interior design Tag

Techorating–It’s a Thing

Techorating--It's a Thing

Samsung’s “The Frame” TV 

How long have you dealt with that stack of black boxes perched somewhere within the vicinity of your TV or those strands of spaghetti snaking across the floor to connect this widget to that widget? Maybe you’ve been living in this high-tech state of disarray so long that you’ve started to turn a blind eye toward these and other eyesores.

 

It’s time to stop and do something about it. Your house doesn’t have to look this way. Stereo equipment shouldn’t clash with the cool paint colors on the walls and wiring shouldn’t crinkle up the carpet. Really, there’s no reason that any type of

technology should overpower the cosmetics of any room of your house.

 

In fact, when infused appropriately into the design of your home, things like speakers, cable boxes, security cameras, and remote controls can actually make your house look better than it ever has . . . and make it perform a lot better to boot.

 

How?

 

The secret behind maintaining a clean, uncluttered appearance inside a home occupied by technology is teamwork. Don’t worry—this type of teamwork requires no uncomfortable hugs, handholding, or pep talks. In a home where the goal is to have design and technology work in harmony, you’ll need the teamwork of two very important home improvement professionals: An interior designer and a home technology specialist

 

These two people may seem like an unlikely duo, but when they come together amazing things can happen. Naturally, 

the interior designer’s objective is to turn your house into to an aesthetic masterpiece by applying new textures, colors, and furnishings and revamping architectural elements. Meanwhile, a tech specialist wants to improve the way your home performs through the installation of high-caliber music and video systems, smart lighting and climate controls, and convenient, effortless automation features.

When these two goals are tackled independently, you might sacrifice design for technology or vice versa. But when the tech and design professionals devise and execute a plan together, you get the best of both worlds. That stack of black boxes standing next to the TV disappears, residing instead inside a specially built equipment closet. The TV? With teamwork, the screen can sink into beautifully crafted cabinetry that matches the rest of the woodwork. And cabling? Even speakers can be rendered virtually invisible by recessing them into the ceiling

(or anywhere else for that matter) and coating them with a shade of paint to match the mounting surface.

 

Some of the super-cool setups that happen when an interior designer and tech specialist come together for the common good of your home:

 

Elegant light switches: Faceplates in every color of the rainbow, even gold- and silver-plated, can complement the decorating scheme of a room and consolidate multiple switches under a single housing.

Seura’s TV Mirror 

Artsy TV screens: When the TV is on, you see video; when it’s off, the screen transforms into a work of art or even a mirror.

 

Hidden assets: Motorized lifts can tuck a video projector and screen into the ceiling when they’re not being used. In an instant, a home theater is able to convert back into a traditional family room. 

 

Bottom line: If you’re in the market for either a cosmetic or tech upgrade for your home, be sure to get both contractors on board from the get-go. They’ll be able to come up with a game plan that suits your needs for great-sounding music, jaw-dropping video, elegant lighting, and other smart-home amenities . . . as well as a beautiful, comfortable interior.

 

Lisa Montgomery

With more than 20 years under her belt covering all things electronic for the home, Lisa
Montgomery 
has developed a knack for knowing what types of products and systems
make sense for homeowners looking to update their abodes. When she’s not exploring
innovative ways to introduce technology into homes, Lisa breaks away from the electronics
world on a bike, kayak, or a towel on the beach.

Home Theater Reborn, Pt. 3

Home Theater Reborn, Pt. 3
Theo's Corner

photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

In my previous column, I described how I discovered that the key to creating home theater designs that can be readily reproduced is to minimize the impact of the actual space—in other words, the room—on the design. This new approach, which is a radical departure from how I create my custom designs, allowed me to devise a system where wall panels wrapped in acoustical fabric and placed front of the room’s actual walls become a backdrop for artwork that hangs on them.

 

Treating the designs as akin to art displayed in a museum allowed me to focus not on how to fit a design into a room but on what the design elements should be, irrespective of any room. This freed me of the limitations of the actual space and allowed

me to focus instead on the thing that has the biggest impact on any room—the design elements. The design impact of a living room, for instance, isn’t primarily determined by the size of the space but by the choices of furniture, carpet, fixtures, and so on, and how they are placed within the room.

