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Create a new smart home, rescue home automation systems or get support to ensure smart home systems deliver the best experience.
+44 (0) 20 7193

The home cinema is the big Hollywood celebrity of the smart home specification game. Everybody knows them, most people like them, and you don’t have to put them in the middle of a complicated plot to get people interested.



Before we start – Welcome to Smart Spotlight

Smart spotlight is a regular feature where we’ll be taking a closer look at one of the aspects of a smart home for homeowners and home designers alike. We’ll be asking what it is, why you might want one, and what you might want to think about when buying or specifying one. It’s more of an introduction to ideas than a technical deep dive. Either way, we hope you like it.



The rise of the smart home cinema

For as long as I can remember, TVs have stood firm at the top of the home appliance popularity stakes. Most of us spend longer staring at them than our beloved ovens, fridges, and washing machines put together and demand for them transcends class and earnings. Millionaires and minimum wagers alike are wont to invest significant portions of their income in getting the right one.

It’s probably no surprise then that their descendants – smart TVs and home cinema systems - have led the way for smart tech, selling hundreds of millions when many smart home appliances are still pushing to manage a hundred thousand.

Like televisions before them, smart TVs have diversified to satisfy every niche and income bracket. While you can grab a cheap 'smart' TV for £200, the smart home cinema and its elusive sibling, the media room have risen to occupy the upper echelons of the AI-TV market.



Meet the home cinema

Premium offerings offer far more than a massive screen on one wall: Smart media management, lighting, heating, air conditioning and audio compliment mind-blowing interior design and some serious screen-seating comfort to create a unique experience in front of the screen. Meanwhile, ultra-HD TV, multimedia services, gaming and smart home control give a whole host of spectacular options on the screen.

As you may have guessed, home cinemas and media rooms occupy significant spaces within the home. When designing a home cinema as a professional, be prepared to match the impressive piece of tech that occupies that one wall with something equally breath-taking between the other three. For many homeowners, the home cinema is an opportunity to express their wild and hedonistic side within the home. Think snazzy lighting, super cool décor and ridiculously comfortable seats that are often prone to vibrate and change temperatures on command. Some go for smooth and sophisticated, instead of hedonistically overloaded, while others opt for the traditional dark walls and subdued lights. When the film comes on, it’s all in the dark anyway, right?



So what’s a media room?

We know what you’re thinking. A media room sounds like somewhere the PM might tell the nation about hands, face and space, or that place in every spy film with an unfeasibly large number of TV screens. In fact, there’s very little to distinguish it from the home cinema.

Despite the formal-sounding name, media rooms are often cosier and more relaxed than home cinemas in layout. More like living rooms where families can be together than theatres where audiences sit in rows. While the cinema / TV is still a major focus, media rooms often incorporate other home comforts and sources of entertainment, from VR goggles to mini dance floors to pool and football tables.

All it literally means is a space where people can gather to enjoy high-quality media.



Why have a home cinema – The benefits

This could be one of the shortest benefits sections in this series. While it takes a while to explain why one might want smart air conditioning, the benefits of a home cinema are obvious. I can sense the film buffs and binge-watchers getting excited as I write. For the sake of appearance though, I’ll lay out the main benefit:

The home cinema is your own private cinema...

...Not to mention games room, and super-hedonistic TV space. You can decorate it how you want, enjoy all the comfort you want and watch whatever you want, all at a cinematic scale with first-rate audio and visual tech.



Who is it for?

As already mentioned, film buffs and Netflix bingers will love this option, as well as gamers who want to level up their playing time. But the home cinema and media room is also a great option for those who like to share family time enjoying something a bit different. Those who like to entertain can also get a lot out of a home cinema, inviting friends round for a blockbuster night or simply a supersized viewing of the latest Goggle Box episode.

Smart cinemas and media rooms can also be useful for businesses, providing for unforgettable pitches and presentations that competitors can’t match. They can be especially useful for highly visual high-ticket industries such as design, advertising or holiday sales.



Choosing and specifying a home cinema – Need-to-knows

The main point to make about home cinemas is that, unlike many smart home options, they require a big space commitment. In most cases they will require their own room, although they can integrate well with games rooms and dance floors, which can benefit from a shared or linked sound system. These would generally be installed behind the cinema seats, which are often in rows or a horseshoe shape facing the screen.

Media rooms are generally more flexible and can range from fairly focused setups to living rooms with a little extra investment in audio-visual tech.

To a greater or lesser extent in both cases, allowances for sight lines and audio fidelity place strict limits on some design aspects of the room. Meanwhile, the desire for a little flare in this room can make for some exciting and demanding design briefs. Lighting design and light exclusion are also fundamental to a good home cinema.



