Brett Hull's High-Tech hockey haven

Inside Stanley Cup Winner’s custom A/V and automation system.

In 2014, my company, Eco High Fidelity, worked on the Hull’s four-story, century-plus-old home in Clayton, Missouri.

My Dallas-based firm had serviced their tech needs for many years when they lived locally, so they knew they could count on us. Exceeding their expectations from hundreds of miles away, however, required specific skills and detailed planning.

Our technology touches almost every part of the house, and without collaboration nothing comes together well. We worked with Bruce Korn of Higginbotham Custom Homes and Renovation to oversee everything from prewire design to system completion.
Korn also brought in St. Louis integrator Fusion Media Systems to provide low- and high-voltage wiring retrofits. Fusion’s execution of my prewire design allowed the builder to work with a familiar protocol and my company to minimize travel.

The designer, Sohaila Danesh, influenced the aesthetics of the system and helped me eliminate wall acne and unattractive A/V gear.

The Hull project is a great example of how three companies that could be competitors became colleagues with a common goal. Korn was able to maintain the historical integrity of the home while also bringing its systems into the 21st century.



ELAN Systems g! in Control of U.S. AV Dream Home

Conventional wisdom says that the harder something is to use, the less likely people are to use it. For NHL Hall-of-Famer Brett Hull, this meant that the troublesome old system in his Dallas-area home ended up unused, eventually causing the family to revert to using their separate cable boxes in each room for TV. When they moved to the St. Louis area, Hull wanted a real home control system that would always work and be easy to use, so he had his trusted Dallas integration firm, Eco High Fidelity, collaborate with the local builder, designer and integrator to create an audio/video paradise with powerful ELAN g! control.

Utilizing three ELAN S1616A multi-zone audio controllers, Eco High Fidelity created 18 separate zones of audio that can be individually controlled for source and volume through the home’s six ELAN HR2 remotes or the ELAN g! mobile app on the family’s iPhones and iPads.

Utilizing three ELAN S1616A multi-zone audio controllers, Eco High Fidelity created 18 separate zones of audio that can be individually controlled for source and volume through the home’s six ELAN HR2 remotes or the ELAN g! mobile app on the family’s iPhones and iPads.

“The Hull’s love music,” said Tommy Kissell, owner of Eco High Fidelity, “and they like to play it loud. Their Dallas home electronics started with the best intentions, but it had too many recurring issues to be any fun to use. Now with the new ELAN g! System installed, the Missouri home is a breeze to use and it pumps out serious volume at high fidelity in every room. The floor-standing speakers on the first floor and in-ceiling speakers throughout the rest of the home really make this an audio-centric system that delivers above any expectations.”

As a remote-based integrator, Kissell collaborated closely with the builder, Higginbotham Custom Homes and Renovation, local integrator, Fusion Media Systems and the Hull’s designer, Sohaila Danesh. This wide-ranging network of team members helped ensure that every step of the installation went smoothly, from designing the system with the builder to Fusion Media Systems handling the low and high voltage wiring, to eliminating wall clutter and visible electronics in conjunction with the designer. The result is a system that works flawlessly and remains out of sight with all of the equipment located in two custom-built Middle Atlantic racks in the home’s basement.

“Without the help of this incredible team of local professionals, working long distance with the Hulls would have been exorbitantly expensive and complicated,” Kissell said. “Collaboration is the key to a successful installation and keeping everything on time and on budget, so it was necessary that we all work together to meet the Hulls’ expectations. Basing the home’s electronics on the ELAN system and Pakedge wireless products not only gives the owners a foolproof system, but also allows me to fix common issues remotely all the way from Dallas. I can log in to the ELAN system or the Pakedge network to reboot hardware, check and upgrade software, and see exactly what the Hulls are talking about in case of regular maintenance issues. That will save me and them thousands of dollars over the life of the home, because I don’t have to fly someone out.”

With ELAN as the control system there is virtually no limit to the home’s capabilities and that almost every product will work with the system in the future. Utilizing three ELAN S1616A multi-zone audio controllers, Eco High Fidelity created 18 separate zones of audio that can be individually controlled for source and volume through the home’s six ELAN HR2 remotes or the ELAN g! mobile app on the family’s iPhones and iPads.

Because of the older home’s limited in-wall and in-ceiling access, the first floor is outfitted with large floor standing speakers. The team also collaborated to custom-design a soundbar and floor standing surround system for the sunroom’s 80-inch Sharp LED TV. Outdoor audio is provided by Niles outdoor speakers, giving the family high0quality music both inside and outside.

In addition to the audio system there is are seven video zones with Samsung TVs ranging from 40 to 80 inches. Every video and audio zone can play content from the home’s four uVerse DVRs, a Kaleidescape movie/music system, three Apple TVs and an S1 Digital music streamer that holds 200,000 songs. This approach gives the owners full access to their own music, Spotify, Pandora and all the local terrestrial radio stations controlled through the same simple ELAN g! interface everywhere in the home.