 

With this problem solved, I then decided, “I don’t want these designs to represent my aesthetic.” Now that I had devised a different approach to design, what if I invited others to create the actual designs, encouraging them to add new ingredients while staying within the confines of the new approach? By freeing these others of the burden of having to worry about the unique physical constraints of individual spaces, I could recruit collaborators so that home theater design would no longer be the solitary pursuit of just me and my imagination.

 

The decision to free home theaters from the restrictions of the room by devising a backdrop for a variety of designs was the first step. The second step was to devise those backdrops in such a way that they could not only serve as a blank canvas for design ideas but also address the other elements in a home theater that are usually dealt with separately, such as speakers and acoustics.

 

So we engineered the panels in such a way that they could not only incorporate and support various design elements but could also conceal the acoustic treatments and 

the speakers. Once I felt confident our concept for the panels could address all of these practical needs, I then approached various artists to create the room designs.

 

I originally said to myself, “Let me give a designer an empty room, and they can do what they want with it.” But the initial results were not what I expected. Designers are not trained to design with the technology needs in mind, so sometimes their design approach can have an impact on a home theater’s performance. So, by making the wall panels my responsibility, I relieved the designers of having to deal with an element that could limit their creativity. In other words, this approach allowed them to focus on having fun with creating their designs, which made the spaces fun for the clients.

Once I became a more active collaborator in the process, we were able to create some truly original works. We have since commissioned designs by well-known artists, including the sculptor Antonia Papatzanaki, architect Dimitris Theodorou, and photographer Marina Vernicos.

 

Each artist was able to use my backdrop as an opportunity to create artwork that reflects their individual aesthetic sensibilities. Having created the parameters within which someone’s design could be deployed on the wall panels, my primary responsibility was to ensure that the artwork wouldn’t in any way impede the room’s performance.

 

In my next column, I will discuss the extensive and innovative engineering that went into creating the amazingly flexible and adaptable wall panels.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Home Theater Reborn, Pt. 2

Theo's Corner

I have been spending the past two years trying to figure out how we designers can come up with a recipe for creating home theaters that puts us on more solid ground than the ground we are on when a client gives us an empty room and tells us, “Go ahead and design a theater.” The traditional solution has been to ponder the situation, produce some ideas, then implement them in a very custom way. In other words, we always start all over from scratch.

 

When I started developing the concept that would become Rayva, my guiding light was always, “How can I make this design process more predictable? How can I turn what has always been a unique project into a reproducible product?” The goal was to allow some flexibility for the variables that differ from project to project while creating a recipe that offers predictable solutions for 90 percent of what goes into any home theater.

 

Of course, I would love to have the freedom to do what I want with a room. But that freedom can become seriously constrained when you have to spend a lot of your time on a project reinventing things that could otherwise be standardized.

My goal was to create an approach to home theater design that allowed for traditional
elements like furniture, carpeting, and decoration but wasn’t dependent upon room size

So I took the concept of home theater and tried to “explode” it into its constituent parts. Some of those parts are obvious—such as the furniture, the carpeting, and the location of the speakers and the screen. My goal was to take those ingredients and find a way to make their implementation simple and safe, time and again—safer for the client, simpler for the designer—so they would yield more predictable results. But without sacrificing any of the diversity or fun of designing an exceptional home theater.

Part of the trick here was to determine not just the design but the technical choices that could be standardized. Nailing all of that down would create a solid foundation upon which I and others could let our creativity roam free—and in a fraction of the time it takes to create a completely custom design.

 

I began this exercise by contemplating, “At the most basic level. what makes a design custom?” And the answer is that you are always at the mercy of the room, which will always differ from any other room. The width, length, height, placement of door entries, and so on are almost always different. To solve that problem, I essentially had to make the problem part of the solution.

 

The answer, it occurred to me, was to a find a standardized design solution that wasn’t dependent on the room size. This was an important discovery, because not being beholden to the specific dimensions of a room makes it much easier to come up with a design. And it also creates a structure that others can use to create designs of their own.

