. No matter what the setup entails – day or night, automated window treatments help homeowners transform any recreational space into a home theater, achieving a cinematic experience that delivers a unique personal touch and omits the questionable popcorn trail across the floor. 


Open To Nature

A national park venue uses smart technology to extend its usability in all types of weather

By Erinn Loucks

According to Childress, the FlexShade Zip is first and foremost a shade, so residentially it can be used on windows for glare and solar heat gain control or on patios for glare and weather protection.

When Americans typically think of their national parks, sweeping waterfalls and dramatic landscapes come to mind. Wolf Trap National Park is no exception when it comes to connecting with nature, but what is different is its main mission: to present the performing arts to the public. Set just outside of Washington, D.C. in a serene, natural area, the park hosts multiple events —including theater performances, operas and musical concerts — across several outdoor theaters and venues from May through September. 

The park also includes four outside, covered decks that can be rented for large events, including one deck set aside exclusively for the members of the Wolf Trap Foundation. It was these decks, which are completely open to the surrounding natural area, that needed more protection from the elements in order to host events during inclement weather. Draper, in collaboration with Goodwin Brothers Shades and Specialties, LLC of Rockville, Md., came up with the ideal solution: the motorized FlexShade ZIP.

Providing Protection while Providing Views

“Although people typically think of shades for controlling glare and solar heat gain through windows, they’re also very effective in this kind of application,” said Clint Childress, LEED AP, solar control solutions product manager for Draper. “The rain doesn’t penetrate the mesh shade fabric, and the ‘ZIP’ feature on both edges keep the panel securely in place, so there’s no leakage. It also allows Wolf Trap to create a controlled climate for a more year-round events space impervious not just to rain, but also wind, insects and temperature extremes.” 

Since the view was the main draw of these venues, Draper recommended a fabric with a 3 percent openness factor. According to Childress, openness factor is related to the amount of surface area that is open on the fabric. This directly ties through to the amount of UV light penetration.

“Three percent openness blocks 97 percent of UV light,” explained Childress. “This is different than visible light transmittance, which is brightness.”

This means that when the shades are lowered, the hot glare of the summer sun is inhibited  from entering the space, but the views outside are extremely clear. It also means that the fabric weave cuts high wind forces down dramatically, making it easier to control the interior temperature of the space. For example, even in freezing temperatures the space can be used if the shades are lowered and heaters are brought in. Even rain can be kept out.

“The holes or openness in the fabric are small enough that water often beads up and runs down the fabric,” said Childress. “Force would need to be placed on the water to break surface tension and pass through the fabric.”


FlexShade Zip was chosen because there was a need for both solar control and weather control. In all, Draper and Goodwin Brothers provided 62 FlexShade ZIP shades for the park.

Thoughtful Touches

With large gatherings of people, there is always a concern for safety. Draper thought ahead with that issue as well.

“When you have a lot of people and objects in close proximity to the edge of a deck area, there is sometimes a concern that a shade will deploy and either cause an injury or be damaged,” said Childress. “We avoid that possibility by using radio-controlled obstruction detection motors. If a person or object is in the way of a descending shade, the unit senses the obstruction and reverses course.” 

FlexShade Zip’s potential for protecting against the elements, as well as its ability to keep people safe, makes it more than just a shade. In residential applications, it can be used on windows for glare and solar heat gain control or on patios for glare and weather protection. Childress says that Draper even has seen them used as visual barriers, since it can go up to 25 feet wide. For the installation at Wolf Trap National Park, it was because of FlexShade Zip that this beautiful but exposed deck was able to have the best of both worlds: the comfort of a protected space while also enjoying the great outdoors.

“My favorite part of this project is watching the space transformation,” said Childress. “This product can turn an open air pavilion into a useable multi-season event space with the literal flipping of a switch.”



9 Ways Your Home is Hurting Your Wi-Fi Experience

Understanding what could hinder or improve connectivity in an installation

By Nathan Holmes, Access Networks

1. The Walls – Any time Wi-Fi signals pass through a solid surface they risk degradation. If the wall, cabinet, ceiling, or other architectural feature comprises tile, metal, stone, brick, concrete, or some other dense material, the potential for disruption is even greater. Installing additional wireless access points in strategic locations can help signals sidestep these structural hurdles. 

