Case Study: Nikobus to the future16 June 2010
The lighting control and home automation system has enabled a wide variety of functions within a converted Victorian house to be integrated into a single remote control unit. The end-result of the ambitious design and installation project at this visually-arresting UK property is said to be a "stylish and modern" home that offers the "ultimate in convenience, comfort and aesthetics."
When he finally managed to acquire all three apartments in a converted Victorian house in his home counties market town, Jamie Williams’ client was delighted as it was his opportunity to achieve the home of his dreams – and a dream development to boot.
Jamie Williams (from Jampot Design) is a talented interior designer who had worked with the client on previous period conversions. Acting as the project manager, Jamie was able to oversee the entire development and ensure that his design ideas were implemented with precision and flair. Knowing his client’s tastes well, he realised that the biggest challenge would be to deliver a stunning modern minimalist environment without damaging the inherent charm of the Victorian villa.
The house was already divided into three units: ground floor, first floor and attic. The ground floor apartment, with its secluded rear garden, would be for the client to live in, while the other two floors were to be developed for investment and rental.
The client was specific about the contemporary minimalist style he favoured, but ambivalent about specific technological additions. As an interior designer first and foremost, Jamie recognised that what he needed to do was to find a realistic and trustworthy technology partner to help deliver an impressive and user-friendly environment, all within budget.
Jamie teamed up with Paul Merry from Best Seat in the House at a very early stage of the development. Working within the parameters of the design brief, and understanding that the technology needed to be as invisible as possible, Paul set about producing a comprehensive wish-list of the various possibilities.
The hub of the system was established as the Belgian-designed and manufactured Niko Nikobus lighting control and home automation system. This is an innovative and flexible system that enables all of the functions within a house to be integrated into a single remote control unit – in this case, a Nevo Q50 Universal Remote Control. Commenting on the choice of Nikobus, Jamie said: "I had no previous experience of this system, so I had to rely on the judgement and expertise of Paul that it would deliver. I must say that the system has exceeded our expectations, and was achieved within a budget that allowed us to achieve far more than I thought would be possible."
The apartment has two bedrooms, each with en-suite shower room, along with an integrated living space that includes a lounge area, kitchen, utility and dining space. Glass doors from the dining space can be fully opened on two sides to allow the garden – also designed by Jamie – to be integrated as part of the living areas. Accordingly, the lighting control has been extended to include the garden with various lighting scenes. In the future, the plan is to install outdoor speakers to allow the creation of a real party space.
With the recently-washed front exterior of the house retaining its Victorian character, it comes as quite a surprise to walk into the property and encounter a distinctly contemporary feel, encompassing wood and leather coatings to the doors, modern wood flooring throughout and an open plan layout. The front door is traditional on the outside – and contemporary on the inside – so there is no clash of personalities here. The lighting is a combination of modern light fittings and creative use of white LEDs to flood walls and artworks for maximum impact.
Once in the apartment, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is little or no technology because it is all so well-hidden. For example, the Pioneer Plasma TV in the living area is wall-mounted and hidden from view behind a mirrored panel which glides away to reveal the screen at the press of a button. Meanwhile, lighting scenes in each room can be set to provide a variety of scenes for all kinds of activities.
Jamie noted: "I worked with Paul to establish a list of technology-driven functions for the house and put these to the client – mostly his response was to ask why he needed them, but as the project developed and we introduced functions such as the distributed audio and lighting controls, my client became more enthusiastic and began to appreciate the benefits.
"Working with Paul, we established the current requirements, and the functions that he may need later, like distributed audio outside, and so we were able to pre-wire to ensure that and future upgrades can be easily integrated into the system with minimum disruption."
The house is currently divided into four audio zones out of a possible eight, with only one source in use at present. "My client has all his music stored using iTunes, so we installed an Apple MacMini as part of the control systems in the basement. This can be accessed using his iPhone, or the Nevo, and displayed on the screen of the television in the lounge," said Jamie.
In the guest bedroom, an iPod dock allows music stored on any iPod to be integrated into the system; the intention is to add more iPod docks in other areas as required by the client.
Other notable features of the property include a wireless keyboard and mouse for internet access via the television, which can be viewed from the lounge and kitchen, and electronically-controlled blinds.
Reflecting on the project, installer Paul Merry remarked: "We enjoyed working with Jamie on this project. We worked to establish clear guidelines to include the client’s current and future requirements. We were then able to inform Jamie of what was required in order to accommodate the equipment: for example, ensuring the suspended ceiling had enough space above it to house the ceiling speakers."
A final comment from the lucky owner of this stunning apartment: "I am delighted with the way this development has worked out – technology was not high on my list of priorities, but having lived with it, I’m not sure I would want to live without it. My favourite function has to be the ‘all off’ switch by the front door – it just makes my life so easy!"