 

Think of the room’s design as akin to a painting. If you have a painting you want to enjoy, you don’t care about the size of the room it’s going to go into. You find the most appropriate place to put it on the wall, and then the painting becomes the design element that determines the other elements in the room.

It is the same with furniture. A nice piece of furniture can fit into a room that’s 12 by 15 or 18 by 20 or 30 by 40. You just add more furniture—or bigger furniture—to fill the room.

 

This gives you a sense of the design approach I arrived at, where you have standardized elements that, once combined, can yield a result as exciting as if you were to create a custom design—but freed of the tyranny of the room’s size.

 

In my next post, I’ll describe the method I’ve created for having luxury home theaters fit it any rectangular room, beginning at 11.5 by 16 feet, and how that led to my collaboration with a number of brilliant artists and designers.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Home Theater Reborn, Pt. 1

Home Theater Reborn, Pt. 1
Theo's Corner

This series of posts is meant to document the dramatic new direction I took with my career beginning about two years ago. Sensing that the needs for luxury home entertainment were changing, and that a new market was emerging in that area, I began to explore ways to create theaters that can be easily reproduced while still offering the ultimate movie-watching experience at home. I hope you enjoy the story of my efforts to reinvent home theater.

 

 

My life at the moment is consumed with the challenge of figuring out how to engineer all the various elements of a home theater. For years, I have seen how difficult it is to create each new theater design from scratch and to work my way through the process without a consistent structure, guided only by a vague application of aesthetics.

 

Designers and architects usually have a certain vocabulary they can refer to when they are designing a specific space like a dining room, bedroom, or bathroom. And each of those spaces is made up of specific elements that are the tools that they play with.

 

Those elements can be things like furniture, carpets, fabrics, sinks and other fixtures, and so on. These are specific objects, and their practical and aesthetic function within each space is clearly understood. A living room sofa would of course look as absurd in a bathroom as a bathroom sink would look in a dining room.

 

Once the value of the elements within a specific space is understood, designers have no restrictions on applying their imaginations to play with all of those elements so they can reward their clients with the best possible results.

 

It might seem as if designing a home theater would be the same, but it’s not. We do work with specific elements within a theater, and some of them—like chairs, carpeting, lighting fixtures, and fabrics—are similar to what you would find elsewhere in a home. But that similarity only holds true up to a certain point, because each of these things must be treated somewhat differently in a theater room—or in any type of entertainment space.

 

The main difference is that, whereas the use of technology is optional in most other parts of a home, it is essential to a home theater. And that technology creates demands that make it very difficult to use the same elements that designers use elsewhere in the home without understanding their potential impact on the performance of the room. Things such as acoustics and sight lines must be taken into account. This alone makes designing a theater room much more difficult than designing any other room.

Few if any of the elements in these custom-designed theaters could be easily
and economically reproduced to be used in other theater designs.

Oakland & Park Ave theater photos by Phillip Ennis, Palace theater photo by Michael Weschler

For my entire career until recently, I treated each home theater as utterly unique—partly because each room was unique, especially when it came to its dimensions. Bigger rooms create radically different design demands than smaller rooms. Also, the clients may have preferences for things like colors that won’t work at all well in a home theater space, mainly because they would draw attention away from the screen.

 

Each time I approached a new design, I would have to take all of these variables—such as room size and layout, audio/video equipment, furnishings, fixtures, carpeting, and client expectations—into account and then create a new recipe from scratch. But after having done this repeatedly over so many years, I began to wonder if there wasn’t a better way to approach home theater design—one that would be far more efficient but without compromising the final product.

 

So I began to try to figure out whether we, as designers and architects, could codify what it means to design a theater, and if I could come up with a recipe that would deliver more consistent results. Top of my list was to create a way to protect us from the failure that often comes from mixing ingredients without really understanding if the end result will be pleasing.

 

In the next installments of this series, I will describe how I created a more disciplined approach to home theater design that allowed me to not only collaborate with other artists on my designs but to engineer the various elements of a theater so they could be manufactured in a way that allows luxury theaters to be installed in a fraction of the time and cost of my custom designs.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Ep. 2: Let There Be Light–And Shades

Episode 2 opens with Cineluxe contributor John Sciacca joining hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger to discuss the reasons why home theaters are making a comeback. At 6:56, Lutron Communications Director Melissa Andresko joins Mike, Dennis & John to talk about the increasing importance of lighting & shading in luxury home entertainment spaces. At 12:13, we all talk about how lighting control can be a form of creative expression, and how interior design is becoming a key element in the creation of multi-use entertainment spaces. And the episode closes out at 23:28 with a quick discussion of ways to beat the wintertime blues.