2. Flooring – Floors made of marble, concrete and other solid materials make it hard for Wi-Fi signals to travel throughout a home. Heated floors are even more problematic. Just as the roadblocks within the walls can be bypassed with the right equipment installed in the right places, so can the stubborn materials within flooring.  

3. Certain Appliances – Microwave ovens, refrigerators, baby monitors, and other devices often operate on the same radio frequency band as a home’s Wi-Fi network, which creates signal interference. Networking systems that let you choose between two radio bands can help appliances and Wi-Fi equipment coexist peacefully. The appliances and kitchen design can stay intact as long as there is an access point close by. 

4. Water – Water blocks and absorbs Wi-Fi energy, so features like fish tanks and water walls can make it harder for the signal to pass through. When integrating water features in a home, make sure to utilize the proper number of access points to bypass these connection barriers.

5. Windows – Large banks of windows lend beauty to a home, but they do nothing for Wi-Fi performance. In fact, they can severely cripple it, especially if the window panes are insulated with a Low-E-rated coating. Made of a transparent metal film, the coating helps conserve energy but causes Wi-Fi signals to bounce off, leaving the space disconnected. 

6. Mirrors – Similar to how the reflective qualities of Low-E windows impact Wi-Fi is the metal backing used in most mirrors. The bigger the mirror, the greater the potential for signal interference and Wi-Fi dead spots. Limit the size and number of mirrors to preserve the performance of your Wi-Fi network or increase the access points to mitigate any issues. 

7. Elevators and Metal Blinds – Again, metal never mixes well with Wi-Fi, so elevators—common in apartment complexes or multi-story homes—and metal blinds are serious Wi-Fi deterrents. They can reflect, refract and degrade Wi-Fi signals, making connections slow, spotty, and unreliable but not irreparable when there are access points nearby to get Wi-Fi back on track. 

8. Neighboring Wi-Fi Networks – Nearby Wi-Fi activity from neighbors who are utilizing the same radio frequency channel can cause Wi-Fi problems. Thankfully, it’s a relatively easy fix. Changing the channel of the Wi-Fi network usually does the trick. 

9. Furniture and Art – The composition of furniture and artwork can impede Wi-Fi signals. It can sometimes be hard to pinpoint exactly which pieces are causing problems, but their material makeup can offer clues. Remember: the denser the material, the more effort it takes for a Wi-Fi signal to get through.  Adding additional access points to assist with signal movement is the best practice.

To ensure the most stable, speedy and comprehensive Wi-Fi coverage in a home, it’s best to have premier-grade networking equipment specified and installed by an experienced home systems professional. They have the tools and the knowledge to analyze the Wi-Fi environment, identify problems, and specify and deploy solutions that deliver the best Wi-Fi performance possible while preserving the architectural and interior integrity of a home. At Access Networks, we believe that technology shouldn’t interfere with a home’s design intent, and have engineered our networking products to blend seamlessly into the home environment. 

For more tips on getting the most out of a Wi-Fi network, please visit www.accessnetworks.com, who can recommend the right products, tools, and installation practices to achieve the best possible Wi-Fi performance in any home. 


Going to
Greater Heights

A partnership of efforts scores a fully automated luxury home

By Erinn Loucks

According to Settecasi, one challenge was the fact that this project started in 2018 and continued through the pandemic, which meant that some products became unavailable or better materials came out in the process. “The timeline was so long, everything in the beginning that I specified kept changing,” said the system designer.

Not having much in the way of borders or limitations can be a challenge. When a discerning client came to the design center of TRIPhase Technologies to work on a new build home in Indianapolis, the initial project evolved from a few screens and connected products to a completely automated home. 

The project was presented to integrator Robert Haecker as a spare-no-effort project. Haecker worked alongside a large team presenting technology solutions at the highest level. The client had one directive: give the project one hundred percent.

In order to pull off a project of this level, you absolutely have a great builder partner and team to make it happen,” said Haecker. “This builder was willing to do anything and stop the train to figure out how.”

