Category Archives: Sleek design

Why Technology Needs to be Included in the Construction Plan

Proper planning and implementation of AV & IT will help your business realize the best possible outcomes.

In today’s hyper-competitive market, AV/IT plays an increasingly important role in our day-to-day operations. Businesses depend on technologies to collaborate and communicate with their customers and internal teams. Technologies integrate our various systems to work as one and connect us to the all-important Internet of Things (IoT). They gather data, and then help us disseminate and act upon it, making our technologies even more effective. They are critical to our daily workflow and operations and key to our business strategy and success. So why are they are often overlooked in the design and planning phase of a project?

The primary goal of your AV systems is to create a collaborative environment enabling effective, productive meetings for faster decision-making. To maximize its potential, it must be easy-to-use and provide the right mix of technologies along with simple connectivity to those technologies. It will likely include an interactive display or projection system, a collaborative platform with wireless connectivity, intuitive touch panel control for room scheduling and meeting control, access to power and to the internet. Depending on the considerations made at the onset of the room’s design, the outcome of this space can be remarkably different.

Ergonomics and Design Aesthetics

Successful design outcomes begin with the user, focusing on their comfort and accessibility to the room’s features. Users should be able to sit at a conference table or in a huddle space, conveniently plug in to a power source, connect to the room’s collaborative devices, comfortably view a screen and easily start a meeting. Without proper planning however, users may have power cords strewn across pathways to access outlets, fumble to connect to the room’s technologies and struggle to view shared content due to improper display size or placement. By determining placement in the design phase, AV & IT infrastructure, power, display or projector and screen and touch panels can be properly located and aesthetically incorporated into the room. This phase also presents an ideal opportunity to review technology strategies and plan connectivity for future growth.

Not only will planning at this phase produce the most comfortable and visually appealingly results which promotes adoption but will provide the best options available while saving potentially costly retrofits and change orders. For example, based on the room’s size and desired projection area, the projector would need to be positioned 12 feet from the screen. If that calculation is not factored in at the onset of the project and a custom, coffered ceiling is designed that dictates the projector be relocated a few feet in either direction, either the size of the viewing area will be compromised, or a specialized lens may be required to accommodate the change, potentially adding cost to the project. Either result is not optimal for the client.

Technology and Interior Design Pros in Partnership for Optimal Outcomes

Working in partnership with design professionals for equipment placement, integrated motorized shades, lighting and room control allows for sleek, custom design possibilities. Rather than a fixed installation, for example, the projector may be elegantly incorporated into the ceiling design, extending from a cleverly hidden lift mechanism. The screen may also descend from a concealed soffit and A/V equipment may be stowed in a custom built-in credenza or, if conduit has been provided, located outside of the room.  Similarly, power and device connectivity can be offered via built-in table pop-ups, if floor boxes have been made available at the table base. Another critical factor in a project’s success is its timeline. A pro will manage the project throughout its lifecycle, coordinating wiring and technology integration with adjacent trades and communicating and resolving any issues that may arise.

Proper planning and coordination with design and technology integration professionals from the project’s inception helps keep it on budget and schedule while delivering the best possible technology and aesthetic outcomes. Ready to start planning your next project and formulate your technology strategies for 2018 and years to come? Call today and let’s get started!

Enhance the Decor and Enjoyment of Any Space with Acoustical Treatments

Custom panels absorb unwanted noise while complementing the room’s decor

Listen! Did you hear that? If you’re home in your media room, are you experiencing the audio as it was intended with clean, crisp speech and striking, directional sound effects? If you’re seated in a cozy restaurant for an intimate, fine-dining experience, are you able to comfortably engage in conversation, or is the space humming with deafening chatter and clanking plates? Sound is a critical factor in how we experience a space, yet it is often completely overlooked in the room’s design.

Laughter and lively conversation create a fun, atmosphere but, if the space is designed with only hard, reflective surfaces, the noise level in the room quickly escalates, reaching an uncomfortable level. In fact, according to a ZAGAT survey, when restaurant-goers were asked what irritated them most about dining out, 25% responded “noise”, a staggering percentage coming in second behind only “service”. A survey by the Action on Hearing Loss found corroborating results; 91% of respondents said that they would not return to a venue where noise levels were too high.