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Theo’s Corner: Working with Vincenzo Avanzato

architect Vincenzo Avanzato

In my last post, I talked about my recent meetings with well-known interior designer Hernan Arriaga, and how much I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on new designs for Rayva’s theater rooms. During that same trip to Florida, I also met with another design professional I have long admired, the Italian-born architect Vincenzo Avanzato of Avanzato Design.

 

I was introduced to Vincenzo by our mutual friend, Aaron Flint of Acoustic Architects in Miami. Vina supreme practitioner of traditional architecture–is working on a project that has space for a very traditional theater.

 

I knew from the beginning that this wasn’t a project for Rayva, which uses a minimalist approach to design. Home theaters are still dominated by elaborate traditional designscolumns with ornate grilles, wall panels with rich brocade fabrics, and lots of gold and red. I thought that, given the opportunity, Vin could help break that mold by coming up with concepts that incorporate stylized traditional elements in a contemporary setting.

During our meeting, I shared with him lots of visual samples of what have in mind for Rayva. He reciprocated by sharing with me his own ideas, which struck me as original and, to a certain extent, iconoclastic for someone who has such a deep respect for and understanding of traditional architecture.

 

We finished the meeting with a promise to meet again soon. He called early last week to let me know he is working towards finishing a presentation to me. I count the days until I receive his concepts. And I look forward to working with even more professionals of Vin’s stature as designers see that Rayva offers a chance to explore innovative new ground.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

REVIEWS

Incredibles 2 review
Ant-Man review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Theo’s Corner: Working with Hernan Arriaga

designer Hernan Arriaga

My search for fresh ideas and the pursuit of new design collaborators for Rayva recently brought me to Florida, where I met with two well-known professionals: Miami-based interior designer Hernan Arriaga and Italian-born architect Vincenzo Avanzato. (I will be writing about Vincenzo in a future post.) Having seen and admired their work, I knew they would be excellent candidates to create new design themes for Rayva.

 

Hernan’s business partner Fabio Lopes told me the process of dealing with home theaters has become so cumbersome that they’ve almost stopped proposing them to their clients. Having to fight what they see as insensitive placement of electronics by others into their supremely coordinated interiors wasn’t worth the trouble for them anymore. In a strange way, this legitimate argument resonates with a similar argument from the opposite side: A/V integrators also chronically complain that designers don’t respect the needs of a complex technology.

 

I’m very familiar with the issue, and I respect the viewpoints of both the designers and the integrators. The very reason Rayva exists is to bridge this seemingly irreconcilable divide between technology and design. The company’s goal is to blend superb design with sophisticated technology in an end-to-end solution that doesn’t keep just designers and integrators happy but, most importantly, the end-user, who is often caught in the crossfire. These problems can only be resolved with a good understanding of both perspectives.

I had already met Hernan through Rayva’s sales associate in Florida, Esteban Tettamante. I was a big fan of Hernan’s sharp, eclectic, sleek, contemporary style. Could this style translate into interiors for Rayva? I didn’t know, and it wasn’t important to know yet. Design talent is one thing, but I also believe in personal chemistry. If my design goals resonated with Hernan, great things could happen from this collaboration.

 

I explained Rayva’s basic design philosophy to him: Dimensional design elements or artwork presented against large, plain wall-mounted panels that conceal speakers and acoustic treatments. The designs in front of the panels are illuminated, gallery-like, by light sources positioned on the ceiling or incorporated into the artwork itself.

 

Hernan seemed to appreciate the challenge and we agreed to meet again in the next few weeks to review his initial concepts. I can’t wait for that meeting.

 

I will keep you posted as our design collaboration develops. And I look forward to working with more designers of Hernan’s caliber.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

REVIEWS

Incredibles 2 review
Ant-Man review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE