Everyone remembers that house from the neighborhood, the one all the kids referred to as the ‘cool’ house. It may have had a relaxing pool, a cozy patio with a grill, or a tricked-out home theater that made it the place to be for hosting and entertaining.
Becoming the cool home that people will flock to is an aspiration for any homeowner, but especially for a family in Carmel, Ind. “They wanted to create an environment where it is fun to have people over,” explained Robert Haecker, President & Founder of TRIPhase Technologies, an Indiana-based premier provider of audio, video, networks, security and automation for both residential and commercial enterprise spaces.
However, building a space simply for entertainment was too mundane for the homeowners; instead, they wanted an entertainment oasis that would bring their family and friends enjoyment for years. TRIPhase, who had worked with these clients on previous projects and properties, was all in. The result was the ultimate cool home with the whole kit and caboodle of entertaining: a custom-built outdoor home theater that sits against a grassy landscape oriented toward a pool and patio.
Go Big or Go Home
Nestled atop a cinderblock structure surrounded by scenic landscaping lies the focal point of the installation: a Stealth Acoustics 156-inch Patio Theater Extreme Retracting Outdoor LED TV. The massive screen was a requirement for the clients, who “wanted the largest TV” possible for an outdoor setting. TRIPhase Technologies delivered by installing a 156-inch TV that is built to be enjoyed in nature. Stealth Acoustics assembled the TV, which is composed of multiple 12-inch LED screens that snap together. “Outdoor TVs are up to 85 inches now,” said Haecker. “That was not quite big enough.”
In addition to its size, the Stealth Acoustics TV is optimized to suit the outdoor environment. The LED screen makes it conducive to reducing the pesky glare that many TVs suffer from when light shines directly on their screens. “[LEDs] are designed to be very effective in direct sunlight applications,” Haecker explained. Stealth Acoustics understands that movies are meant to be enjoyed at any hour of the day, so its LED screen “auto-adjust[s] at night” to ensure viewers are receiving the best experience no matter how much light is available. “It is like a laser beam during the day, but at night, it auto-senses” and “brings the brightness down so it is more comfortable,” continues Haecker.
Installing the screen involved “quite a bit of logistics,” according to Haecker. Because of the size of the TV and its location near a landscaped area, TRIPhase determined that the best way to install it was to have a crane lift it and then lower it into the cinderblock structure. With a project “like this, it takes more planning, thought and collaboration between the designer, builder, landscape architect and homeowner,” Haecker elaborates. “But this is the type of project that we specialize and excel in.” The end result, a massive TV that is rare to find outside of a movie theater let alone outside at all, was worth all the heavy machinery.
However, one of the issues that may arise with a screen of that size is that it tends to take over the scene, especially in an outdoor setting where a homeowner may want as much focus on the house itself and the scenery as they do the technology.
That is where the integrator comes in. TRIPhase Technologies told Connected Design that the goal for this project was to have a dedicated entertainment area that could transition from holding memorable movie nights to being a regular outdoor space. This meant finding a way to hide the technology discreetly without sacrificing high-performance capabilities.
TRIPhase chose Stealth Acoustics’ Patio Theater screen for its ability to retract into a recessed space. The cinderblock structure contains an internal recessed pit customized to the measurements of the TV. Designed by Nicholas Design Build, the builder on the project, this structure allows the TV to retract “all the way down to the ground to where it is flush” with the cinderblock.
The apparatus that retracts the screen and holds it when it is recessed is built to withstand the elements. For optimal viewing, the cinderblock structure is placed on the far side of the pool on a slight hill directly across from the seating area on the patio. At the bottom of the hill behind the screen lies a small pond.
To quell any concerns of water damage to the TV, TRIPhase and Nicholas Design Build worked to make the structure and apparatus as safe as possible. Though it is near a pond, the structure’s placement on a hill prevents any water leakage. “[The hill] tapers down to the pond,” said Haecker. “Water does not come through the bottom [of the recessed pit].” Even if some water were to make its way into apparatus, there is a drainage system in place that collects stray water and drains it into the pond.
The sound system, a crucial aspect of any entertainment area, is also hidden. Though Stealth Acoustics has an advanced speaker system consisting of “left, center, right and subwoofers built in[to] the enclosure,” an outdoor theater of this stature requires robust audio equipment throughout the area. TRIPhase opted to incorporate speakers from the Sonance Landscape Series to deliver consistent and even sound coverage in an outdoor environment. “It is important that when [the clients] are watching TV or a movie that the primary sound” comes from the TV, but the “axillary speakers” placed around the property make the entertainment experience more immersive.
In this day and age, everything in a home is connected on the same control system, if not over Wi-Fi. This outdoor theater is no different. “Everything [on the property] is connected to the [Lutron] control system,” said Haecker, including audio, video, lighting, shades and security. “It is full automation.” In addition to operating on Lutron, there is a robust Wi-Fi network throughout the 20,000-square-foot property. Having products operate on the same control system is convenient for homeowners, but also ensures that products are consistent and functional.
The outdoor entertainment area features automated lighting, including controls that can be switched on when hosting special events such as parties, as well as motorized insect screens that can keep the bugs out of the entertainment experience. TRIPhase Technologies was also able to make the Stealth Acoustics TV “part of the whole house audio-video distribution system,” explained Haecker. Through their TV, the homeowners have cable access, Roku and the Apple TV+ streaming service, as well as their cameras. “It is just like [any other] room in the house.”
Raising the Bar
Though this 9-month-long project involved many meetings and discussions with various parties, TRIPhase Technologies relishes these kinds of projects, with Haecker describing them as “the most fun and attractive” to the CI company. All that hard work certainly paid off; the outdoor home theater and entertainment area is a sight to behold with a magnificent screen set to make the homeowners’ house the place to be when it comes to neighborhood block parties and movie nights.
Lead Designer: Robert Haecker
Engineer: Brian Swanson
Project Manager: Don Wolfe
Address: 10960 Bennett Parkway, Zionsville, IN 46077
Nicholas Design Build
Lead Designer: Jessica Seljan
Address: 12502 Promise Creek Ln. Ste. 434, Fishers, IN 46038
Automated Lighting Control: Lutron
Control System: Elan / Nice
Landscape Audio: Sonance
Outdoor Video: Stealth 156 Extreme SB2
Recessed Lighting Fixtures: Lucifer & DMF
Outdoor Heaters: Infratech