Second only to budget, you told us that the actual size of a property is the biggest factor when designing and building a home or refurbishment. More than that, you told us that whether creating a minimalist flat or large country retreat, the most important aspect of any home build was how you use the space available;
Does the dining area flow naturally from the kitchen?
Can hot water be run in the en-suite, at the same time as in the utility room?
Is the study far enough away from the children's playroom?
The same is equally, if not more true, of home technology. When asked, only 7% of you reported that you had never been asked to specify some sort of home technology within a project. Whatever the size, technology is becoming an increasing necessity within the home.
With these common issues in mind, we've put together a basic overview of how technology can work within a multitude of spaces, big or small. Click the snippets below for bite size information, or click here for the full article.
Cable infrastructure essentially means wiring for any future devices which may need networking/connectivity with the rest of the home; everything from televisions to laptops and tablets and lighting control systems.
Building a stable infrastructure at the very start of a build is a sure fire way to make sure every space in the home is prepped for optimum efficiency. It also means there will be no unsightly wires trailing across the living room floor later on.
Placing enough data and TV points around the home will give the homeowner the freedom to add on additional tech at a later stage. Try to plan to have a first fix of systems swiftly and easily installed as part of the build. As a starting point, this will nearly always include Cat6 cables (allowing for high data transfer speeds) and a data point in every room.
In new builds this is relatively easy – working with the on-site electrician, we can design where best to put Cat6 cable to facilitate any existing technology, and try to work with the client to consider what may be required in the future. A toddler’s bedroom, for example, could be a great study or guest room ten years down the line, and will most likely need internet and television access.
In a retrofits, this is slightly trickier. Depending on budget, there are several options that an AV designer can suggest, ranging from patching cables into existing systems, to running cable externally in a manner sympathetic to design.
No matter how big or small the project, internet access is usually a pretty big priority.
Before planning any important decisions – such as where the home office is going to go – get a specialist to test the building. They will be able to identify problem areas for phone and internet signal, and tell you where boosters are required to ensure signal remains constant. Even the smallest one bedroom flat will struggle to access their Netflix or Twitter account without the correct wiring in place.
It’s also important to consider location. In urban areas, the sheer amount of wireless internet zooming about around our ears may cause interference with your home's internet. In larger homes and country properties, multiple hubs and wireless access points may be required on each level of the home and around the exterior of the property.
Important to Note: Design features such as interior brick walls may be full of character, but will almost definitely prove a stumbling block in terms of Wi-Fi. Depending on where the router is placed, an access point on either side of the wall will help solve the problem.
Space Saving Kit
In-ceiling & In-wall speakers
Overview: Maximum performance in a minimum space, in-wall & ceiling speakers sit flush and can be painted to match surroundings.
Things to be aware of: These speakers are great for the casual listener, who want to listen to their favourite radio station or playlist whilst prepping the Sunday roast/ getting the kids ready for school. However, it’s worth knowing that most speakers operate directionally; if you’re working with a client who wants the very best from their sound system, wall and free standing speakers will deliver a more realistic sound because the waves are being delivered from the sides of the room – as it would be in real life.
Inspired Dwellings Recommends: Bowers & Wilkins CI series
Plastered in speakers
Overview: Offering absolute invisibility, these high-quality speakers are installed and plastered over. They can then be tiled, painted or wallpapered to taste.
Things to be aware of: Always make sure the client knows the speakers exact location once the job is finished – when installed correctly these speakers are extremely reliable; however, an unfortunately placed picture hook will cause serious damage! Similarly, during the build, always make sure the speakers are clearly marked on all drawings.
Inspired Dwellings Recommends: Amina Technology speakers are a great invisible solutions and integrate with a number of Control Systems.
Flexible Television Brackets
Overview: Using a flexible bracket to fix your television to a wall can save a serious amount of floor space and act as a feature point of the room.