Setting the Stage for Invisible Tech

The client was drawn to Zionsville, Ind.-based TRIPhase Technologies because of the integrator’s approach to blending tech exquisitely with design. The TriPhase showroom is built with purposeful design elements that showcase technologies executed in a discrete fashion. This execution fit the client’s desire for a beautifully designed, architecturally advanced home with complimentary technology. 

“The client’s directive made us push ourselves to greater heights than we knew we could go,” said builder Nigel Hoss of Hoss Homes. “The answer was always ‘yes’ before we figured out how to do it.”

Hoss and architect Gary Nance of Gary Nance Design were charged with implementing the best materials and finishes throughout the home. Some of these elements included leather clad walls, stone floors, an all-plaster interior as an alternative to drywall and even porcelain tile in the garage floor. Refined wood species and walnut finishes, as well as Indiana limestone, were also used. The design stands out first in this home, and every controllable facet of this building is connected. Elan is the overarching control system here. 

“We feel it’s very elegant and scalable,” said Haecker. “It’s easy for our clients to use.”

A Pakedge system provides the network for this extensive property. Access points were placed for full coverage inside and outside the home, including an extensive pool area. There is also a full security, surveillance system and full Lutron panelized lighting with shade control. 

“The area we spent a lot of detail on was the lighting design. The home is loaded with accent lighting everywhere, from step lighting to ceiling flush-mounted lighting,” said Haecker, adding that every room has accent lighting throughout. “The lighting shows how a purposeful design and technology can create spaces and enhance architectural features.”

This modern kitchen hides technology like a Future Automation TV lift in the kitchen, and a Sonance small aperture speaker in the kitchen and dining area.

Thinking Creatively with Elements and Materials

Both the builder and the integration team agreed that one of the most challenging aspects of the project was the main stairwell. According to Rocky Settecasi, systems designer for TRIPhase, the client was focused on enhancing the three-story limestone element, creating a complete wash of light cascading the entire wall.

“They wanted to do things no one had ever seen before,” said Settecasi. The challenge presented was producing the light with a feature stairway creating shadows. 

On every step, there is a light and independent dimming zones. The integration team worked hand in hand with the architect and builder, poring over prototypes to achieve the exact cast of light required. As a result of their efforts achieved a stairwell element beyond reproach.

“That stairway is a work of art in of itself,” said Hoss.

Another challenge was the vanishing TV over the fireplace. Designed with a Future Automation sliding panel system, this system should have been simple for the integrators. The client presented a desire to create a steel façade 22 feet over a 5 custom fireplace, which brought the job up a level in difficulty. 

“We had to work with the builder and metal fabricator to get steel panels that were both thin enough and light enough for this system to move,” said Settecasi, adding that even in the size of that fireplace and how tall it is, they were limited on the amount of height to fit the system into. They eventually worked with James Loudspeakers to bring back a very thin sound bar — one that had not been manufactured in years — specifically for this job. 

“Several on site meetings were needed to get that wall to work and look seamless,” said Settecasi, explaining that when the TV is off, all that is seen is a multi-panel wall. “You’d never know there was a TV there.”

This home is completely automated by a combination of Elan and Lutron lighting controls. 

The Cool Factor

While most of this home’s automation is practical in nature, there were a few touches that were simply done because they were cool — like in the home theater.

For this space, the integration team brought in their in-house home theater interior designer, Shanna Haecker. Together with the builder and architect, she laid out a simple theater room with an all-black fabric ceiling, acoustic treatments on the wall and the projector installed in the nearby storage room. A Marantz receiver with Dolby Atmos was paired with an Anthem amplifier and James Loudspeakers to run the theater, as well as a Wolf cinema projector chosen for its brightness. The screen manufacturer was Screen Innovations (SI). 

Another creative component lay at the base of the three-story limestone wall element. The entryway into the wine cellar presented another opportunity to showcase design and seamless technology. The client’s desire was to have a hidden entrance in the wall leading to an exquisite wine cellar. To do this, Hoss created a moveable limestone, pivot doorset on custom fabricated steel framework. The entrance is activated through a special key sequence on the Lutron keypad and disappears into the architecture when closed. 

Some other unique features include a Sonance 70 volt landscape system around the pool, a flat in-wall subwoofers in the great room, and a TV hidden on a Future Automation lift in a kitchen island.

