How They Did It: Historic Innovation

Nov 03, 2015

This homeowner was preparing to restore a historic lakeshore home to its previous glory when they hired Union Place, Inc. to install the audio/video, automation, and control systems. The overriding theme was to design an innovative technology system that would maintain the historic look and feel of the home, but still integrate the latest in automation, distributed audio/video, and lighting control.

This project won Union Place, Inc. Best Innovative Solution in the 2015 CEDIA Awards.


Lighting control was the largest challenge; there was no option to use anything that would be out of the period – no paddle dimmers or engraved keypads.

Secondly, most of the equipment had to be completely hidden. The A/V gear was not an issue, but room by room, Union Place, Inc. recommended a solution that would fit within the design parameters and feel set in the original period of the home.

Lastly, the homeowner had previously built a home theater that expanded into a whole-home audio/video system, and they wanted to upgrade to a more integrated and reliable system. They also wanted to incorporate surveillance, security, HVAC, and lighting control in addition to audio/video from multiple phones and tablets.


The lighting solution was the most challenging, but ultimately the revelation came when Union Place uncovered a company making antique reproductions of push-button switches. In addition to standard dimmers, they furnished a low-voltage contact closure version that allowed installation in a traditional manner to please the design committee, but still offer full home lighting automation for the homeowners.

The Savant Panelized lighting system was the solution when paired with their contact closure input panels. The entire home was wired with low-voltage controls, and that allowed programming of not just basic on/off but also dimming via hold and scenes – all of which would track on the control app while appearing to be original to the home.

The second challenge was concealing the speakers. The same rigid standards were used in selecting solutions that would be concealed. In the few areas with televisions, custom LR or LCR soundbars were used, as well as speakers that integrated within the sheetrock, solid drive transducers, and architectural speakers with concealed or compact openings.

Lastly, a TV was concealed in a wall of dialectic mirrors to further conceal the true identity of the home.

Design/Engineering Approach

This was a true design-build. Many changes were made, including modifying cabinets and removing speakers to install a more appropriate hidden technology. The speakers were custom-ordered in colors to match the paint colors of the residence, but when those changed, the speakers were repainted to match.

Many selections of brass, nickel, and enameled wall plates were sampled, and the final selection was custom-distressed by the builder. Union Place was able to incorporate an audiophile listening system with a turntable and still distribute the audio to the entire house as well as the 2,000-sq.-ft. carriage house.



CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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