Since Gordon van Zuiden began his career in technology integration in the late 90s, his vision has remained the same—to make homes better by leveraging the best of what the Internet can give them.
Ironically enough, van Zuiden’s neighborhood was one of the first to get high-speed cable and DSL. At the time, AOL was immensely popular, but in the van Zuiden household, no one had to take turns using the dial-up. van Zuiden took pride in connecting his family’s PCs to the high-speed, always on Internet network printer and hard drive allowing them to check email, do homework, and use the phone all at the same time.
Neighbors down the street took notice and began asking van Zuiden for help in creating the same setup in their own homes. Looking back, van Zuiden credits this time period as being the birth of cyberManor, which also sparked the start of some new partnerships.
van Zuiden realized rather quickly that he much preferred to work on the data side of things, so a partnership with an A/V expert was a no-brainer. As he began working with more clients with varying needs, he formed partnerships with several other home professionals, even beyond the main categories of builders, architects, and interior designers to more specialized professions like landscapers and pool installers.
“I like to think of us as general practitioners,” says van Zuiden. “We are technology integrators across everything that might be in the home. It’s not just about the TV, computers, and music, it’s also about the digital picture frame on the wall, the intelligent bed with different sleep cycles, the Kohler shower heads that provides a hydrotherapy shower experience, and the Thermador coffee machine with recipes from around the world. We may not be the ‘expert heart surgeons’ but we’re always the client’s first point of contact that can map out the best course of action for technology integration.”
One of van Zuiden’s most recent partnerships was with interior designer Celia Boutell who worked closely with the entire cyberManor team on the Smart Home Experience Center, a spin on the typical smart home vignette one might find in a commercial space.
Even before stepping inside this contemporary two-story townhome in Los Gatos, Calif., guests are greeted with tech right at the front door with a Control4 front door station. Thanks to Josh.ai integration, as guests enter the home, they can say, “Okay, Josh, I’m home” to have the Control4 Centralized lighting system turn on, Lutron motorized shades lifted, the living room TV set to watch Apple TV, the temperature adjusted through the Ecobee Thermostat, and music played from Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer on the 6-zone Control4 whole-house speaker system. In the upstairs master bathroom, guests can check out the weather, watch TV, and more right on the mirror while taking a shower that they turned on with their voice. The best part, van Zuiden says, is that all of this technology comes together in a way that is elegant thanks to Boutell’s expert design.
Another interesting aspect about the cyberManor Experience Center is that it also doubles as an AirBnb when it’s not being used for tours. Here is what one guest had to say after their stay at the cyberManor Experience Center:
“If you’re looking to take a step into the future of smart home technology all the while maintaining the coziness of a family member’s guest home, then look no further than this Home Technology Experience Center townhome! The accommodation is a luxurious yet cozy smart home that features a fully integrated Control4 system that allows you to control everything from lighting, shades, and even music from panels mounted on the walls! With all of the amazing features, the house itself became the main attraction of our entire trip! If you are not particularly tech-savvy, do not worry! Gordon is an extremely gracious and thoughtful host who gave us a quick tour of the system and was ready to respond to any questions or concerns we had throughout the trip. We didn’t have many though as the system is so intuitive. The quick tour was all we needed to enjoy all the amenities the house had to offer. In addition to the amazing technology the house is also a beautifully designed yet warm space. We really enjoyed cooking while listening to music in the kitchen and eating breakfast in the lovely rooftop garden. … This high-tech paradise is an amazing find that I can’t recommend highly enough.”
Designer Spotlight: Celia Boutell
For some designers, adding elements of technology in a home can feel overwhelming and even a little intimidating. A common misconception is that in order to work with technology, designers need to change their approach and make sacrifices in design. But as Celia Boutell will tell you, that certainly is not the case.
After being introduced through another designer, Boutell and cyberManor’s Gordon van Zuiden entered into a unique relationship where van Zuiden essentially filled the roles of both client and project partner. van Zuiden had a clear vision for how he wanted the space to perform, and Boutell admits that his wishes were all very achievable from a design perspective.
In the bathroom, she was able to maintain the European-design aesthetic she envisioned with handles and knobs that also integrated with voice controls in the shower. On the first level of the home, a cedar wood beam is able to house a speaker without disrupting the flow of the space. And in the bedroom, a projection screen tucks away neatly into the ceiling when not in use.
Boutell says that working on the cyberManor Experience Center was not much different than a standard project. She credits the seamless exhibition to partnering with the right vendors and suppliers who all worked together toward a common goal.
As far as challenges go, Boutell admits that there really weren’t any. The main difference in working on a project with a heavy tech focus, she says, is the timeline. Mapping out a plan early on helped Boutell and van Zuiden avoid any hiccups and arrive at a final outcome that had all the comfort of a home with the latest advancements in technology.
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Jessica is the Chief Digital Editor for Connected Design.