“I always strive to be better today than I was yesterday,” said Hoss, who credited the success of this expansive and complex job with the excellent collaboration between all of the partners. “You can’t do it individually; you have to bring your team along.”

This 22-ft.-tall ceiling has suspended wood clouds that are wrapped with linear lighting for an unusual effect.

Elegant and practical technology like Lutron connected lighting and Saunalogic shower controls outfit this bathroom.

Project Resources

Project Design Team:
Integration Team
TRI Phase Technologies
10960 Bennett Pkwy
Zionsville, IN 46077


Robert Haecker – Owner / Founder

Rocky Settecasi –
Sales / System Design

Shanna Haecker – Owner/Founder, Theater Room Interior Designer

Don Wolfe – Project Manager

Joe Coutz –
Lighting Design & Engineering

Allison Brown –
Lighting Design & Shades Specialist

Brian Swanson – Programming & Engineering

Matt Terrell – Lead Install Technician

Jeremy Dehaven –
Lead Install Technician

Jeremy Summers –
Lead Install Technician

Brendon Crook – Lead Install Technician

Steve, Nigel and Colin Hoss,
Hoss Homes


Gary Nance,
Gary Nance Design


Harold Sark,
Harold Sark & Associates


The Home Aesthetic

Equipment List:
Alarm.com, Anthem, BK Lighting,

Lucifer Lighting, Core Lighting,

Crestron Digital Media, Fortress,

Future Automation, Nexus21,

Sony, Sunbrite, Samsung,

Home Automation Controls,

JL Audio, DMF, Luma Surveillance,

Lutron, Marantz, Leon Speakers,

James Loudspeakers,
Middle Atlantic, Elan Home Systems,

Pakedge, Panamax,

Progressive Screens

Pure Edge Lighting and Core Lighting,

Screen Innovations,
Simplified Acoustics, Sonance 

Pulse8, Sonos, Wolf Cinema


Large Scale Projects
with Large Scale Results

Integrating technology in a 41-story building

By Vanessa Zitzmann

In the heart of downtown Seattle is a 41-story luxury condominium building. Dubbed Spire, the tower features luxury condos, penthouses, and five floors of amenities all showcasing built-in technology, which was designed and installed by Washington integration company, Wipliance.   

“Design and implementation in a building like this is a massive undertaking,” said Cameron Alavi, product manager/design engineer for Wipliance, adding that Wipliance was brought in at the beginning of building development to design and install the technology. “From start to finish, the project took four years.” By the end of the project, Wipliance had designed and installed technology in all 41-stories of the building. 

Collaborating on a Large-Scale Project

Wipliance began working with the building developer, Laconia Development, on the technology needs at the very beginning of the building design. The building owners had a generalized concept they envisioned for the space. The building needed to offer a high-quality experience for future homeowners and the overall look was very important. There were a lot of collaborative ideas discussed and designed. 

“There were several designs that didn’t make it into the building, and there were designs created last-minute that were included,” said Alavi. “Wipliance was given a lot of freedom to bring the design to life.”

Due to the scale and magnitude of the project, the entire team at Wipliance was involved, including the employees in the Scottsdale, Arizona branch. “At times we were rotating teams in and out of the building,” Wipliance owner Lee Travis said. “It was all hands-on deck for the team.”

“Throughout the process, we were involved with general contractors, electricians, developers, architects, interior designers and so many more,” said Alavi. “It truly takes a village to implement an install like this.”

As construction began on the building, the developers needed to get started on the residential sales right away. Wipliance created a model unit at the Spire off-site sales center to help potential homeowners get a feel for what they would be purchasing. Within the unit, a visualization center was designed, giving a full-scale VR “window” of views from each condo, which provides a sentimental feel for the buyers. Wipliance designed eleven different floor plans for homeowners to choose from when purchasing condos. The packages included lighting control and window treatments from Lutron along with an easy-to-use interface with Control4, all at different levels with upgrades available. 

Luxury Amenities

Spire had five floors of amenities including a two-story lobby, co-working spaces, fitness center, private theater, social club,  private dining areas, and several outdoor terraces all integrated with technology. 

