When you live in an apartment, you’re ordinarily stuck with the square-footage of which you’ve leased. Putting on an addition or tearing down walls simply isn’t in the cards, typically. For most apartment dwellers, the only way to potentially expand their living space is to lease an adjacent unit, and that’s just what the owners of this Aventura, Fla.-residence did, adding a newly vacant lower level apartment to existing two-level apartment—a project that was recently honored as an “Essence of Pleasance” winner of Lutron’s annual Excellence Awards program.
The 1,500-square-foot addition wasn’t merely a means for more elbow room. The family-of-six had big plans for the space. “They wanted it to be an area dedicated for family recreation, with an indoor basketball court for the kids, a home theater, a kitchenette, and a domino table,” says Ilan Weinstein, partner and CEO of Maxicon USA, the Aventura, Fla.-based home systems integration firm hired to handle the design and installation of the area’s electronic systems. To maximize the fun activities planned for the spacious rec room, Weinstein recommended the addition of a Lutron RadioRA 2 lighting control system off the bat. There would be a bevy of other electronic systems included in the plans, like a video projector, projection screen, and surround-sound system for a home theater, and built-in speakers for a distributed audio system, but lighting would play an integral role in creating the ideal atmosphere for every endeavor.
A Wireless Wonder
A total of 18 loads of lighting would be placed under the control of the RadioRA 2 system, yet not a single piece of wiring would need to be added to connect the room’s dimmer switches to the RadioRA 2 processor. The system communicates with the dimmers over a proprietary wireless network, which was a critical component to the success of this project, Weinstein says. It was easier to install than a hardwired system, for starters. And even though wireless systems are notorious for picking up interference, especially in apartments, condos and other multi-dwelling units, where networks from neighboring units conflict, Weinstein says, “It’s not an issue, thanks to the proprietary communications protocol on which the RadioRA 2 system operates. The technology, called Clear Connect®, utilizes a quiet radio frequency band, which is essentially free of interference from any neighboring wireless networks. This makes communications between the RadioRA 2 system processor and every light fixture in the space seamless and reliable.
Switches Swapped for Keypads
The design of the RadioRA 2 system also enabled the Maxicon installation crew to relocate all 18 dimmer switches in the rec room to one central location, a service pantry where they go completely unnoticed. The six keypads that took up residency in the new recreation room allow the owners to arrange the lighting levels perfectly with just a tap of a button, and are located in key entertainment areas—the home theater, kitchen, guest bedroom, domino table, outdoor swimming pool—and the sixth at the bottom of the stairs.
Consistency in the way in which Maxicon designed the keypads fostered a fast learning curve for the homeowners. They don’t even need to read the beautifully engraved buttons to know exactly what button will do. Explains Weinstein: The top button of every keypad turns on the lights in a certain area to predetermined intensity levels, and the bottom button turns off the lights in that area. Every keypad also includes a Relax button which dims the lights to a 50 percent intensity level. Lights in the home theater dim even more—to 10 percent—when the Movie button is engaged.
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A Fusion of Lights, Music, and Shades
The keypads provide a quick, easy way to illuminate each area of the rec room perfectly; to give the homeowners even more control over the environment, Maxicon enabled the keypads to also serve as a mode of control for a Control4 audio distribution system and several Somfy motorized window shades. The Somfy shades had already been contracted prior to Maxicon’s involvement in the project, so integrating them took more engineering work than what would have been required had Lutron shades been installed. The integration of the Control4 audio distribution system was far easier, and feeds music from a Sonos media player to a pair of invisible Stealth Acoustics speakers that were installed in the ceiling in several locations. One button on each Lutron keypad was programmed by Maxicon to raise the shades up and down; another button sends the owners favorite Pandora station to the speakers in a certain area at a predetermined volume level. Or, if they want to play music throughout the entire space, a Party button on a keypad by the stairs does the trick.
Phones & Tablets Take Charge
The Lutron keypads, finished in a simple white faceplate, are convenient and easy to use, but to allow the homeowners to fine tune the setting of any light source, Maxicon downloaded the RadioRA 2 app on every smartphone and tablet the family owned. From the app they can not only adjust the lighting levels, but also monitor the status of the lights in the upper two levels of the apartment, which operates under its own RadioRA 2 system.
While lighting sets the tone for the fun-filled, renovated rec room—and the Lutron RadioRA 2 system accomplishes this flawlessly, a Control4 home automation system handles other tasks and is the overriding control platform of the entire three levels of the apartment. In addition to the RadioRA 2 mobile app, the owners can access a Control4 mobile app to adjust thermostats, curate music from the Sonos system, and access real-time images captured by surveillance cameras positioned in the family room and basketball court—and also, engage Lutron RadioRA 2 lighting scenes. The entire home theater, comprising a Digital Projection Inc. video projector, 127-inch Vutec screen, Integra surround-sound receiver, and a combination of Adam Audio and Martin-Logan Vanquish speakers, is controlled through the Control4 app, too, where tap of a finger kick starts the equipment, closes the shades and dims the lights. It’s just another easy, quick way to create the perfect atmosphere for family recreation.