Background music and normal speaking levels are desirable sounds, but noises that bounce off the high ceilings and hard surfaces need to be controlled. That’s the job of acoustical treatment, a thoughtfully engineered and aesthetically designed system of ceiling, wall and floor treatments to absorb unwanted noise and improve sound.

Sound & Surfaces

A sound wave will bounce around a room, reflecting off surfaces until it hits an object that either diffuses or absorbs it. Made of sound-absorbing material like foam or fiberglass, sound absorption products are intended to absorb unwanted noise, such as echo, within a space. Acoustic panels, tiles, ceiling clouds, & ceiling baffles are all sound absorption products that are designed to dampen sound in a properly treated space. An acoustical analysis will determine the treatments required to improve the room’s acoustical properties. Once determined, the design choices are endless with custom fabrics, materials, shapes and placement options that will complement the architecture and décor.

Comforts of home

Uncomfortable noise & distractions aren’t limited to public places. With the trend of many people choosing to work from home, a focus has shifted to controlling sound levels not just in our home theaters, but throughout our homes. Not surprisingly, many newly constructed homes and multi-unit buildings now have noise blocking requirements. For homes that do not offer these initial treatments however, noise control can be combatted with carpeting, area rugs or floating hardwoods, luxurious draperies, plush upholstered furnishings, and, of course, elegant acoustic panels. Panels created for the home can mimic art, featuring works from a favorite artist or perhaps your favorite movie, musician or vacation destination. To open a space, panels can even create faux windows with sceneries and exquisite skylines.

What do you hear?

So, listen. Are you able to have a conversation with the clerk behind the service desk or with your waiter, without shouting? Can you conduct a comfortable video conferencing call from your office without raising your voice above the office chatter and HVAC? Sound is an essential element in the overall experience of a space and the treatments to overcome unwanted noise are extensive and elegant. Are you ready to have a “conversation” about how to address the acoustics in your spaces? Call us today – we’re “listening”!

Additional Resources:

Rules for Placement of Acoustic Panels in a Theater Room: Technology in Education, Mark Valenti

10 buildings with extraordinary acoustics: Where to find a sonic surprise, The Spaces

Eating Out Loud: Why Restaurants are Getting Noisier, New Statesmen,Caroline Crampton

Soundproofing, ExplainThatStuff, Chris Woodford

Introduction to Acoustic Treatment, Home toys, Ethan Winer

Weaving an Integrated Lifestyle

The choices in color, weave and design of window shades are anything but beige!

We’ve been touting the benefits of automated window shades for years. They’re an elegant choice in window treatment and offer a variety of unique shading solutions across your home. They save energy. They filter glaring sunlight, adding comfort while protecting your furniture from fading. They can be programmed to simulate that your home is occupied, acting as a deterrent for would-be burglars. And the list goes on. But, as extensive as their features and attributes, are their exquisite array of color and fabric choices.

Motorized window coverings can provide anywhere from minimal coverage to complete blackout. If you’re in need of multiple shading solutions, such as a sunny living room that transitions into a cozy, dark TV viewing area, dual roller systems are available, providing an option between the two. The level of sheerness is referred to as the “openness factor”, a ratio of the open space in the fabric. The denser the weave, the higher the light filtering properties. Sheer shades are typically measured in the 1% to 10% range while a blackout shade is at 100% for total blocking of light. A sheer shade filters glare while still allowing clear visibility to the outside. A translucent or dim-out fabric, on the other hand, can range from a low openness factor up to 95% but creates privacy by limiting the amount of detail seen through the weave. Blackout shades block all light and are perfect for home theaters and bedrooms.

The weave, or pattern is also a consideration for both design detail and design requirements. Roller fabrics are commonly offered in basketweave, twill and jacquard weaves, each with a unique, directional pattern and manufactured in limited widths. If you have an expansive window opening, the fabric can be turned horizontally and pieced together. This is referred to as railroading. Factoring weight and pattern, certain fabrics lend themselves better to achieving these widths. We’ll guide you through it.