The vision of the developers is seen throughout these spaces as Wipliance made sure the technology was clean, invisible, and of high quality. Custom Leon Edge Media Frames were designed and installed on the TV locations to conceal the mount and wiring as well. “The frames were a finishing touch detail that truly gave the entire install the quality it deserved,” said Melissa Mitchell, the marketing manager for Wipliance, “that attention to detail is what the project was about.” 

Wipliance designed a customized Control4 automation solution to control all audio, video, and technology for the amenity spaces in the building. In-ceiling speakers from Origin Acoustics were installed to provide great audio while also being a low-profile solution. Outside, the Sound View Terraces were integrated with outdoor speakers from Focal allowing the audio to blend into the views of Seattle. The theater room design was simple, yet elegant as well, featuring in-wall speakers from Triad, providing top-quality immersive audio. An Epson Projector and  Screen Innovations screen were installed for premium video and visibility to round out the space. 

Shading was one of the largest projects for the building that Wipliance designed. “There is a lot more work in shades than people realize,” explained Alavi, “There is no such thing as a spec window size, every window is measured and remeasured before the shades are ordered.” Over 3,700 Lutron shades were installed in Spire, not only in the amenity spaces but in every residential space as well. Control 4 was also used to control the shades throughout the building. “Our shade team manager Emily Drivstuen did a spectacular job,” said Travis, “this was a large, complicated project and she pulled it off seamlessly.”

During a project of this size challenges always arise, and Spire was no exception. Normal supply chain issues come up, especially when ordering at the volume Wipliance needed. In addition, pricing fluctuated during the tenure of the build. “Prices quoted at the beginning of the project were not always the same two or three years later when we were ready to order,” explained Alavi. Wipliance overcame these challenges by relying on its partnerships and always having contingency plans. 

Project Resources

Equipment List:
Control 4


Leon Edge Media Frames

Lutron Lighting

Lutron Shades

Origin Acoustics

Screen Innovations

Screen Innovations




Contact Information:
Technology Integrator


Lee Travis, Owner

2020 124th Avenue
Northeast Bellevue, WA 98005 

(425) 702-8600

Photography Credit:
Cory Holland, Clarity NW


A Constellation of Challenges

A home theater project combines technology with a starry work of art

By Erinn Loucks

In the traditional home theater space, it usually doesn’t matter much what the room looks like when the lights turn back on. The seating is comfortable and the audio/video immersive, but rarely do clients want to just sit quietly in there and enjoy the design. 

Fortunately for more creative designers and integrators, home theaters seem to be moving away from this cookie cutter space and more towards customized and shockingly beautiful spaces. According to home theater consultant Brad Montgomery, non-traditional home theater spaces have been showing up more often in his portfolio in particular.

“This is not your grandfather’s home theater,” said Montgomery, who is the audio/visual interiors designer at TYM Home Technology Design in Salt Lake City. “This might mean there’s a bar at the back, or it’s open to a greater home entertainment area. We love doing these theaters because it’s a fun way to bring people together.”

When the Technology is the Simplest Part

These clients came to TYM Homes after the Salt Lake City Parade of Homes, where the integration company was giving a demo of what they could do in a smart home. This inspired the homeowners to think out of the box with their home theater, which is part of a larger entertainment/game room area. It is open on one end to a bar, which made some of the acoustics and lighting challenging to include. 

“This type of space is fun because an extended group of people can be together and yet do different things in the space,” said Montgomery. “That being said, the hardest thing is light control.”

In a space with an open wall or with windows, the integration team would typically recommend that clients use blackout currents. Thankfully, the position of this theater was not perpendicular to the windows, so sunlight was not a concern. 

Audio could have also been a potential problem, if the clients did not want much of the theater audio leaking into the open space. Sometimes clients want that audio to be distributed over speakers in the area; in this case, the audio is only included within the home theater space itself. There is some extra insulation to minimize sound leakage to the upper floor, but otherwise the room had minimal sound treatment. 

“If you think you’re going to sit just anywhere in the entertainment area and hear every bit of dialogue, you might not hear every detail,” said the integrator. “But if you are watching a big scene with rumbling audio from ‘the Avengers,’ the whole basement will enjoy it.”

The Dolby Atmos sound system and a Sony 4K projector worked together to bring movies to life in here. Savant is the overarching control system and is also utilized throughout the house.

