Monthly Archives: August 2017

Wait! Where’s the TV?

Interior Design and Technology

It’s quite the dilemma. Many of us are fixated on home renovation shows, becoming obsessed with shiplap and subway tile.  We’re into open floor plans and oversized clocks. We want large dining rooms and dreamy outdoor spaces for entertaining, but when we’re ready to settle in on the comfy couch for our favorite weekly drama, or curl up with the family to stream a movie, we’d like to see a TV!  Have you noticed what’s missing in some of the “fixer upper” shows? Technology! Why IS that? Granted, some embrace technology-free zones with no disruptive television, gaming consoles or mobile devices in designated homework or family dinner spaces. That’s great, but many technologies actually keep us safe, comfortable, informed and entertained. Window coverings, LEDs, control devices and lighting design are elegant and convenient. So, why is technology so often overlooked in design?

Plan Now or Patch Later

First, for the best possible outcome, let the technology solutions provider (us) work with the Interior Designer from the onset of the project.  We can determine the technology requirements and provide the needed infrastructure before the shiplap, subway tile or custom wallpaper goes up. We can provide the cabling and determine power requirements, saving time and costly refinish work now or down the road. Sure, that painting looks great over the mantle, but would you eventually like to hang an OLED there? Let’s wire for it now so we don’t disturb the brick or wood later. Or, even better, let’s hang it now and conceal it with custom framed artwork that scrolls up to reveal the display! Oh yes, we can!

Wireless Isn’t the Only Answer

Windows are another key design element that require careful planning. Not only should consideration be made for the type and size of windows in media areas and other TV viewing areas, but thoughtful pre-wiring for control and power will be appreciated when you decide to install motorized shades.  It’s true that control for some features can be via wireless remotes, but we still need a power source. The same holds true for keypads and touchscreens, projectors, security features, architectural speakers and especially the home’s equipment rack.  The equipment rack is the technology hub, housing some or all of the system’s components. It is often centrally located in a closet that offers adequate ventilation and the ability to run cabling for every device and control interface to each room of the house. Homes with crawl spaces, basements and attics make this task somewhat easier, but often times we are faced with concrete, wood beams or even glass walls and floors of exquisite hardwood or tile that don’t allow access.  Get the picture?

Speaking of exquisite features, one “designer” that truly embraces tech is South Florida’s Vanilla Ice. While his over-the-top “bring on the bling” style is as different as our landscapes, his luxury designs focus on the elegance, entertainment and fun-factor of well-planned integrated technologies. From outdoor living areas, kitchens, master bedrooms and baths to outrageous home theaters and virtual reality gaming rooms, he focuses on how the family will use the space and designs around the technology. Say what you will about a rapper-turned-house-flipper, but his VIP (Vanilla Ice Project) designs require no retrofit (and he’s all about that fancy wallpaper).

So, let’s get the whole design team – the homeowner, the interior designer, architect and technology solutions provider in sync.  The end result will be a happy homeowner and beautiful, untouched high-end finishes (or maybe even some shiplap)!

Coming to a Stream Near You – Lossless Audio!

The music you play is as important as what you play it on and what you play it through. The truest, cleanest, highest bit rate content will yield the best sound under all the right conditions (connections, components, calibrations). Analog may be the “original”, but access and format are a challenge. So, how can you enjoy truly lossless audio?

What’s Missing?

We want our music and we want it now…but are we willing to compromise on quality? That answer seems to be yes, but to a point.  While earbuds and a smartphone can produce rather impressive sound, we understand that digital content is compressed and that we’re missing out on some of the depth (think standard definition vs. 4K). Portions of the music that have been deemed indiscernible to the human ear have been carved out.  This may be acceptable for casual on-the-go listening or while at the gym, but not when you want to really experience music. But that’s about to change.

On a mission to make available top-quality digital sound at a reasonable cost, rocker Neil Young is preparing to launch a high-quality streaming music service, Xstream. Xstream is based on a technology developed by Orastream and will be an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth. His feeling is that the higher bit rate will provide a more authentic analog sound vs. the more “squared-off” (more compressed) bit-rate which loses, in some ears, the essence of the music. While the technology behind the service is amazing in that it is capable of complete high resolution playback, Young himself expressed doubts that smartphone chips could adequately decipher the high-quality files.