One of the nicest features about custom motorized shades is that they can be programmed to stop at select intervals, lowering and raising them throughout the day. Not only does this allow you to take advantage of capturing or filtering daylight, but aesthetically, it enables the shades to rest at desired design features such as mullions or chair rails.

Customization doesn’t stop there. Your shades can be programmed in harmony with your lights, music and more to create custom “scenes”. “Good Morning” may lower the shades 50% and brightly light the kitchen while “Good Night” closes the shades and softly illuminates your nighttime paths. For specialized windows, wirelessly controlled shades are the ideal custom solution. Skylights, French doors and dramatic, impossible-to-reach, feature windows all benefit from the energy savings and privacy that motorized shades provide. And color? Check out the available color match solutions that allow you to pinpoint your pantone color or match the exact shade of a favored object!

The selections and solutions are endless, so how do you determine the right openness factor, weave, color and control? Let’s set up an in-home consultation. If you’re working with an interior design professional, we’re happy to work together to design window coverings that will complement your décor, add value to your home and weave elegance into your automated lifestyle.

Resources:

Lutron’s extensive wireless solutions

Lutron Fabric Collections Inspiration gallery

Lutron Roller Shade Fabrics

Crestron Shading Solutions and Custom Color Match

Audio & Aesthetics. The Soundbar Solution.

As the choices in mounting options for TVs grow, so do the challenges in speaker placement. Today’s thin, sleek, lightweight displays can be mounted just about anywhere; above the mantle or slim console, in a custom alcove or on a clean, open wall. So, where do you place the speakers? While in-walls offer an elegant solution, installing them is not always feasible. Enter the soundbar and its versatile installation and feature options.

Many leading audio manufacturers offer a soundbar solution, an all-in-one speaker system that delivers high-quality audio without requiring the space of a home theater receiver and surround sound speaker system. Mounted or placed below your display, they offer exceptional sound and stunning design. A remarkable improvement to your TV’s speakers, the soundbar features a center channel and often a full LCR (left, center and right channels) experience. Some are designed to be paired with surround speakers and a subwoofer while others replicate full surround sound.

Connectivity, control and quality are prevalent across today’s models, offering conveniences such as music streaming, wireless connectivity and simple IR learning for integrated control through your current remote.

Touting exceptional performance, Triad has an extensive array of options ranging in size and capabilities. They offer micro and mini LCR’s as well as a micro 3-in-1 speaker designed for use with shallow flat-panel televisions. New to their line-up is their on-wall Mini LCR 3.0 SE (Special Edition), offering “unparalleled” performance with 3 separate audiophile speaker systems integrated into one sleek, acoustiperf-grilled package.

Custom fit & finish

An elegant choice, James Loudspeaker offers a variety of soundbar solutions. True to their brand, their line of soundbars is completely customizable and offered in an array of both standard and custom colors. The line-up includes an extensive variety of formats to suit client preferences and range from center channel, stereo bar, or complete LCR package. James’ soundbars are custom fit to the TV for seamless integration and elegant design. For added design versatility, they are available in vertical or horizontal configurations. And the sound, well, they raise the “bar”!

Dimensions of sound – Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos has the sound “bar” even higher and a select few manufacturers have integrated the immersive technology into their soundbar line-up. Dolby Atmos “frees” sound from its channels for heightened impact by enabling finer control of individual sounds. Through strategically positioned speakers, sounds move around the listener from every dimension for an immersive, life-like experience.

Samsung has this mastered. Paired with one its breathtaking 4K displays, Samsung delivers a seamless 4K Hi-Res Audio experience with its HW-K950 Soundbar speaker system. The system replicates cinema-style sound with 15 built-in speakers including 4 upward-firing drivers and rear wireless speakers for crystal-clear sound all around.