“For this space alone, they had a Savant remote and a removable iPad that was magnetized with an iPort system, so they could pull it off and hold on to it anywhere,” said Montgomery, also adding that Savant metropolitan was the wireless lighting solution. 

Integrator Brad Montgomery hand airbrushed this ceiling to resemble the night sky. Each one of the thousand stars in the ceiling had to be drilled and threaded with fiber optic filament to create this effect.

Constructing the Star-Filled Ceiling

The client asked if a starry ceiling was something TYM Homes could do. Montgomery had a background in scenic design and thought it was possible, although it would be difficult and tedious. 

“These are not pre-fabricated panels. These are a built-in solution to the home,” said Montgomery. “We have to draw out where every one of the stars — and there are one thousand stars — will go, drill every hole and hand-thread fiber optic filament through each one.”

There’s a line for fiber optic for every point of light, and they all trunk together into a machine that illuminates them and creates a twinkle effect. All of these panels have to be carefully put back into the ceiling while managing all the trunks. A specialist came in and did the mud work, since it has to be done with such precision. After that, Montgomery came back and airbrushed the mural.

“We’ve done ones that look more fantastical, like the colorized pictures from the Hubble telescope,” he said. “But this one is supposed to be more of what you might see in the mountains.”

Working with several different airbrushes — from traditional artist brushes all the way to automotive brushes — Montgomery stood on a ladder and painted straight up. The entire room had to be tented and sealed off because airbrushing creates a fine, colorful dust in the air.

“It’s exhausting since you’re looking up on a ladder all day,” said the integrator. “And you look like a Smurf when it’s done.”

“We cannot stress enough how integral Diane Shimp, the interior designer on the project, was to the success of the cinema,” said Montgomery. “The collaborative approach to design meant a stunning space that was helped absorb including sunlight-keeping it off the screen.”

Designing for the Dark

Once the plastic was taken down, the stunning ceiling became the highlight of the space. To tie it all together, interior designer Diane Shimp collaborated with the team to include layers of tactile texture in the furniture and throughout the room. 

“Diane nailed the design,” said Montgomery. “It’s a total pleasure to work with a designer of her caliber.”

This includes one row of traditional leather reclining seats in a row in the back, as well as a comfortable sectional sofa paired with a leather ottoman for more intimate gatherings. According to Montgomery, this space needed to feel like a high-end lounge, not just a movie theater, to work well with the ceiling and the surrounding environment. 

“If you’re designing for when all the lights are on, like for an Instagram photo, you’ve really missed it,” said Montgomery. “It’s so important that when we approach these spaces, we design for the dark.”

The homeowner wanted easy-to-use control that everyone could use,” said the integrator. “Having young children as well as an extended family, the client wanted something that didn’t need a lot of explaining. We went with Savant Pro Remote as well as on-wall charging iPads for the Savant Pro app. This kept things simple, and Savant’s elegant UI is always a crowd-pleaser.”

Project Resources

Tym Home Technology Design
5526 W 13400 S #215
Herriman, Utah 84096


Interior Designer: 

Diane Shimp

Brad Montgomery,
TYM Homes


Epson Pro Cinema 6040UB 3LCD Projector

Elite Screen 150-inch acoustically transparent screen 

Pioneer Elite AV Receiver 

TruAudio GHT In-wall and In-Ceiling speakers

TruAudio Subwoofers

Pioneer Elite AV Receiver

Savant Pro Remote

Savant Metropolitan Lighting

Sony 4K Blu-ray player


DISH satellite receiver

Legrand Intercom

Luxul network 


Not Just Your Average Kids’
Game Room

An architecturally impactful space
is created for a game-loving family

By Erinn Loucks

“Mikodam is a Turkish company that makes some absolutely beautiful panels with great acoustic properties,” said the integrator. “The ceiling is definitely a crowd pleaser.”

Gaming, like any sport, can be very individual. Some people prefer one console over another or like to use multiple consoles for different games. What any gamer can agree on though is that a legitimate gaming space should be comfortable, immersive and offer the fastest, clearest technology available. 

