Let’s face it, even the most avid technophile doesn’t actually want a home visibly dominated by gadgets, gizmos and controllers.
Despite the obvious lifestyle benefits that connected home technology can bring, no one wants a home plastered with screens, hallways crowded with switches or an excess of remotes cluttering up every room. Meticulous care when planning is a must – but the implementation of intelligent home systems should not require you to compromise on your residence’s architectural and design ambitions.
Typically, the most prominent technology in a home environment tends to be speakers and televisions, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. For audio delivery, an elegant alternative is to specify custom-built loudspeakers that are tailored to the contours of the existing architecture. These can take several forms: sub-woofers secreted into sofas, invisible units concealed in wall cavities or bespoke constructs that can be subtly embedded into shelving. Even floor-to-ceiling columns can be converted from dead space into unexpected audio sources.
Televisions tend to play an unduly prominent role in the living room, although undoubtedly many homeowners would prefer to keep their screens hidden away when not in use. This can be achieved effortlessly by means of a motorised system that allows a display to withdraw into the floor, joinery or even furnishings – allowing you to enjoy your space fully without a sizeable blank surface dominating one half of the room.
It’s not only screens and loudspeakers that benefit from this kind of treatment. Drapery can be tucked away in recessed alcoves to allow more natural light to shine in during the daytime while, for true minimalists, devices such as Blu-ray players, games consoles or set-top boxes can be adapted into hidden systems, complete with unseen robotic loading mechanisms allowing DVDs to be inserted or ejected (see above image).
A truly spectacular way to incorporate technology into a luxury residence is to extend the concept of hidden technology to the level of an entire room, changing otherwise static surfaces into dynamic home environments.
Picture a ballroom where the floor sinks downwards and lets water seep through to reveal a full-length swimming pool, or imagine a dining room where the walls can fold back and reveal virtual windows, allowing you and your family to eat overlooking a cityscape at breakfast and a placid lake at dinner. These are not flights of fancy; these are genuine examples of unique projects that have been implemented in people’s homes.
This principle can be extended to home entertainment systems: for those that want all of the comfort of a home cinema but lack a dedicated space for it, a multi-purpose media room can provide the ideal compromise. At once a perfect relaxation environment and a theatrical space for movie watching, these incorporate hidden projectors and in-wall speaker units to provide the immersive experience of the cinema combined with the comfortable atmosphere of your living room.
By factoring in transformative environments such as the one pictured above, the most beautiful spaces in the house can be designed to serve multiple uses, allowing it to adapt to the activities of the homeowner and provide a setting that is perfect for both accommodating guests and spending time alone in peace and tranquillity.
Technology behind every corner
There are several means of climate control that might be desirable throughout the house, from radiators and underfloor heating to air-conditioning and ventilation units. When a property employs several of these systems, the controls and thermostats required for these can become a major cause of ‘wall acne’. By integrating these into a unified home control interface, you can eliminate much of the clutter; this also gives you a more effective way of managing your property’s internal climate, as everything can be managed from a central hub.
This method of management also provides a more effective means of optimising energy use and should be seen as a critical part of a residence that aims to make efficient use of passive heating and techniques.
Climate management is not restricted to heating and air conditioning systems: shades and blinds can play an important part as well. Drop shades integrated with solar sensors or set on a timer can be set to lower when sunlight reaches a certain intensity – this reduces the heat gain from natural light and reduces a building’s dependence on ventilation in the summer months.
Kill the switches – and the remotes
There is nothing worse than a smart home set-up that requires its owners to constantly shift between remote controllers or locate the correct switch on the wall among a multitude. A homeowner will invariably interact with the control interfaces for their home on a regular basis, so these need to be set up as a series of logical touch points across the property that empowers them to control it the way they want.
This should be included as part of the initial design process, as home control will play a significant role in ensuring a pleasurable living environment. Ease and comfort are the most important consideration; in every instance, the occupants of a connected house need to have the tool most suitable for the task they want to perform. By engaging a connected home expert at the very start of a project, architects and homeowners alike will benefit from a house more attuned to the needs of the resident.
There are several control interfaces available that run through a touchscreen app; while these go a long way towards reducing the amount of individual controllers in your home, they won’t completely eliminate the need for switches in the property. These should therefore be streamlined so that a reduced number of keypads can offer multi-system functionality. To reduce the visual interference from these, they can be set flush into the wall so they don’t protrude prominently or given a refined, bespoke finish that won’t clash with their surroundings.
Does hidden technology cause more problems?
One widely-held concern is that invisible technology embedded into the home will be more difficult to maintain and fix if things go wrong. The truth is that these systems are as reliable as their more prominent counterparts – the only difference is that they are deployed in a manner that makes much better use of the space available.
Whether such systems can cause problems in the long-term comes down to two critical factors: the quality of the initial installation and the level of support that is offered following completion of the building or renovation project.
A reputable installer with a good track record will inevitably offer a support service and a solid warranty which means that, should anything go wrong after the project is completed, your home’s technology will be monitored for problems and any issues corrected as they arise. By having professional support incorporated as part of hidden technology package, homeowners can enjoy a three-fold benefit: a beautiful property with all of the benefits of connected home technology, but without all of the clutter removed and a safety net in place, just in case things go wrong.