The creative remodelling of a stunning, luxury apartment has been honoured in three categories in the industry trade association CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) 2014 awards. Integration firm Andrew Lucas London won the Best Lighting Scheme over £25,000 and Best Innovative Solution categories and was highly commended in Best Integrated Home over £250,000. The judges were full of admiration for the company’s "interesting and clever designs" and "impressive ability to overcome technical challenges" on this exciting project.
This beautiful one-bedroom apartment occupies a prestigious location, on an exclusive island, overlooking the skyline of a world-famous city. The owner had embarked on a complete renovation, stripping the space back to a skeletal structure and completely transforming the apartment to an exceptionally high standard, with the addition of a cutting-edge home automation and lighting system from Andrew Lucas. The property incorporates a double-height ceiling and open floor plan, creating a spacious, comfortable living area which provides important respite from the tropical heat.
The complex and challenging brief demanded a control system, integrating all house sub-systems including audio, visual, lighting, window treatment, alarm and HVAC. It also specified a multi-room audio and video distribution system, and IT network with robust Wi-Fi. The client also required that the home technology solution deliver on premium performance yet be fully complementary to the interior design and as concealed as possible.
Andrew Lucas faced a number of critical design challenges in meeting this brief. The technology needed to fit in seamlessly with three defining features of the apartment: a large library wall; two 'jewel boxes' which open up to become room dividers; and a Barrisol stretch ceiling.
One of the main architectural features of the apartment is an eight-metre tall library wall. The client wanted Andrew Lucas to incorporate a high-end AV system into the unit which complemented its aesthetics and grandeur. As the library structure had already been fabricated, and the wall behind was plasterboard, the premium bespoke speakers needed to be integrated into the wall, but isolated from the joinery to prevent vibration.
In its CEDIA Award winning Best Innovative Solution, Andrew Lucas created a modular system whereby each speaker enclosure is positioned within its own cubby hole lined with noise damping material. Each enclosure is attached to the one below via threaded rods and specially manufactured nuts and, ultimately, bolted to a base secured to the concrete floor. Specially-sourced rubber washers ensure the enclosures remain sealed for acoustic purposes. Custom-made grilles fit snugly into the joinery to conceal the speakers. The end result is a completely isolated tower of speakers that delivers outstanding audio clarity and high SPLs (sound pressure levels) from an almost invisible installation.
The design and prototyping process for the speakers was so intricate and exact that full-size mock ups of the shelves were built to ensure that the installation was practical, the dimensions were correct and there were no other unforeseen issues.
A Sony Ultra High Definition 84-inch TV is flush-mounted into the towering wall. The speakers, designed by the installer's in-house acoustician, consist of eight subwoofers, four mid-range speakers and two tweeters. They are powered by a Denon DN- 500AV and three Crown power amplifiers to ensure excellent headroom without distortion. A high-end Blu-ray player has also been customised and recessed into the joinery, so that the only trace of it is a thin slot for inserting discs.
The player presented a number of technical challenges as the client wanted to use a specific model which was tray-loading and did not support any eject commands using common protocols. The drive was removed, and replaced with a slot-loading mechanism, and a specialist shelf and fascia developed to secure and correctly position the drive. Andrew Lucas London devised a 'robotic finger' in the form of a solenoid, to push the eject button, which can be activated by the control system using a smartphone or tablet.
Other bespoke features in the property include a TV mount for the bedroom as it could not be fixed to a wall or positioned on a desk. More a work of art than a functional stand, the two-metre high aluminium frame is coated in a premium mirror finish and custom-fitted with integral speakers to provide high quality, invisible audio.
Lighting was another area of particular innovation and here Andrew Lucas London excelled again. The client desired a sophisticated and 'intelligent' lighting system which would highlight the key architectural features, create different atmospheres and scenes, be easily adjustable according to activity and yet offer incredible ease of use. He also wanted the facility to integrate with several other home elements, including 50 motorised shades, AV and the alarm system. No equipment was to be visible, except the control keypads and even these should be as unobtrusive as possible.
Due to the complex nature of the lighting system, Andrew Lucas selected Lutron HomeWorks QS as the lighting control system. Lutron-compatible TruFig faceplates were employed throughout to make the keypads flush with the whitewashed walls for a clean, elegant finish. Despite having just one bedroom, the apartment makes use of no less than 82 lighting circuits as well as 136 DMX channels. To meet the requirement for a clean minimalist finish, the lighting enclosures are discreetly recessed behind mirrors and doors.
Two designer 'jewel boxes' form a focal point of the property. Each features RGB panels, allowing them to assume an almost limitless range of colours from soft pastel lighting to vibrant colour washes or even vibrant disco colours, so transforming the room at the touch of a button.
The grandeur of the library wall is highlighted by the incorporation of pin spotlights within the cubby holes, replicating twinkling stars and beautifully illuminating the artwork positioned within. A plinth containing LED strips, forward of the shelves, causes the whole wall to softly glow.
The Barrisol ceiling, with its sharp illuminated edges, is accentuated by LED feature lighting, which can either flood the area with light or gently illuminate like starlight. The result perfectly matches the client's concept for the structure of sails on a ship.
Task lighting is achieved via specifically angled and positioned down-lights installed behind the stretch ceiling for which neat circular cut-outs have been provided. They are positioned in key locations, such as above work and reading areas and inside cupboards, to provide optimal illumination.
The lighting system works in harmony with the occupant’s daily routines. In the dressing room, for example, all of the wardrobe doors have one-way mirrors with LED backlighting which allows them to become transparent or reflective depending on whether a garment is being selected or tried on. In the kitchen, bathroom and dressing room cupboards, the lighting program monitors the status of the magnetic door contacts and smoothly ramps the LEDs on and off as required.
An added 'wow' factor comes from custom designed buttons on the Lutron keypads. 'Away' dims the lights sequentially and slowly guides the occupant to the front door, while 'Home' actions the reverse sequence. Similarly, 'Goodnight' gradually turns the lights off and powers down any AV elements that are switched on. Furthermore, a movie button causes the lights to dim slowly to a comfortable film viewing level whilst powering up the 84-inch TV and local Blu-ray player.
Energy conservation has been achieved through the inclusion of a number of occupancy-dependant zones. Microwave sensors, which have a longer operating wavelength than standard PIR, provide control of the utility room, WC and foyer lighting.
Andrew Lucas has deployed a Savant control system to provide stable, integrated operation of all systems, and is accessed via iPads. Savant's TrueImage control interface allows the operator to touch a real-time image of the fixture they want to manage, and gain visual feedback, making it exceptionally easy to use. However, because of the open plan layout of the residence, and the number of options available, considerable thought went into customising the layout of TrueImage to ensure the correct command is executed. The control interface has also been translated into the client’s native tongue.
Motorised iRoom in-wall iPad docks have been fitted which turn Apple devices into stylish touch panels for controlling the Savant system. When removed, the tablets can still be used in the normal way.
The complete integration of the various system introduces some intelligent features. For example, the alarm system monitors motion, door and window states and can even detect water leaks.
The demanding client is delighted with the outcome of the project with the lighting system, in particular, significantly enhancing the aesthetics, ambience and appeal of the property. The taxing AV issues were ingeniously resolved by Andrew Lucas London with the resulting Blu-ray disc slot resembling something from a "sci-fi movie". In the client’s words, Andrew Lucas has "surpassed our expectations and requirements delivering technology beyond what we thought was possible. The transformed apartment is easy to control and every aspect of it looks stunning."