Bryan Koutsky of Mequon, WI-based Sound Designs walked into a familiar scenario on a recent project. A homeowner calls, interested in technology after a remodel project on his residence. It was deemed a “smart home,” but “nothing talked to each other and the wiring was limited,” Koutsky found upon review. There were closed walls galore; no storage areas to fish wires; no speaker wires to be found; and only two ethernet cables for all TVs in the house. Top that all off with the homeowner’s staunch stance on hidden tech everywhere, and you have obstacles coming at you from every direction.
Situated on the edge of Lake Michigan in Mequon, Wisc., the ranch home’s bones were not questionable. A local businessman and audio aficionado, had some specific needs, according to Koutsky. These included great-looking video with equally great audio, all without being seen.
“One of our lead installers, Cody Alvey, walked the project after my initial meeting,” Koutsky explained. “Then, he and I strategized on all of the pieces of the project, like controlling the TV lift in his bathroom and getting Zigbee coverage to her bathroom outlet receptacles.
“As a Control4 dealer, we went with a video distribution system HDBaseT with Control4 with one remote and touch panels throughout,” Koutsky added. “He didn’t want lighting control in the home yet, so we extended ZigBee by using Control4 in wall receptacles. We replaced the network within an Araknis system, placing an outdoor access point in the home, along with an indoor access point. We also installed Luma surveillance cameras, and a Control4 Chime doorbell because, ironically, this ‘smart home’ was not equipped with even a standard doorbell!”
Making Creative Integration Decisions
There were quite a few curve balls thrown into the mix for the Sound Designs team, which, compounded with supply chain challenges known all too well these days, made for some innovative decision-making. Knowing that the homeowner desired exceptional sound to match his 77-inch Sony OLED, but also navigating the scarcity of product, Koutsky turned to Triad for a soundbar and a new-to-him manufacturer, Blue Sound, for audio amplification and wireless sub.
“We did a custom-matching Triad soundbar to match the width of the television set, mounted it to the primary articulating mount, and then used the Blue Sound wireless sub to get bass into the room,” Koutsky explained. “The sub is ‘hidden’ in an open cabinet, but it’s on a shelf, essentially. And it sounds amazing! The living room just opened up. As he sat on the couch, playing music, he says, ‘This sounds amazing for a soundbar. And so we match that downstairs, [where he has another 77-inch Sony OLED.]”
The next challenge presented itself in the elements of fire and water. Koutsky was introduced to a fire pit in the back of the property and a fountain in the front that were not functioning. The client turned to Sound Designs to remedy that.
“It had a wireless hub, but it was about 60 yards from the closest range of any ZigBee, so we couldn’t get a remote out there to do it,” noted Koutsky. “We installed a driver for the Control4 system plus Bond Bridge, which connects to the wireless signals in the home. The driver talks to the Control4 systems. So, on every room’s touchscreen, we put custom icons for both the fountain and the firepit. Both are fully controlled via Control4. “
As if that wasn’t enough, more challenges arose when sending audio outside. The home features a three-quarter lookout, a main deck, and a patio, that is all slate tile. As the homeowner was afraid of disturbing neighbors with music, Koutsky was not willing to place speakers on the siding of the house. Alternatively, he tapped Coastal Source for the Bollard speakers, which sit on the corner and fire back toward the house.
“To install them, we had to go around a deck on the underside and drill through cement blocks into a one of the in-wall back boxes that we put in from Strong and mount the amplifiers,” said Koutsky. “We had to go through pretty thick outside concrete and conceal all the wires, which was challenging because of the difficulty fishing wire throughout the house.”
Smart Home Lessons Learned
Koutsky admits that while this was not the largest project his company has tackled, it served as lesson in delivering the customer the elements he desired; overcoming challenges presented in the home; and reaching out to fellow integrators and experts about sourcing equipment and clever workarounds.
“It was communicating with our Control4 team; interacting with other dealers on their experiences and how things have worked for them; and having that trust with some industry partners that really helped us finish this job,” Koutsky concluded.
Control4 (Control, Video Matrix, wireless outlets, control over fire bowl & fountain)
Triad custom sound bars
Coastal Source outdoor audio
BlueSound local amps and wireless subs
Hunter Douglas PowerView shades
Samsung Frame (for breakfast nook)
President & Co-Owner
6310 W Donges Bay Rd.
Mequon, WI 53092
Photography by Mark Malec Photography
Cody Alvey – Lead installer on project
Rick Bonlender – PCNA Certified – Network configuration
Matt McEvilly – Installer
Amy Carman Design
Hunter Douglas Installer
Dawson Laethier (HDIS)