That’s where professionals like Paul Bochner, owner of Electronic Concepts, come into the picture. Bochner was tasked with transforming an existing guest bedroom and in-law suite into a game room for the kids. It would need to accommodate three levels of gaming: PlayStation (PS5, specifically), Xbox and a PC setup as well. It would also need to work as a movie room for the whole family.

“I let them teach me what we needed to do and how to give them what they wanted out of the space,” said Bochner, who admitted that the kids’ setups on their PCs were out of his league. “This was one time where we really relied on the kids to guide us and help us make the right choices.”

Bochner’s biggest challenge was the ceiling, which needed to be reframed to accommodate the lighting, the screen housing and the acoustic panels. This design took coordination with their building partner to accomplish. 

The Best Screens for Gaming of All Kinds

It was important to this family that the kids not only get to use this space for high-quality gaming, but also that the rest of the household can enjoy movies together here. That’s why an ultra short throw projection system was installed. According to Bochner, having this allows the users to set up a larger-than-life image virtually anywhere in the room, because the distance between the screen and the projector is significantly less than a traditional projection system. Hanging a projector from the ceiling or using a lift mechanism was impractical in this small space, which also opened up the door for the ultra short throw set up. 

Electronic Concepts used the LG HU85LA 4K short throw projector for video, housed in a Salamander Designs Miami cabinet created specifically for short-throw applications. This cabinet also houses all the system components, like the Anthem MRX740 receiver. A Screen Innovations (SI) motorized 110-in. Solar White, 1.3 gain recessed 16:9 screen was installed to work with the projector and is used for movies and group gameplay. The Solar White material is designed for ultra-wide viewing angles so that everyone in the room has a good view, no matter where they’re sitting in relation to the screen. “SI makes an incredible product at this price point and was really the first and only option,” said Bochner.

For serious games, the kids use a Samsung 4K HD QLED backlit TV, which is connected to the PS5 and the Xbox and situated to the left of the screen. The TV (now TVs, since Electronic Concepts added another TV to the right of the screen after the original installation) offers a better refresh rate than the projector, so the kids like it for more personalized experiences. 

An Immersive Lighting and Sound Experience

“Since this was the kids’ area, we wanted to have some level of sound for movies/gaming but also reduce some of the noise the young guys might make when friends are over,” said Bochner. 

The integration team accomplished this with a unique ceiling design: a GETA panel by Mikodam, an acoustic wall panel designed to be both a modern design element and a way to control sound. This particular panel offers a geometric and three-dimensional design that distributes sound much more effectively than a flat ceiling. Bowers & Wilkins in-ceiling speakers and a JL Audio subwoofer in a 5.1 surround setup provide audio and bass for the room. Additionally, the home has a large Savant IP audio/automation system attached to the room for easy control options.

Around the panel and throughout the room are USAI infinite color fixtures with Savant Pro RGB LED strips throughout. This makes it possible to do fun and interesting lighting scenes, such as a “Let’s Go Rangers” scene with red and blue lights when the Rangers hockey team are playing. 

Together with the impactful screens and well-integrated audio, this room exemplifies what integrators have been seeing: more high-quality, immersive gaming spaces for the whole family to enjoy. Bochner confirmed that he has done several of these spaces in the last year alone.

“Make sure to talk to the gamers and find out what they need,” he said, when asked what advice he would give to other integrators tasked with designing this type of space. “They know best what they want out of the room and systems. Do not tell them what they should do, but instead listen.”

Project Resources

Paul Bochner
Electronic Concepts,
an HTA Certified Integrator



Tony Calendriello
Anthony W. Calandriello & Co.
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

(973) 427-6000

Equipment List
Anthem MRZ740 Receiver

Bowers & Wilkins In-ceiling Speakers

JL Audio Woofer

LG HU85LA 4k
Ultra Short Throw Projector

Mikodam GETA Panel ceiling


Salamander Designs

Samsung 4K HD QLED

Savant IP

Savant Pro RGB LED Strips

Screen Innovations 110-in. Solar White 1.3 Gain Recessed 16:9 Screen

USAI Infinite Color Fixtures



Gaming in Style

A look at the popular spaces designed for esports and video games

By Erinn Loucks

Miami University is one of a growing number of universities that offers a dedicated esport lounge for students, a trend in education that will inspire more gaming rooms in residences.

Video games are not just for kids or reclusive teenagers. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), there are now a total 226.6 million video game players in the U.S. of all ages, growing nearly 6 percent from 214.4 million in 2020. Because of the pandemic, that number is 30 percent higher than it was in 2019. This sudden increase also means that integrators are seeing more requests for spaces that cater to this activity.

Especially as a result of the pandemic, video games have become a source of stress relief and a way to connect with family and friends, as well as pure entertainment. This also means that time spent doing other digital activities — like watching TV, browsing the internet or engaging on social media — has been reduced. Integrators and manufacturers are watching this trend closely to see how to best accommodate clients requesting gaming rooms. Here are our top tips for creating this type of space:

Golf simulator rooms are another facet of esporting rooms that are still very popular for the right clientele. Photo Credit: TRIPhase Technologies, Indiana 

1. Get Personal

Any athlete will tell you that the equipment they use for their sport is very individualized. It’s the same for gaming. Some gamers stick to one type of console (PlayStation, Xbox, etc.) while often others have multiple. They want to be comfortable for the many hours they might spend in one position. It’s the designer or integrator’s job to find the most comfortable furniture for the client to sit or recline in, what lighting will ensure the gaming screen is easy to see but doesn’t strain the client’s eyes and how the air will feel in the space.

2. Establish The Most Important Component

While there are some games that can be played completely solo, the majority of games are meant to be played with others and over the internet. The best way to make this experience better is of course to give the client an excellent connection.

“A straight hardwired connection is the way to go,” said Tom Clancy, executive vice president of Audio Command Systems.

According to Clancy, one of the biggest challenges with this is the range of the controller to the console and connecting that router to the Ethernet cable. The range of the PlayStation technology is 50-100 feet, while the range for wireless controllers for Xbox is only 19 to 28 feet, which is something to consider when hardwiring a system that cannot be easily moved or hidden.

3. Find the Best Monitor for Their Sport

Plan to find out where their priorities lie. A professional esports player — one who might make money streaming their plays over social media, for example — will want the fastest response time, and might even be willing to sacrifice resolution on their own screen for it. However, most casual players want high-quality video, with the typical average for reactivity at is a 120-140 Hertz refresh rate. The top tier is typically 4K TVs, as most games are not quite up to par with 8K yet. High-end models usually offer gaming features like variable refresh rate (VRR) support, as well as an Auto Low Latency Mode, which automatically switches the TV into Game Mode when a game is launched from a compatible device for low input lag.

Computer monitors are also something to consider, if your client prefers this type of game. Most high-end gaming monitors have a fast response time that produces very little motion blur, and variable refresh rate (VRR) support and HDMI 2.1 bandwidth are also options on these to improve the experience. It all depends on which games the client prefers, since some do better with more resolution, less reactivity, or vice versa.

Clients might want more than one screen as well, especially if there are multiple people playing different games at the same time, or if they want to play the same game from two different perspectives

4. Create Immersive Sound

The best video game experience is the one that brings the player into the world they are playing in. Fortunately for integrators just entering this market, the audio for these rooms is similar to that of a home theater. According to Michael Short, global marketing director, residential and marine at Crestron, while the same subwoofers and speakers can be installed in these spaces, it is also important to consider a technology that will allow for a “gaming mode.”

“It’s not just about what’s on the screen, it’s also about what it sounds like and how perfectly you curate that space,” said Short, adding that it is also a consideration whether the client wants to distribute sound from the game room throughout the house.

Headphones and extra microphones are something typically integrators rely on their clients to choose for themselves, as this can be a deeply personal choice for gamers.

What’s Coming Next for E-Gaming Rooms

The room solely devoted to gaming is probably not a trend, but the multi-purpose room with gaming capabilities definitely is. Clients are leaning towards a cleaner concept for these spaces, as Oculus and virtual reality games slowly but surely grow and need open spaces to play. 8K will be on the horizon soon, although games still have a ways to go to catch up to this resolution. 

The biggest trend is the growing social aspect of video games. Especially as colleges — such as Miami University, which has a dedicated esports lounge and arena — start offering scholarships and incentives for students to play, parents and homeowners will show more interest in video games and their potential to bring people together.

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