Hidden Touch: How to Hide Audio and Video Elements in a Custom Home

There are plenty of solutions to make home tech devices unobtrusive in a custom home

Liviing room with hidden video screen

Of all the technology features in a custom home, it's audiovisual equipment--TVs, projectors, and speakers--that clients most often want to have seamlessly integrated into the design.

July 09, 2020

Ed Wenck headshot

Even though the form of everything from security keypads to thermostats continues to become more understated and elegant, it can still be challenging to make certain tech features unobtrusive in a custom home. That’s especially true when it comes to home entertainment, but an experienced technology integrator can find plenty of solutions. 

The Modern Television

One of the best devices to appear over the last few decades is the fully articulated TV mount, a piece of hardware that allows a TV to lay flat against the wall or be angled in any direction to afford the best view. And, for the end user who wants the TV to disappear entirely when it’s turned off, there are plenty of motorized lifts and drives to choose from. TV sets can appear from the floor or ceiling at the touch of a button. 

Before: living room with video screen obscured

A quality integrator knows all about these products, and he or she has also likely designed custom, built-in, automated sliding doors and cabinet fronts that conceal a screen behind their elegant surfaces. There’s another option, too, for those who decide late in the game that they want to stash a TV. One example: Samsung has introduced “The Frame,” a TV set that looks just like fine art when the screen is not in use as a television. The quality of TVs hidden in bathroom mirrors also continues to improve, and all-weather sets can turn any porch or deck into its own entertainment space.

After-living room with video screen

Surreptitious Sound

And what about a stealth approach to great audio? Options abound here, too.

Custom builders may choose architectural speakers with removable covers. These are fairly common—in-wall or in-ceiling speakers light enough to be supported by mechanisms that clamp straight to the drywall—and are often hidden behind a magnetic grille, which can usually be painted. In-ceiling applications are perfect for distrib­uted, multiroom audio applications, and new cinematic 3D immersive audio formats provide that startling effect of hearing a chopper or spaceship in a movie actually “fly” overhead. “Invisible” speakers are another option.

These gadgets are designed to ensure minimal sonic degradation when they’re covered by almost any wall treatment, from mud to veneers—even plaster. Acoustically transparent fabric offers yet another unique installation. Used in custom applications and home theaters, literally any speaker with the proper baffling can be concealed behind the right fabric covering. In dedicated residential cinema rooms that feature a projector-and-screen setup, the screen itself is acoustically transparent, so the center channel speaker tucked behind it can provide the illusion that a film’s dialogue is emanating right from the characters’ mouths on screen. Finally, builders have options for camouflag­ing audio outdoors. Buried subwoofers, and speakers shaped like rocks are great audio products that can turn the patio into an extra listening room. 

Ed Wenck is the content director for the home technology integration association, CEDIA.

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