Things to be aware of: Designing a dedicated a ‘snug area’ into a home is a great method of creating clearly defined spaces. However, this may not be possible when working in smaller properties or listed buildings. Instead, try to think about how the room is used; if the living room also acts as the dining room, or is open plan, try to integrate the screen where it can be viewed from a variety of angles & positions.
Inspired Dwellings Recommends: Future Automation will design bespoke brackets, which allow a flat screen to be pulled out when in use. Prices start at £300
Overview: Gadgetry at its best, under-bed lifts mean you get your Sunday morning snooze without losing vital floor or storage space.
Things to be aware of: In theory under bed lifts are a fantastic space saving concept, and are also a great way to add the ‘wow-factor’. However, be careful when sourcing; some ranges can be extremely noisy when moving – not ideal if your movie finishes and your partner is already fast asleep!
Inspired Dwellings Recommends: Future Automation will design bespoke lifts for all kinds of furniture.
Overview: Great for multifunctioning spaces, flat screens can be hidden in cabernets, ottomans, behind sliding panelling… the list is endless.
Things to be aware of: This is a fairly dependable space saving solution. However, as with all tech, make sure the client (and housekeeper) knows where the screen is. A vase of flowers could cause serious damage once that television starts to move...
Inspired Dwellings Recommends: You guessed it - Future Automation will design bespoke lifts for all kinds of furniture.
Hidden Home Cinemas
Overview: Don't have a spare room crying out to be upgraded into a cinema? Not many of us do. Luckily there are some great hidden solutions which can transform an everyday living or drawing room into a dedicated movie space. Recessed projectors, drop down screens and movie scene lighting will set the mood at a touch of a button.
Things to be aware of: Whilst the quality of projectors themselves have improved leaps and bounds, the recessed lifts themselves still require a considerable amount of ceiling space (0.5metres). Alternatively, if trying to hide a projector within a bookcase or cabinetry, it’s important to make sure it’s well ventilated.
Inspired Dwellings Recommends: The price range of projector brands can range drastically, but typically start at £3,000 for an entry level unit. Depended on size, shape, lighting & acoustic factors within the home in question, we can advise on the best solution (hidden or otherwise).
What’s the Catch?
One of the big misconceptions of today’s ‘Smart Home’ is the idea that you need a Star Wars style plant room, complete with voice recognition tools and robotic arms. Whilst that’s definitely not the case, there is some kit that will make your life - and your projects - much easier in the long run.
For any home technology system, you need a rack. It’s not pretty, it doesn’t fit with the design, but it will ensure every aspect of your technology is kept in a safe, secure environment. Essentially a rack is a slim metal structure, which houses all the components of your home’s system which don’t need regular access.
Allocating a small bit of space – it doesn’t have to be any larger than a traditional boiler cupboard – will save a lot of hassle and expense in the long room. Another easy way to save on space, is to design a technology hub into separate utility, garage or basement area.
The Baby – used for smaller technology. This rack will typically include networking equipment (broadband routers, WiFi controller) and any other typical technologies; Sky boxes, Sonos, Blu-Ray players etc.
The Standard - more comprehensive home technology systems will result in a taller rack and will include Audio Visual Equipment (receivers, amps) and control system hubs.
The Family – our largest projects require multiple racks. These projects are typically developments or residential properties upwards of +10,000 sq. ft.
Lighting – a lighting control system will require a separate rack or hub. The brand of system will determine how it will be stored.
Things to be aware of
However large or small the rack is, it will always operate best when kept in a cool, well ventilated, enclosed space. Think about your laptop - not only does the processor start to slow when over time, the fan also starts to become a lot louder. Skyboxes, for example, are notorious for overheating and generally need to be replaced every 2 years.
Whereever budget and space allows, an air conditioning unit is the best way to keep everything ticking over. In smaller spaces, your AV specialist may be able to advise some alternatives, such as ventilation grills. You should also aim to keep it in a dust free environment (we recommend our clients use a can of compressed air once a month).