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Smart app-artment shows architects what’s possible with home automation

An iPad-controlled apartment has been set up to allow architects and designers - and their clients - to road-test digital systems and play with hi-end kit prior to specification.

An iPad-controlled apartment has been set up to allow architects and designers – and their clients – to road-test digital systems and play with hi-end kit prior to specification. Architects and developers working at the prime-end of the residential market know how important integrated technology has become for today’s clients. Indeed, the British smart home sector is now estimated to be worth £1.07 bn according to CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association).
To help architects keep abreast of rapidly evolving digital technology, an iPad-controlled apartment with the latest integrated audio, video and lighting equipment threaded through each room, has been set up with the specific purpose of allowing architects and designers – and their clients – to road-test digital systems and play with hi-end kit prior to specification. Located at 41 Windmill Street, in the heart of London’s West End, the luxurious Smart App-artment showcases the most covetable home automation technology. Instead of viewing products on shelves, visitors are invited to “live in” for a while and enjoy a beautifully curated, intuitive home, whilst having-a-go with the latest systems themselves.
Dressed as a high-end domestic property, the showroom mirrors a growing trend from the USA for boundary-pushing experiential retailing in the field of consumer electronics. This opening is the first of its kind in the UK. The approach allows home owners to see how new products could apply to their own lives and homes, while enabling their architects to demonstrate how it’s possible to seamlessly integrate technology and also have a look behind-the-scenes in the rack room.@page_break@Created and operated by Cornflake – a leading installer of home automation kit – the Smart App-artment demonstrates how life-enhancing technology can be in 2013. A roll-call of world class brands and manufacturers are on board – including Apple, Bowers & Wilkins, Crestron, De Dietrich, Loewe, Lutron, McIntosh, Neod and Wilson Benesch – each displaying its wares in the fully automated luxurious domestic setting where even the coffee machine is controlled from an App. On arrival at No 41 visitors are handed a tablet from which they can control every aspect of the home, starting with their music and digital art choices. With six realistic rooms, visitors can watch a movie in the stunning home theatre; play games on the 2m curved gaming screen in the games room; listen to their favourite music on some of the world’s best speakers in the den, or simply relax in front of the i-fire and use Kaleidescape on the hidden smart TV. Essential household services such as heating, lighting, air conditioning, blinds, security, audio visual and data are all centrally controlled and can be adjusted remotely. Operating platforms are provided by both Creston and Lutron, enabling a direct side-by-side comparison of the leading systems.
 The Smart App-artment from Cornflake launches as home automation is poised to take off as a mainstream consumer market, propelled largely by the ubiquity of mobile hand-held devices. In the UK the sector grew by 12 per cent last year alone. Robin Shephard, Cornflake’s CEO, says: “With home-owners increasingly wanting to future-proof their properties with technology we wanted somewhere we could demonstrate the incredible opportunities available right now. You only really get a sense of the pure joy of all this new kit when you play and live with it yourself. No 41 enables our specialist CI team, in tandem with architects, to demonstrate that in a fun and relaxed residential setting. Our clientele tend to have exceptionally busy lives often spanning multiple homes and businesses, creating hectic schedules across time zones, so using technology to relieve time pressures – and costs – is bang on for them.”
The Smart App-artment has drawn on several well-known talents in its own development. Architect Julian Arendt Associates designed the layout. Top interior designer April Russell was tasked with décor and styling, just as she would for a Belgravia-based client, while specialist eco-contractor Ecoism Manufacturing undertook the build and joinery package specifying modern sustainable materials throughout to offset the tech footprint. Julian Arendt, who has worked at the very top end of the residential market for over 25 years, adds: “We’ve all seen how easy it is for things to go spectacularly wrong when commissioning technology. Clients expect a seamless finish and handover so the specification and installation brief must be given top priority from inception. Offering clients the opportunity to properly road-test hi-spec equipment and giving them this level of control in a realistic home setting, affords a unique opportunity to hone their wishes in good time for proper integration into the design. It’s a very neat solution for time-pressed architects trying to keep abreast of rapid technological advances. For full integration we must understand the client’s technology requirements at the earliest opportunity to avoid the obvious delays later.” Photos: David Parry/PA Wire