Vancouver, B.C.-based La Scala Integrated Media is no stranger to award accolades – and this recently completed project won the firm kudos for several CEDIA-designated categories which included “Life Lived Best at Home” and “Technology Meets Design.” These are especially notable awards in that they reflect the judgment of architects and interior designers whose mandate was to recognize the fruits of an outstanding working partnership between an integrator and design and build industry partners.
The client and his wife, served in this project by the La Scala team, were not new to connected home technology. They have lived in and around Vancouver for many years and enjoy building new homes, explained La Scala President Mike Chorney. The husband, a well-respected businessman in the financial industry, mentors young professionals and loves to entertain.
One mandate the client specified for the project was articulated by Chorney: “He did not want the level of finish to be compromised – meaning the lighting grid, the ceiling details were to remain, while we found ways of hiding components so that you wouldn’t see anything – but he still expected high performance from the system when he was entertaining. Door hinges were discreetly integrated into the millwork. Countertops and millwork finishes were as detailed on their typically out-of-sight bottom sides as the presented surfaces.”
This luxury home was a renovation within an iconic building located in front of a popular downtown beach and neighboring city park. The suite consists of the two full floors of the building. Although the elevators provide access to each floor, there was also a hole cut in the floor to make room for a leather-wrapped, Venetian-plastered spiral staircase. Each step was inlayed with LED lights to illuminate and highlight this focal piece.
“With this level of detail paid to the visual appearance of the craftsmanship we were tasked to provide a system that would perform for their entertaining needs but not compromise the visual appeal the interior designer was trying to accomplish,” said Chorney. “Virtually all components were invisible in the rooms, but needed to be ready to perform for the large parties planned.”
The La Scala team really showed its mettle and expertise in fitting complex systems into extremely limited ceiling real estate. The space was being shared with integrated fire and safety gear and small-aperture lighting, said Chorney. “There are a lot of ceiling fixtures and different types of looks in each room. And when you’re trying to keep ceiling heights as high as possible, the amount of available space, even to run cabling, is tough. There’s also a detailed HVAC system in the home as well, and he didn’t want a lot of vents showing, too, so between lighting, HVAC and security, and trying to conceal sprinklers and smoke detectors, trying to optimize where to put our equipment was always a challenge… We didn’t have the luxury as in a bigger construction, where ceiling cavities might be eight to 12 inches. Given that this was a concrete, older building, to maintain ceiling height, sometimes we were working in three or four inches and sharing that space.”
Invisible speakers of various sizes and shapes were used as well to accommodate this challenge of limited space. In-ceiling subwoofers with small discrete box-type woofers were hidden in millwork and vented to provide low bass extension into the room, he said. In critical listening rooms such as the media room, careful attention was paid to the density and textures within the room to allow the home cinema to perform at its best. A combination of leather-wrapped tiles with acoustic curtains provided acoustic absorption and reflections needed to create the best listening experience.
Characteristic of La Scala’s way of working was the development of a close relationship with the designer, Aaron Mackenzie-Moore, whom Chorney said was “very easy to deal with. Some designers have their guard up, but he was very quick to understand that we respected their environment first, and were willing to work around their parameters.”
As an example, both the designer and homeowner both wanted the impeccable views to be the focal points in the bedrooms. So TVs were concealed in footboard cabinets with motorized lifts to have them hide when not in use. The owners enjoy music on at all times and have 21 zones of music throughout the apartment. It was important to them to have high-performance audio available throughout. “Each speaker was individually computer-calibrated – equalized to ensure consistent quality and volume as the clients moved room to room,” he said. Ease of operation was accomplished with a Savant system with voice commands via Amazon Echo Spots.
The client has 12 scenes created that can be turned on by one of the two touch panels – or just by asking Alexa. “Alexa – turn on dinner party,” as an example, will set off an action sequence that will start up the fireplaces, open the shades, set the lights to a dinner mood scene and turn on the background music. To this recipe for the ultimate in entertainment, just add the ingredients of friends or family, food and wine and the experience is complete.
“This project – and most of ours,” reflected Chorney, “are about giving someone the ability to have full technology, ease of use, and not having to see it. Our systems do not take away from the design appeal of the suite. We make a lot of friends in the design community, because of that.”
And as for this project, in its aftermath, “we received a glowing reference letter from the client, and he has since bought the ninth floor in the building – and we’re planning that out right now.” The client’s delight also extended to his generosity in allowing La Scala to have a staff celebration party on premises – and at the same time, allowing the integrator to invite designers, architects and potential clients in for a walkthrough.
“He was obviously happy with the end result.”