Integrating Technology in Your Home
Without Compromising Design

Since the first consumer electronics arrived in homes across America, there has always been a struggle to find the perfect balance between the functionality that home electronics provide and maintaining the aesthetic of the home.

You can see this from the beginning. The first home stereo systems were large consoles with the record player, speakers, and components built into a piece of furniture. These consoles allowed people to play music in their homes but were also well-crafted using beautiful wood.

 

Motorola HiFi Console

If you think about the average home back in the year 2000, and the state-of-the-art tech gear inside, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find large clunky looking screens on the walls, in-ceiling speakers that looked like something you would expect to find in a car, and a 200 lbs black TV occupying what seemed like half the living room.

Today, the search for balance continues. While some of us audio geeks think a stack of components or tower speakers are beautiful, many folks don’t agree. Most people want cutting edge technology in their homes, but they don’t want to see it — or at least they don’t want it to be the focal point or distract from the architectural detail and interior design of the home.

This presents an interesting challenge, but one that Audio Advice and many other top dealers and home technology professionals have fully embraced. Over the past several years, manufacturers have also begun to embrace the challenge. Today, there are more options than ever before that enable us to merge high-performance tech seamlessly with the aesthetic of a home.

Losing the Wall Panels in Favor of Smartphone Apps

The rise of the smartphone has been a real blessing to us. It was only a few years ago that smart homes had to be controlled using large wall-mounted panels throughout the home. Today, you can control nearly every aspect of a cutting-edge smart home from apps on your phone.

If you still like the idea of a wall panel for instant access (or for instances where you don’t have your phone on hand) today’s models look more like a thin piece of glass, flush or nearly flush on your wall. They typically even have high-definition video intercoms built right in!

Control4 wall panel 2017

Lighting & Shading

Today’s architects and lighting designers utilize layers of light to enhance the aesthetic of the home, draw the eye to certain areas, and create incredible looks.

Most well-designed homes of today are using small aperture recessed lighting fixtures. Not only do these provide better and more even lighting coverage, but they look 10 times better than those huge recessed cans with wide bezels that everyone had in the 90s and early 2000s.

Of course, while the lights themselves look great, more lights mean more lighting circuits. Unfortunately, with more lighting circuits you also get more light switches and dimmers. A room that used to have two dimmers or switches now may have ten or more.

We’ve found that nothing frustrates an architect and destroys the look of a room more than a bank of dimmer switches on either side of their beautiful front door or main living spaces of the home. It looks like an old high school gymnasium!

Luckily, lighting system technology has come to the rescue with what is called panelized lighting. This allows the dimmer or switches to be located remotely in a big lighting panel, usually in a utility room. Then all you need is a single designer keypad per room. They come in a myriad of styles and colors to match your decor. And of course, you’ll also have control from your smartphone.

Kitchen with recessed lighting fixtures

Of course, while the lights themselves look great, more lights mean more lighting circuits. Unfortunately, with more lighting circuits you also get more light switches and dimmers. A room that used to have two dimmers or switches now may have ten or more.

We’ve found that nothing frustrates an architect and destroys the look of a room more than a bank of dimmer switches on either side of their beautiful front door or main living spaces of the home. It looks like an old high school gymnasium!

Luckily, lighting system technology has come to the rescue with what is called panelized lighting. This allows the dimmer or switches to be located remotely in a big lighting panel, usually in a utility room. Then all you need is a single designer keypad per room. They come in a myriad of styles and colors to match your decor. And of course, you’ll also have control from your smartphone.

Control4 wall switch

Motorized shading has also become extremely popular over the last few years. You can now make your home more energy efficient and protect your art and fabrics with shades made from UV-blocking materials. Not only do they look great while saving energy, but they will keep your designer sofas and floor coverings looking as bright as the day you got them!

LEARN MORE ABOUT LIGHTING AND SHADING ▸

Lutron shading in a living room

Low-Profile In-Wall & In-Ceiling Speakers

Do you remember those old, clunky in-wall speakers with the large bezels? Well, they’ve gone through a complete transformation.

Just like with today’s lighting designs, your music system should cover your entertaining areas with even sound distribution. This way, everyone gets a great experience without having areas of the home where the sound is blaring while being barely audible to folks in other parts of the home. The new Sonance discreet opening system uses speakers that match your small aperture lighting fixtures and come in either a round or square profile. They will blend in perfectly with your beautiful lighting fixtures and give you incredible sound!

For those rooms where you need more background music, there are options that make your speakers all but invisible. They mount with your drywall and completely disappear. Those that don’t are much more low-profile today, with a nearly non-existent bezel, allowing them to blend right in with your ceiling.

And as we mentioned earlier, in today’s world, most new music based systems can be easily controlled from your smartphone.

LEARN MORE ABOUT WHOLE HOUSE MUSIC SYSTEMS ▸

Sonance in-ceiling speakers
Bowers & Wilkins in-wall speakers

Watching TV

Just like the console stereo systems of old, the first TV consoles took a similar approach in the 1950s. Today, most of us would prefer for our TV to be near invisible unless it’s being used. Fortunately, today there are many ways to accomplish this.

There are manufacturers that create cabinets and brackets that allow a flat-panel TV to come out of the cabinet for viewing and disappear when not in use. There are also newer motorized systems that allow you to store the TV in the ceiling.

One of the simpler and more popular methods of hiding a television is to utilize a motorized panel to drop down a piece of artwork in front of the TV. When you’re ready to watch, a push of the button rolls the artwork up to reveal the television.

 

Art over TV 1
Art over TV 2
Art over TV 3

If your tastes run to a larger TV and into a front projection system, these too can now be hidden with motorized screens that drop from a trap door in your ceiling.

We now even have what is called a short throw projector, from Sony, that you can hide in a designer cabinet to go with your 120” drop down screen. This enables you to have a massive picture that is there when you want it and disappears when you are done watching!

Many of us like to catch the news while getting ready in the morning, but a TV in the master bath may not be the best design choice. Seura Mirror TV’s come to the rescue here with a very elegant solution of a mirror that looks normal until you turn on the TV portion, then it becomes a TV!

Outdoor Entertainment

As outdoor hardscape entertaining areas have expanded in size so has the need for good sound during your outdoor events. Outdoor areas need lots of speakers to fully cover them with sound, which can present a challenge.

No one really wants a bunch of really fake looking rock speakers all over their back yard. Just as with indoor entertaining, outside it is far better to have many speakers spread out. Enter Sonance landscape speakers. They look just like landscape lighting and blend right in! They can be positioned behind shrubs and in flower beds.

For smaller patios, speakers disguised as a planter have come a long way and are now a great option for combining music with your decorative plants.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUTDOOR ENTERTAINMENT ▸

Sonance Landscape outdoor speakers

It Can Be Done!

As you can see, when it comes to cutting-edge smart home technology and the architecture and design of your home, you no longer have to choose! Not only do these technologies not distract from the aesthetic, but in many ways they can enhance the experience, allowing you to highlight portions of your home in beautiful light, change shades in an instant, and flood your home or outdoor living space with incredible sound. It’s really something you have to see (if you can find it) to believe.

At Audio Advice, we work with some of the best architects, builders, and interior designers in North Carolina to custom design solutions for our Raleigh and Charlotte customers. If you’re building a new home or interested in learning about how we can help, please contact us.