A Model of Technological Integration

Designing a high-end home to disguise all its technologies of convenience can be a challenge. Every effort was made to guarantee that the technology in this home would perform without visually intruding on the daily life of its owners.

Every aspect of living in this home involves some use of technology whether it’s creating different lighting scenes, opening or closing drapes or simply watching TV. John Cioe, general partner of Lusso Homes of Distinction in Scottsdale, Ariz., was designer, builder and homeowner on this project. He drew the initial design, worked with a draftsman who created the plans, and built it through his company.

The integration of technology started at the very beginning of the design/build process as Cioe split his time living in Scottsdale and Rhode Island. “I was commuting back and forth. We truly utilized technology even with how we built it — through the use of online journals, photos and e-mail correspondence,” Cioe says. He received daily photo updates on its progress.

This home served as a dry run for Lusso Homes, which had never built a home of this caliber before. The process of designing and building this house served as a try-out for both the interior designer as well as the team to guarantee that they could meet the level of quality for this type of house, Cioe says. This house, which Cioe lives in, now stands as a model for prospective clients.

Let There be Light

Experiencing the hidden technology begins as soon as the homeowner walks in the door. One of Cioe’s pet peeves is gangs of light switches in the front entry of a high-end home. “There are no light switches at the front door; they are controlled by keypads, motion sensors and/or four button switches,” Cioe says. “As you walk around this house, you don’t see any banks of switches.”

The master bathroom is one area where light sensors were installed. When someone wakes up in the middle of the night, the lights will go on but not at 100 percent. This room also has a volume control system that accesses the DVD and CD libraries and tuners on a rack which can be found in the study. “Technology for me goes beyond just wires, so we also have a coffee system with a built-in refrigerator in the master bath. The tub is a whirlpool that includes spa therapy with bubbles and [chromatherapy]. The shower utilizes eight rain tiles and steam so it is also an enclosed steam room,” Cioe adds.

Moving from the master bath, the master bedroom features a 42-in. HDTV that can be hidden when not in use. The room includes 5.1 surround sound, an in-wall DVD player and motorized drapes. “When we go to bed, we press ‘Go to Bed’ on the touchpanel and the drapes go down, lights are dimmed and the air conditioning is controlled to what we want it to be,” he says.

The same motorized drape system is included in the kitchen on the valance above the sink. “Because that window faces east, we will program it so that when the sun comes up, [the drape] goes down and then two hours later it goes back up automatically,” he says. Scene lighting control is also available in the kitchen, and a CD player is found in the pantry.

The dining room is another room that features scene lighting control. “The lighting control affects this room very dramatically. We have a party scene where the lights in the hallway are dimmed, the wine room lights are on, and then the chandelier light is at a lower level,” Cioe says

Other technology in the wine room includes temperature control which is set to 55 degrees. When the temperature in the wine room goes above 60 degrees, the homeowners are notified so they can fix it or remove the wine.

As a homeowner walks from the dining room into the great room, the interior architecture frames the room. Above the fireplace in the great room is a frame covering a 52-in. plasma television. A picture of Venice is shown when the TV is not in use. The great room features 5.1 surround sound and in-ceiling speakers. The fireplace is controlled by a remote. Floor outlets for power were added because Cioe knew where he was going to put his furniture.

Technology is not ignored in the outdoor living area which features two music zones, a drop-down projector and screen.

“We have 7.1 in-ceiling surround sound. The drop-down projector and movie theater are controlled by the remote you see in the picture [on the right]. There are also many different levels of lighting in this area,” Cioe says.

In addition to all these areas of the house, the basement is wired for future use. “It has a full bar, 60-in. DLP with surround sound and is wired for additional plasmas. It could be a kid’s room or have an adult bar theme,” he says.

Concealed Convenience

Cioe is most proud of the finished work that went into the house and how the arches frame the views surrounding the house. Secondly, he’s proud of the understated technology in the house, and adds that he wouldn’t change a thing if he had to do it all over again. “The discreetness [of technology] is good but it has to be useful,” Cioe says. “Everything technology-wise in this house will get used.”

Cioe believes the amount of useful technology available today adds value to any home regardless of price-point. “The key is to not go overboard on lower price-points. However, in a $3 million-plus category, there really is no such thing as going overboard. It adds more value as long as you do the technology in a way that is discreet and functional,” he says.