Electronic Lifestyles Fall 2010 : Page 59

Symphony for a Garage Careful orchestration and synchronization between integra-tor and general contractor brought entertainment harmony to a spare car shelter. By Nancy Klosek equipment, old lampshades and, in winter months, the barbecue grill. But Kurt and Kelly Santoro had loftier goals in mind for their extra two-car building. They wanted it to be much more than a storage area; they wanted an over-the-top movie theater. So they enlisted the help of Jay Cobb, M principal of Fresno, Calif.-based Hi-Tech Home. What Cobb achieved in that modest 17-foot-by-19-foot space, however, went beyond a standard renovation with aesthetics as the only consideration. He and his team of experts succeeded in building a pearl of a home theater—with the audio and video ost people don’t see much potential in a garage beyond its utility as a repository for bikes, lawn care performance of a cinema emporium—inside the shell of an existing structure never intended for entertainment use. “By far, the biggest portion of this project was design,” explains Cobb. “Our team spent a lot of hours gathering specifics from the customer and the construction company,” Fresno’s Stephens Construction. A Room in a Room Although the project was technically a retrofit, says Cobb, it was treated as though it were a new construction, “because we basically just built a room within a room.” Cobb’s firm also did double duty as the architects for the venture, so their interaction with the Santoros was even more deeply probing ELECTRONIC LIFESTYLES® Fall 2010 59

Symphony for a Garage

Nancy Klosek

Most people don’t see much potential in a garage beyond its utility as a repository for bikes, lawn care equipment, old lampshades and, in winter months, the barbecue grill. But Kurt and Kelly Santoro had loftier goals in mind for their extra two-car building. They wanted it to be much more than a storage area; they wanted an overthe- top movie theater.<br /> <br /> So they enlisted the help of Jay Cobb, principal of Fresno, Calif.-based Hi-Tech Home. What Cobb achieved in that modest 17-foot-by-19-foot space, however, went beyond a standard renovation with aesthetics as the only consideration. He and his team of experts succeeded in building a pearl of a home theater—with the audio and video performance of a cinema emporium—inside the shell of an existing structure never intended for entertainment use.<br /> <br /> “By far, the biggest portion of this project was design,” explains Cobb. “Our team spent a lot of hours gathering specifics from the customer and the construction company,” Fresno’s Stephens Construction.<br /> <br /> A Room in a Room <br /> <br /> Although the project was technically a retrofit, says Cobb, it was treated as though it were a new construction, “because we basically just built a room within a room.” Cobb’s firm also did double duty as the architects for the venture, so their interaction with the Santoros was even more deeply probing than usual from the outset, as to their vision for the room. “They were pretty open,” relates Cobb. “We went to them with a lot of different concepts—traditional and not-so-traditional. We spoke to them about looks that included fancy, European-style woodwork, but then after more conversations with them, we started thinking that wasn’t exactly the right fit for them. It would have been out of tune with the rural area where they live. Then we came up with the idea of making it more of a Western-saloon-type look and feel, to carry over the ambiance of the neighborhood into the theater. They got really excited about that idea.” <br /> <br /> Cobb then set about creating computer models of the room “to ensure that we had every detail accounted for. We do everything in CAD plus conceptual drawings first, because it gives the homeowner insight into the future completed room. There were four or five drafts before the final. After the first draft, there were a lot of changes, after the second, a couple, and so forth.”<br /> <br /> Logistically, the room was simple to wire since there was adequate attic access above. “The trick was working in stages with the construction company to make sure we had everything in the right places at the right times so we could continue to make progress,” explains Cobb. “This was the first project we’d worked on with Stephens Construction, whom we met through the homeowner, and they were very easy to work with.” <br /> <br /> In his interviews with the Santoros, Cobb found that the couple wanted good-quality but affordable electronics and loudspeakers to outfit the room. So he drew on his deep well of product knowledge, selecting Denon’s 4310CI A/V receiver as the centerpiece of the theater and Sonance’s Symphony speakers and a pair of Sunfire subwoofers to optimize the 7.2-channel surround-sound experience. To anchor the video setup, Cobb selected a Panasonic projector, choosing a Vutec screen along with a Samsung Blu-ray player that permits the Santoros access to third-party sources such as Netflix and Pandora, to round out the system. A final touch was the addition of VUDU’s XL, giving the couple a direct line to the latest movie content at the touch of button.<br /> <br /> Cutting to the Chase in Control<br /> <br /> Simplified control, always a goal in any home theater setup, was an imperative on the Santoros’ wish list. “With so much content available,” says Cobb, “they wanted to be able to understand how to access it all.We chose the Control4 automation system to make things as simple and robust as possible.” With the Control4 solution, they can work the A/V components easily as well as adjust room lighting without leaving the comfort of their theater seating, through the trio of Control4 dimmers Cobb installed to replace the original light switches. And, for a bit of theatrical flourish, says Cobb, “we also included custom programming to dim the lights to a set point when a movie is played, and bring them back up when it’s paused.” <br /> <br /> “This was a pretty straightforward project, with very few bumps in the road,” says Cobb. “When everything was said and done, this theater turned out beautifully. Besides providing a great audio/ visual experience, the room is awesome. From the custom ceiling, to the cabinetry, to the seating, to the wall treatments, the room really turned into a showpiece for our customers. We’ve had a lot of great comments from their friends and family, and when they’re in the market, they’ll look for us. You often don’t realize the referral benefits from a happy client on a short-term basis, but in the long term, you see it, down the road.”<br /> <br /> <br /> The Contractor’s Perspective<br /> <br /> Casey Stephens, Principal, Stephens Construction, Fresno, Calif.<br /> <br /> Electronics Lifestyles®: Before this collaboration with Jay Cobb’s company, had you ever worked with electronic systems contractors?<br /> <br /> Casey Stephens: We’d worked with one other company. Both were great experiences.In this instance, Jay supplied all of the concept drawings—he basically gave me the renderings—and they were close enough that I could figure out exactly what was what. Any time I had any questions I could call him; he was always there and willing to answer anything. We worked very well together.<br /> <br /> EL: Were the homeowners specific in their direction? And did it make any difference in the progress of the project that Jay was both the custom integrator and the architect on this project?<br /> <br /> Stephens: We got the basic idea of what the clients wanted. The owner is a very creative person. He was able to convey that to Jay, and Jay got it down in drawings.And I knew what they wanted because they referred to a similar design in a restaurant for the wall details—so I had something to look at. The pattern was brick with drywall around it so that it looked like the brick was breaking out of the wall—a plaster, distressed pattern.<br /> <br /> EL: What were you proudest of, on this project?<br /> <br /> Stephens: I think the drywall work was pretty spectacular. The cabinetry work was really nice, too. That was subcontracted out to Central Valley Casework in Fresno. All the cabinetry is hand-stressed. We took chains and rocks and beat it and made it look old. It was a lot of fun!<br /> <br /> EL: Would you work with an integrator of Jay’s caliber on future projects and collaborations?<br /> <br /> Stephens: I’d definitely work with Jay again. I worked with him when positioning the brick to make sure of where his speakers were going to be so that everything would be out of the way of them. That’s the great thing about him—he provided me a lot of information, so we paced our work well, and never got in each other’s way.<br /> <br />

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