It’s amazing how far home technology has come.
Once upon a time, having a remote for the TV was considered futuristic. So to be past retirement age and building a brand-new home with comprehensive smart-home technology is considered by most to be very brave indeed. These homeowners in Victoria were in their later years, and not big technology users, so in their new home, priorities one, two and three were simplicity, simplicity and simplicity.
Having said that, they have built a very generous-sized house, on a large property, with many systems to control, explains Michael Staindl of smart-house specialist Smart Systems. “So like the modern car, the simpler one wants it to be to the user, the more complexity required behind the scenes. Our inspiration was to provide the many layers of functionality required by the clients and a residence of this substance, in a way that was simple and unintimidating to the clients,” said Michael. “We had to do so in a very structured way so that the system was very stable and reliable, and also easy to maintain or change when that’s required.”
The striking modern residence, built on a raw, steep block, comprises a very spacious living/ dining/kitchen area, a particularly well-equipped alfresco area, and a downstairs open theatre and rumpus complemented by a wine cellar and bar suitable for a high-class night spot. The rear of the bar is complete with a full-height below-water viewing window into the pool! Both upstairs and downstairs open out onto spacious balcony/ entertaining areas, with the lower area flowing down into the gardens with water features and putting green. There are five bedrooms and five bathrooms/ensuites within the home, and another small lounge area positioned upstairs. A lift provides easy access between all three levels, opening on the third level to a translucent glass landing overlooking the entry foyer.
The driveway sweeps back on itself under a large pedestrian bridge from street level, providing access to the two double garages at the lower level. Various utility and storage rooms, a huge tank and plant room, and the suspended pool complete the residence. In spite of the simplicity required by the clients, they needed lots of complex equipment. Full intelligent lighting control throughout provides welcome home lighting, preventative security lighting scenes, motion sensors and whole-house control of both lighting and blinds for energy management, as well as Clipsal’s smart DLT (Dynamic Labelling Technology) switches which indicate what they’re controlling — ideal for a large house such as this. Comprehensive security and access control allow tradespeople such as gardeners, cleaners, pool keepers and others to each have access to their specific areas of the property, while the owners can very simply and easily zone and protect various areas of the house. Two surround-sound home theatre areas allow separate entertainment for the owners and their guests and grandchildren, while the six audio zones provide whole-house entertainment. A phone and intercom system provides convenient communication with the gate and driveway stations and throughout the house from any phone handset, wired or cordless. The main living area is very light and bright so the touchscreen offers control of full sheer and blockout motorised blinds, as well as the fireplace, ventilation louvres, air-conditioning, lighting and surround-sound entertainment.
One touch can set the evening movie scene with lowered blinds, mood lighting, fireplace, hidden TV raised and equipment all powered up appropriately. Control of various other types of systems was also essential, including garden lighting, irrigation, HVAC, venting of the main living area, temperature monitoring of the walk-in fridge and motorised glass walls surrounding the pool. Even the 100,000-litre underground tanks are monitored, something the owners were very grateful for when it allowed them to spot a 2000-litre-per-day leak soon after they moved in, just from the tank levels displayed on their kitchen touchscreen. “Of course, all this required the Crestron control system as the overarching user interface, which is simultaneously the simplest part of the whole system for the clients and the most complex part of it for us,” says Michael. “Smart Systems specialises in making it simple, and Crestron is the world’s most powerful system for doing just that.” There were two big challenges for Smart Systems with this job. “The first was the sheer range and complexity of systems required by the client. The second was the number of changes made along the way, so we were constantly having to adjust the design as we went along,” says Michael. “My favourite part of the finished space and, possibly excluding the bar, I’m tipping also for the owners and guests, is the superbly equipped alfresco area,” comments Michael. It flows straight out from the kitchen/dining area through the hideaway doors onto a balcony with magnificent views of the gardens below and hills in the distance.
On the side is the suspended pool with its motorised hideaway glass surrounds and a restaurant-quality roasting barbecue. Built in are four heaters, twin fans, motorised louvres, automated blinds and an air curtain for the ultimate in outdoor rooms and comfortable living. “And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the integrated AV system and full Crestron touchscreen control.” “This project is special for the number, complexity and variety of controlled systems, and the ease and pleasure with which the selfprofessed non-technical clients can use it,” says Michael. “Nothing is more satisfying than having a lady of retirement years who was terrified of what she thought she would be facing in her otherwise new dream home, instead thanking us profoundly for the simplicity and ease of use we have given her. Yet behind the scenes it is one of the most sophisticated control systems one would find in a building.