Imagine using a telephone anywhere in the world to start the fireplace or hot tub at your home.
Sound futuristic? It's not. Houses are being planned and actually built now with these and other features that seem to belong to the world of Buck Rogers.
Or Superman. Isn't that where most of us heard of krypton? "We used lasers of krypton, which are brilliant red, and argon, which are blue/green, in a home in Dallas," lighting expert Tully Weiss said.
Initially, Weiss was called in to illuminate his client's art collection. "Then we discussed using lasers as an art form," Weiss recalled. "Usually, you see lasers, as in a disco, moving erratically, but we used them in a stationary way."
Pioneer in Lasers
The result: colorful, seemingly fixed wall and ceiling patterns in light and, in the living room, what Weiss describes as "the beam-me-up effect," lights that looked something like those on TV's long-running sci-fi show "Star Trek," allowing a character to move from planet to spaceship simply by standing underneath the beam.
Like those TV characters, Weiss was a pioneer when he installed those lasers in the Dallas house. Now that "architectural lighting" has become the subject of an annual show that will be held today through Tuesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and now that Mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed this week "Lighting Week," Weiss has some followers.
Among them: Malibu builder Wayne Newhouse, who is planning to use lasers in an 11,000-square-foot Laguna Beach house expected to be under construction in July.
Newhouse also expects to use computerized draperies that open and close with the rise and fall of the mercury.
"And the beds will rotate, at the push of a button, to catch sight of the fireplace, TV or ocean," he said. "There will also be a TV screen hooked up to a computer in the kitchen, so recipes can be called up there in a hurry."
Speaking of screens, Dietmar Kruger's Ardsley Construction Co. in West Los Angeles has worked extensively with video recorders, both in professional recording studios and in private residences.
"So, say the owner of the house has 10 TV sets and is in the movie business. We're able to arrange it so he can watch the same program in the kitchen when he makes a sandwich, as is showing in the den, and he can make adjustments (to the tape) at any location," Kruger said.
Terry Kandel, an electronics expert who works with Ardsley, has installed many sophisticated remote-control systems for stereos as well as for televisions. "So you can change the radio or TV or rewind a disk in different rooms off the same system," he explained.
"I also installed a TV in the ceiling of a Century City home, and the screen--which is about 50-by-72 inches--goes up and down hydraulically."
A voice-activated, computerized device that he is hoping to install soon is called "Butler in a Box." "You give it a name like Seymour, and then you say, 'Seymour, turn on my lights upstairs.' And the lights come on," he said.
"It can wake you up, arm your security system, answer and dial your phone. It will have 32 programmable voice memories and 32 timed memories. So, you can say, 'Seymour, dial my mother,' and it will. We think it will be a great device for the handicapped."
Dimming from a Distance
The device is similar to one that Jim O'Donnell, Ardsley's plumbing contractor, put in his own home. Using his friend Joe Dallaria's computer design, O'Donnell built a system that enables him to dim his lights, open his front door, turn off his security alarm and operate many other things through his telephone.
"He just punches in a sequence of numbers on the phone from, say, my office and his lights will dim at his home," Kruger explained. "He also has a cabin at Lake Arrowhead (where he put in such a device). Before he goes up there, he calls and 'tells' the furnace and the lights to go on, so it's light and warm when he arrives." Said O'Donnell: "I couldn't stand walking into a freezing cabin. I had to do something!"
Using the same approach, O'Donnell is installing a hot tub in Sting's Malibu house so all the rock singer has to do to heat the water when he is in another city is to phone home. And Newhouse plans to use a similar technique to light the fireplaces in the Laguna house.
Such amenities can carry hefty price tags, which until now, only people like Sting could afford. Newhouse's client is a wealthy real estate developer who owns a 26-passenger jet to take him from his office in Phoenix to his "second home" planned in Laguna Beach. Weiss's client was an art connoisseur who put no ceiling on what he was willing to spend to light up his collection and to experiment with lasers. The lighting project wound up costing him $300,000.
Few people can buy such costly toys, but there are some products on the market now that operate much like O'Donnell's and are priced more for the average person.