Woodland New Build

A case study interview with Paul and Sarah about their new Sonitus smart home

As a successful couple in their mid-thirties with two young children, when Paul and Sarah embarked on their luxury new build project in a rural location, design, security and reliability ranked highly alongside ease-of-use when it came to deciding on technologies for their bespoke new home.

"I think it's fair to say, at the start, we were sceptical about technology," muses Paul as we sit in his new, deep blue, home office suite. "We are far more 'traditional' people than 'techie' people. Particularly Sarah. We've never relied massively on automation in life, and I think when we set out on the journey of agreeing the scope of works, perhaps the biggest eye-opener was a realisation of how big the house was going to be and how much wiring goes into a house of this kind. By the end of the project we ended up with nearly £100km of cable in the property which seems insane - it soon adds up."

Sarah adds "It was a real change for us. We came to realise that actually you've got to move with the times and move with what's coming. You can't build something like this and just have normal light switches everywhere and live in the past can you? You've got to embrace the changes, and we're young enough to make use of the technology."

"The turning point" says Paul, "was a conversation about lighting designs. At the start we were hesitant about lighting control. I mean we knew that AV generally is not cheap, but the the lighting control was one thing I thought was going to be a punchy number when it came to the budget, so we didn't see the need for it. But when we sat down with the guys from Sonitus and they pointed out that we had something like thirteen lighting circuits in the kitchen alone, we stared to realise that controlling those circuits meant either banks of light switches and dimmers everywhere, or committing to a smart lighting system.

Sarah points out "But we had spent a lot of time and effort working with our interior designers. The lighting needed to compliment the schemes we had chosen. Now it's finished we can use different scenes for different tasks. So, in the kitchen, when the kids are doing their homework, the lights are quite bright, but at dinner time we can change the mood completely with just one button. Even when you walk into a room and the lights naturally come on at the right level for the time of day, or when you have the en-suites in night time mode so you can walk into the bathroom and it's a nice tranquil setting and you've just got enough light to guide you and not blind you, then you think "Oh, it's brilliant, this is really nice.""

"The lighting really compliments the design," says Paul. "When you turn off the kitchen lighting for instance, all the circuits dim down before turning off. It feels like it adds an air of luxury rather than just going black. It's changed my perspective - initially I thought lighting was a luxury but actually it's not, it's a function. And I think now that we've got it we couldn't not have it."

"But it's actually more than that," says Sarah. "We wanted to make sure that the whole AV installation was as luxurious as we wanted the house to be. We've got invisible plaster-in speakers in some rooms and we completely forget they are there. You can't see them so they blend in, but you get the sound in the background. People don't go "where's that music coming from?" The music is on but it's subtle and not invasive so no-ones trying to search it out. From a design perspective it's not a taint on the ceiling if you like. So that's a really nice feature. And being able to Airplay to the speakers in the gym, or any room actually, that is such a simple task to go through. Actually, the way the whole app is built is really easy to use - it's picture-led so anyone can pick it up and run with it. I could give it to any one of our parents completely cold and it wouldn't take them long to work out how to turn on the kitchen lights for example - click on the photo of the kitchen, then there's a lightbulb so that must be the lighting. It's not complex, so that really helps add to the easy-to-use feel of the house. 

"I think the other thing to say," points out Paul, "is that the absolute priority on the AV package for us, in this rural, sort of isolated location, was the security of the property. We wanted to understand how we could make sure that, if we're at work or we go away for a night or whatever, how could we know the house is safe? And as the kids are getting older, they're almost of an age where we can leave them on their own. So how could we be certain they are safe without us being here with them. I knew off the bat that we were going to have an alarm and some cameras and various things, but we wanted to know what else we could do to protect our home and kids. The package put together by Sonitus was extendable in such a way that we've now worked with them to add remote monitoring of the CCTV and alarm, and a tannoy system so if the service centre spot anyone on the property they can give an audible warning and call the police if necessary. It's given us peace of mind and ultimately it's not overly expensive either. I'd say for anyone looking at a project like this, it's a no-brainer to have a sort of shopping list out on the table, including CCTV and alarms, but also the supporting functions such as monitoring, perimeter alarms, sensors etc to really help them further think how they might secure their home because, really, the security system is a fraction of the budget in reality, but it's probably the most important bit to make sure you keep your family and home safe."

Paul summarises the project succinctly - "We wanted the AV and technology integration to give the wow factor, to be the cherry on the cake. We expected a reliable, luxury product, that was commissioned well and worked seamlessly, that would ultimately make our life a little bit easier to manage this house. And, once the few remaining bits of kit are in, I think we've cracked it. I think Sonitus have gone over and above, where some other trades might just have thrown their hands up and not been very interested, Sonitus wanted to do a good job and that shines through in the work they've done.

A Case Study with Kelly about her new Sonitus Smart Home