On-wall or on console, wireless and Bluetooth, surround sound or Dolby Atmos, the choices are endless but all are great solutions for incredible audio and gorgeous design. Give us a call. We’ll help determine the best features and solutions for your overall system requirements, connectivity, control and space.

What’s Important to Know About Furniture for AV Storage and Wire Management

Technologies for today’s homes and offices are sleek, contemporary and elegant. Some elements, such as touch panels, custom-framed displays and speakers that look as incredible as they sound, are meant to be seen. But then there’s the behind-the-scenes components; the receivers, amplifiers, switchers…all the things with the blinking lights and knobs that you choose to either showcase or hide away. Either way, they all “live” somewhere and that somewhere has specific requirements.

Technology systems are comprised of various electronic components that require power and, inherently, produce heat. Like your laptop or other electronic devices, they need proper ventilation for reliable, peak performance. Not all furniture is suitable to store electronics.

Choices for housing audio video gear are numerous and offer clever solutions for providing air-flow, managing cables and allowing IR signal visibility when required. Regardless of whether your components are stored in an equipment rack in an out-of-the-way storage closet or front-and-center in a media cabinet or credenza, purpose-built AV furniture will provide these critical features.

The AV Rack

AV equipment racks are available in various heights, measured in rack spaces or units, depending on the requirement of the components.  They can be installed inside of a media cabinet, on a wall using a swing-out mount or placed on casters for ease of accessibility when servicing. For extensive whole-house or integrated commercial systems, multiple racks may be required. Racks can be placed in the room or located in an off-area such as a centrally located, climate-controlled closet. Some installations will require forced ventilation through the use of thermostatic rack fans that will draw heat from the gear.  When gear is stored in an enclosed unit, it is imperative that air be allowed to flow so that the heat can adequately dissipate.

Wireless But Not Cordless

The beauty of an integrated system is, well, that it’s integrated; all the systems “talk” to each other.  Talking equals connectivity and connectivity equals cabling and cords, including wireless solutions. While wireless gear and speakers offer elegant, wire-free signal, electronics still require power. AV furniture provides access to the components as well as rack “rails” or channels to attractively conceal or “manage” the wiring.

Once the cabling leaves the rack or unit, the best path for wire runs needs to be determined, along with factoring in the length of the run and calculating conduit specifications.  This is where LaScala shines. We’ve got the tools and know-how to get cables from Point A to Point B with minimal impact and while factoring in future demands and incorporating those unattractive wires into an aesthetically pleasing (or even invisible) design.

Depth is also a consideration when placing components. In addition to allowing some space for airflow, connecters and cables add to the depth required for the back of the gear.  At a minimum, plan for a depth of 20”. Knobs and control access are also a factor for various reasons. First, units with doors need suitable clearance to close properly. Second, if the system is IR-controlled, a clear line-of-sight must be established otherwise an IR distribution system will be required.

Gaming consoles and media storage present additional considerations. With all that processing going on, game consoles give off considerably more heat than AV equipment and, while they are RF (radio frequency which does not require sightline) allowing for entertainment unit doors to remain closed, gamers still need convenient access to the unit to charge their controllers.  And, even though it seems the thing to do, Media should be stored separately from electronic equipment so the heat does not affect the digital content.

Customization and Communication

While audio video racks and entertainment units are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, custom units are often desired. Some people embrace the high-tech electronics and incorporate the sophisticated gear into the room’s design through custom-framed racks that face the interior. We love this approach but advise that they be installed at the back of room so as not to be a distraction while viewing an LED display or projection screen.  Another popular solution is that of the “floating” shelves or enclosed media unit. These units are bracketed to the wall without a base as if they are hovering above the floor. For any of your custom work, we can provide you or your interior design professional with detailed drawings and/or dimensions for millwork. We will also communicate with your electrician or other trade where power drops need to be located.

Form and Function are One!

Today’s purpose-built AV furniture – credenzas, entertainment centers and glass étagères -will offer proper ventilation, accessibility to components and elegant wire management.  We’ll determine the space requirements and share with you and your designer a variety of elegant choices or, when a custom solution is desired, provide the details needed to create the perfect solution for your home or office technology.