Wired for Comfort

Imagine a house full of home-style charm and all the technological bells and whistles available. Now imagine a house with unique technological convenience that at the same time remains cozy enough for entertaining, or evenings with the family. This was the dream of two Baltimore homeowners when they hired custom home builder F.C. Batton and Sons to make it a reality.

Once Batton and Sons understood exactly what the homeowners wanted with regard to home technology, the builder knew just who to turn to for technological partnership. Past teamwork lead Batton to Starr Systems Design for the home technology work in this 28,000-sq.-ft. house, knowing the systems integrator would do the job effectively and with detail.

Starr Systems Design and F.C. Batton and Sons worked closely together on the project they both are proud to say they had a part in creating. "Because this was a fairly complex job, we needed to work together on a daily basis so everything was where (the homeowner) wanted it," says Rick Batton, president, F.C. Batton and Sons, which was founded in 1902 with a focus on building custom homes. The life of the company is referrals from past clients, and is now a fourth-generation family business doing jobs no matter the size or location.

After 28 months and daily correspondence among all involved, what emerged was an exquisite home full of charisma and the newest in technology. Scott Batton, vice president, worked as the job superintendent with Sean Weiner, president, Starr Systems Design, on a daily basis. Starr Systems, founded in 1994, is a complete systems integration company based in Baltimore. Starr Systems is a full-service automation business focused on the integration of video, audio, lighting, motorized window treatments and many other electrical systems.

Starr Systems took on the challenge and quickly came up to speed on the project. "It was also important that the technology fit into the design of the home," Weiner says. Despite an immense amount of new technology installed in the house, it was blended with the design to keep the traditional charm flowing through the home.

Going to the movies

This home's theater is unique in that its setting is not where most people would imagine it to be. "Media rooms are usually in the basement but this one is on the first floor in the middle of the house," Weiner says.

Because of its location, there was a need to isolate it from the rest of the house. Weiner claims this as his greatest challenge. "Because the room is in the center of the house, we used sound treatments to maintain lower noise (levels) outside the room." Acoustic Innovations' custom acoustic wall panels were installed to keep all noise inside the theater room and not let it escape into the room next door.

Technological convenience in the home theater is centralized in a touch panel mounted on the armrest of one of the chairs, granting access to all the theater's functions. "Everything is completely custom instead of a pre-established package," Weiner adds.

Starr Systems worked with the architect on the dimensions of the home theater room with acoustic principles in mind. The ceiling height was brought down from 14 to 11 ft. to accommodate a projector on a motorized lift.

The theater room also needed to accommodate seating for the whole family. For the children, Starr Systems installed a karaoke machine and Playstation game console with wireless controls. Other accents in the room include theater seating, lighting control, professional-grade audio and a high-speed Internet connection.

Room for entertaining

The homeowners also wanted an entertainment room on the main level of the house above a full-size basketball court and batting cages. Starr Systems and F.C. Batton and Sons worked together to create a sports-bar themed environment while connecting the basement recreational area with the entertainment room. They also needed to keep in mind ease of use for guests by installing control systems that anyone could operate.

A 60-in. plasma television grabs attention in the room. The RGB Spectrum Quad-View Plus video processor offers the option of simultaneous display of four different signal sources. Additional displays were placed near the pool table and the bar. "We installed two high-definition systems for a total of five displays. One is a single display and the other is capable of four," Weiner says.

The wood floors and barrel vault ceilings in the entertainment room created acoustical challenges for Starr Systems. In-wall and in-ceiling speakers in both the entertainment and recreation rooms allowed for consistent sound coverage.

The home's distributed audio system allows for music enjoyment in every room. "It includes flush mounts, invisible speakers, bookshelf and wall-mount outdoor speakers. Each is controlled by keypads in different rooms for different music options. The homeowners' CD collection is loaded onto a hard drive and accessible from any room from a keypad," Weiner says. Starr Systems took into consideration what each person living in the house wanted to listen to and how many in the house would listen to it. "We decided to make it a family system," he adds.

The sophistication of the electronic systems in the house continues with the lighting controls. Throughout the house, Starr Systems installed Lutron HomeWorks lighting system components to help make this large home easy to operate. All the light switches were changed to keypads with several automated features such as a good-night mode, security features tied into the alarm system and scene control. The keypads can also control the motorized shades which can be automated by time of day. The lighting convenience continues outside with automated lighting also based on time of day.

Structured foundation

The amount of technology installed plus the size of the house creates the perfect equation for structured wiring. Structured wiring is an important element that forms the spinal cord of the house. "Wiring was longer and larger than usual," Weiner says. Starr Systems considered the amount of technology it was incorporating since everything was integrated into one system. "This house is wired, with everything from TV, telephone, computers, speakers and other miscellaneous items," Weiner adds.

With the use of AMX keypads and remotes, all the technology the homeowners wanted for convenience is accessible and customized in each room. The wiring is not only specified for current technology but also for technology the homeowners might want to install in the future. Starr Systems installed extra cables in strategic locations for future additional wiring needs.

An AMX Netlinx control system that links all the lighting and audio systems was placed in the basement in an equipment room. The room also includes a Channel Plus Open House structured wiring system for phone, data and video distribution components.

The partnership of F.C. Batton and Sons and Starr Systems ensured that the homeowners were getting a technologically developed home without sacrificing comfort. "There are so many neat things in the home, it's endless. The cabinets look like furniture with a neat old-world look. Flooring with wide planks is hand–scrubbed, oil-rubbed mahogany. Each room holds its own," Batton says.

"It's a unique house. It's not the typical enormous house," Weiner adds. "It makes you feel comfortable. You'd think a house this size would need a lot of furniture to feel cozy but it doesn't."