Motorized Shades, Lighting Control Keys to Great Room’s A/V Greatness
Motorized shades and Lutron control let a Panasonic plasma shine in this soaring family room.

Editor’s Note: This profile of one of our Home of the Year winners originally ran in May of 2012. We’re highlighting past winners in anticipation of the May 2013 release of the new Home of the Year winners. You’ll want to check back in May, because the new winners are awesome.

How do you transform a room unfit for any type of home theater or sound system into the homeowner’s favorite place to entertain? Start with some smart decorating—and add some serious A/V sizzle.

Every part of this 5,100-square-foot home in Union Bridge, Md., had been artfully furnished and decorated… except for the spacious great room. This area had gone virtually untouched for months, outfitted with nothing more than a small TV on a simple stand, a couch, and a few chairs. As the main entertaining space of the house, it was dire need of an upgrade.

Custom electronics firm Gramophone of Timonium, Md., called on its in-house interior designer, Bethany Johnson, to choose paint, light fixtures and a furniture layout that would make the audio and video sound and look its best.

For example, windows surrounding the fireplace could have introduced too much light into the space, which would have washed out the picture on the owners’ new 65-inch 3D Panasonic TV. It didn’t help that the TV chosen for the space was a plasma-based display. “Plasma TVs are noted for their great contrast and vibrant colors, which is why we chose it, but the Achilles’ heel is that they are highly reflective,” says Gramophone sales manager Lee Kirby-Smith. The solution: motorized blackout window shades custom-made by Lutron Electronics for all but the crescent-shaped windows. These shades can be controlled together or individually via a handheld remote.

To curb the reflection caused by artificial lighting, Gramophone repositioned some of the existing recessed ceiling fixtures, added decorative wall sconces to minimize the need for the overhead lights, and tied everything to a wireless Lutron RadioRA 2 control system. This system allows the homeowners to dim and brighten groups of lights to predefined intensity levels by touching one button on a handheld URC MX-980 remote control. An entertain button, for example, dims the recessed ceiling fixtures so nothing shines on the TV screen, but brightens the wall sconces so there’s enough light for guests to mingle. Gramophone also programmed all on and all off buttons into the remote.

The cathedral ceiling and hardwood flooring, meanwhile, were doing the audio system no favors. To minimize echo and reflection caused by these hard surfaces and so dialogue would sound more intelligible and effects more impactful, Gramophone hung three fabric panels on the back wall and added a large area rug and a big leather sectional. The rugs, couches and window shades dressed up the space, while optimizing the performance of the room’s new big-screen TV and surround-sound system.

Like make-overs and overhauls? Check out some other media rooms that have been fixed up:
Big Basement Makeover


Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

Systems & Equipment

Display: Panasonic
Speakers: Velodyne, Definitive Technology
Lighting Control: Lutron
Remote Control: URC


Room Size (L x W x H) : 15 x 20 x 20 feet
Cost: $100,000 (includes equipment, labor, furnishings and decor)
Project Duration: 6 months
Construction: Retrofit


  • Custom-made blackout shades fit perfectly over each window.
  • Furnishings and A/V equipment installed and sold as a package.
  • Fireplace and 3D TV combine as the visual focal point.

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