Making a splash in the streaming service is Tidal.  Tidal is the first subscription streaming service to offer High Fidelity music along with HD music videos. Their lossless audio will stream on Apple devices and Android systems, as well as on a PC or when integrated in a wide range of hi-fi network players. To really appreciate the difference, they offer an audible demonstration of Lossless 1411 kbps (kilobits per second) music, as compared to the Vorbis 320 kbps of Spotify’s desktop version and iTunes’s AAC 256 kbps*.

Popular streaming service Spotify is reportedly testing the market for lossless audio too.  The service tier referred to as Spotify Hi-Fi would be competively priced between $15-$20/mo. Great news for those who want to access a vast library of tunes on a quality sound system.

If you’re one who enjoys hearing every note that every instrument plays which, until recently has meant analog, then these new streaming options are music to your ears. What you play it through (hi-end audio system) is another story, and one in which we at LaScala are eager to assist!

*As reported by Tidal

Additional References: 

How to Build the Ideal Audiophile Listening Room

Bowers & Wilkins Blog: Digital Music – a Quick Guide to the Best Lossless files

Sony Music Goes Back to Vinyl Records

The Home-Field Advantage

Why go out to the sports bar, when you could build one in your own home?

What comes to mind when you think of college football in Canada? Does the image of a crowded sports bar, or your friends and family struggling to view the same television screen come to mind? What about the ultimate in-home sports bar? Now, finding the best seat for the University of British Columbia game means never leaving the comfort of your own home.

When it comes to designing the ultimate in-home experience for game day viewing, a personal sports bar, with comfy furniture and lots of space to entertain, is highly sought-after. But what really matters is creating an immersive experience, complete with a large projection screen and high-definition projector or a huge flat screen television, and a complete surround sound system to bring the sights and sounds of the stadium into your home.

With your own in-home football zone, you never have to worry if the bar will be playing the right game, or if you’ll be entering into enemy territory. Your space can be designed around your team’s colors and memorabilia. Just think: acoustic paneling, comfy theater seating and wall art tailored for the ultimate UBC fan. Integrating your memorabilia and colors with the best audio and video can transform game day into an ultra-engaging sports experience.

Are fantasy sports more than just a hobby for you? Consider opting for multiple screens and watch multiple games at once, so you never have to miss a play. The ability to view multiple games and toggle between audio at the touch of a button gives any fantasy player an advantage on tracking stats.

And the options aren’t just limited to your home. Consider taking your dedication on the road with you, and deck out a mobile home like these Auburn football fans did, so that you always have the home-team advantage. Regardless of where you wish to create your personal “home team advantage,” give us a call and we’ll get your project kicked-off!

What’s Trending in Home Automation? Luxury

Gone are the days of home automation and luxury being two separate conversations and design concepts. More and more, luxury living is embracing home automation in order to provide optimal comfort solutions.

Imagine walking into your home, and the first thing your eye is drawn to is the artwork in your foyer – highlighted using experienced lighting design. Entertain guests with your high-tech wine cellar, complete with automated climate control and inventory management system. Even more, control the quality of the air inside your home.

And the options don’t end on the inside. Control luxury water features, audio and video entertainment systems, even operate a summer kitchen by the pool.

Home automation technology provides the epitome of luxury when combined with your own design style. The right technology will allow you to personalize your system to suit your lifestyle, giving you control of everything in your home – from the window shades, to the temperature and air quality, to your lights and even your security system. Advances in this technology provide you easy access to your entire home from your phone or tablet, and some systems can even operate via voice-activation.

With today’s trends in home automation luxury, nothing is off-limits. Whether you want a top-of-the-line smart kitchen, an all-encompassing security system, or an over-the-top outdoor movie theatre – there is a right mix of home automation technology for you that can be designed to suit your individual home design style.