“Having instant access to all of their media in every seat in the house was a core requirement,” Kissell said. “That’s why we chose to build such a powerful wireless network so every mobile device, ELAN remote and music service works 100 percent of the time no matter where they are trying to access it from, and never slows down no matter how much audio or video streaming the family does.”



The Ultimate (Traditional) Game Room

Imagine the ultimate game room.

Is it the one portrayed in the movie Big with Tom Hanks or maybe a Dave & Busters sports bar in your living room? For me it is Tony Stark’s basement in Iron Man (he has the best toys). No matter our age, we all get excited at the prospect of a fun game room filled with all of the toys we grew up with and dreamed about.

With today’s technology and collaboration between integrators and designers, game rooms no longer encapsulate just a big screen TV and a pool table. They have evolved as have the architecture and technology that go into them. And they serve a vital purpose for families, entertainers, even collectors.

In this space, the Lucas family of Dallas created perhaps the ultimate game room—bridging both today’s digital and non-digital pursuits. Jim Lucas, a.k.a. the second coolest dad in the world (after mine) built the 21st-century backyard ballpark (featured previously) and also wanted a room that included ageless toys and games, combined with modern technology. The Lucas family works hard and plays hard—and nothing is more important to Jim and Mitzi Lucas than time spent with their sons.

The Game Room Goods

Centrally located, well-lit, and flanked by loggia, this game room beckons and compels visitors with great views to the backyard baseball field. Adjacent is a stairwell that leads to the wine cellar.

The room is stocked with a series of pinball machines, slot machines, arcade games and a shuffleboard table. The pool table does double-duty for ping-pong. The Lucas’ decorated the space to blend the game systems with paintings from one of their favorite artists and a very cool antique ladder over the shuffleboard table.

Complementing the always fun and endearing games are dual 58-inch Panasonic Pro plasma TVs and multiple speakers, powered and controlled by a Crestron home automation system. The Lucas’ can use a custom-programmed 13-inch in-wall touch panel, hard button MLX-2 Crestron LCD handheld remote, or iPad control to operate the systems. This multiple control platforms allows flexibility for the family and guests. The system can play multiple sources, including DirecTV, Apple TV, and the high-end Kaleidescape music server simultaneously through each of the displays, so the family can watch the game on TV and engage with the room’s many fun pursuits.

Multi-screen Multi-taskers

The second portion of the game room dedicated to the kids’ area focuses on video gaming and movies. It boasts three TVs for multiple gaming and sources controlled through the Crestron system. Controlled by a sturdy Crestron ML-600 MiniLDC remote and completed with iPad /iPhone control, the system allows the Lucas boys to play a variety of video games and also watch TV or movies simultaneously.

The room also has a massive movie collection and game area for chess, Legos and just about any fun game from your childhood.

A Retrofit Nightmare

All of this fun didn’t come easy. One of the specialties of my company, Dallas-based Eco High Fidelity, includes inheriting existing systems all over the country. Countless times in Texas, California and Hawaii we have encountered systems with excellent equipment but plagued with service issues and antiquated installation techniques. Our team was the third integrator in several years to inherit a challenging system plagued with existing issues. The house is also near a century old, in historic Dallas, with thick plaster walls and multiple floors. In short, it’s a retrofit nightmare.

First we worked out the bugs by overhauling the existing Crestron home automation system. Jane Hughes of Integrating Control Systems, alongside nephew and Eco High Fidelity lead technician Jonathan Hughes, evolved and updated the program to eliminate bugs and added iPad control. Jonathan also helped design the Pakedgevirtual cell wireless network that brought everything together and provided a solid backbone for the system. The existing gear and new equipment stabilized the Crestron system and allowed us to focus on the fun of customizing the house.

Fostering Family Unity

The Lucas house is a great example of backyard living and indoor entertainment. The environments they have created are not only full of very cool technological solutions, they are a great example of family togetherness.

This house sets the bar by creating an environment where the kids can play and the adults can have fun, too. In this day where there are many options outside of the house, the Lucas family has created an awesome space for family entertainment and togetherness. Did I mention they have shuffleboard?

TecHome Selling Point

Game rooms like this may seem excessive, but  they can be great selling point for buyers interested in raising families with wholesome values and unity, entertaining their friends, and yes, let’s face it: showing off a bit (or a lot). They’re also great places for homeowners to display collections—whether art or arcade games—and giving in to nostalgia.

Tommy Kissell is the owner of Eco High Fidelity, an electronics and solar integration firm in the Dallas area with a focus on environmentally friendly and energy-efficient home solutions.