Home cinemas and media rooms are highly desirable and very enjoyable. For home developers and designers, they’re easy to sell, but hard to specify. The benefits and the type of people who want them are both obvious. However, there are many occasions when layout or cost may require the owner to compromise on their idea. For new builds, layouts can be designed, but constraints are significant compared to other aspects of the smart home.

If you’re an owner and you really want a home cinema or a developer committed to providing one, we can support you to create an enjoyable highlight in almost all cases though. Find out more about our home cinema and audio visual offerings on our dedicated page.  When you’re in the room eating popcorn and enjoying your favourite movie on the huge screen, you’ll know that it was worth it!


Images co. Christian Collins and Light Tape UK


Find out if a home cinema or media room is right for you or your client

If all this talk of home cinema has given you a taste for movie magic in your home, book in a meeting to start planning yours below.

Whether it’s for the environment’s sake or because of the ever-increasing cost of power in 2022, saving energy at home has never seemed so important. Efforts are being redoubled to reduce the effects of climate change and energy prices are being pushed up to new heights by the energy crisis. Both of these things can be aided by effective use of smart home tech.

The good news is that savings from this are very impressive at the moment and set to get even better as technology advances and use becomes more widespread.



The numbers at present (Summer 2022)

I’m going to start by warning you that there’s a lot of bad news in this first section. Everything gets rosier as we look at the current and future potential of smart home technology further down the page though.

Let’s kick off with a review of recent developments that could come as a big shock to many:

In the year 2000, fossil fuels supplied 80% of the world’s total primary energy consumption.

What do you think the percentage was in 2019 after the Kyoto Protocol took hold and The Paris Agreement had been reached?




That’s according to a report by Professor Mark Diesendorf, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTech Sydney

It's a sad state of affairs. In 2019, fossil fuels supplied more of the world’s total primary energy consumption than they had nineteen years earlier. That number outlines the urgency with which we need to alter our energy habits in order to promote real, positive change.



Fortunately, the UK has enshrined an optimistic 78% emissions cut target by 2035 in law (compared to 1990 levels). Other countries are beginning to make equally positive commitments in this once ignored area. Most notably the US, earlier in August 2022.
Professor Diesendorf says we need to make unprecedented lifestyle changes to achieve these cuts. Governments and industry can shoulder some of the burden. However, many changes need to take place at home, and smart techn will be one of the major factors.



The 2 big changes needed in British homes

Around a quarter of the UK’s energy consumption is accounted for by domestic use. The industrial sector has cut its consumption by around two-thirds since the early 1970s. unfortunately though, British homes are still consuming the same amount as they did seven decades ago. Serious change is needed, and there are two big steps to be taken:

1.      Insulation


The importance of insulating homes to energy efficiency has been known for a long time. Yet despite the issue becoming more pressing and innovations making insulation more widely available, installations have fallen off in recent years. This is largely due to a lack of government funding or initiatives. Around 63% of household energy consumption is used for heating and as few as 9% of qualifying homes have modern solid wall insulation. Hence, it is clear that more focus and investment can make a big difference in this area. A well-insulated house consumes around 15% less energy overall than one without insulation.


2.      Smart homes

On the subject of heating, smart thermostats and heating controls can cut a household’s energy requirement by 10-12% on average by reducing heating bills. This simple change could cut energy consumption by almost as much as modern insulation installation could. That said, we would always advise investing in both.
This simple, smart eco strategy is only the start of what can be done with domotics (smart home tech) though...



How do smart homes save energy?


87% lighting energy savings from smart occupancy lights

Installing smart lights that are only on when they’re needed slashed lighting energy use by 87% for King’s College London’s halls of residence. These few buildings alone save 34.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually as part of an institution-wide carbon cutting drive. It acts as a clear example of just how much of a change smart home technology can make to emissions and the environment.


Emissions savings from smart home power management

Energy-efficient Smart home systems can manage the consumption of many household devices. Smart devices chosen over their older equivalents often use a fraction of their energy, managing power and turning off when not in use. Smart plug sockets and similar solutions can smarten up the devices you can't or won't replace, turning them off automatically when not in use too. This could save close to 10% of household energy, which is otherwise used by devices on standby.



The first step toward a smart, sustainable future

These savings – 87% of light energy, 10% of household consumption on standby, 12% on heating – are all impressive on their own. However, they’re only the first chapter in a much bigger story.


“Entering low-power mode”

The new generation of smart devices go beyond cutting energy consumption by being off when not in use. They can reduce it far further by using a fraction of their full energy when partially in use. Imagine a fridge that only cools the parts where it knows there is food. Think of a laptop that lets you type a document in low power mode before waking up fully to run something more demanding. These aren’t distant dreams. I’m writing this blog on just such a laptop and we’re already specifying a wide range of super-smart appliances for our customers.


Saving the world in synchronicity

Synergy with other innovations takes the story further. Next-generation smart homes can save supermarket trips by reordering shopping and having it delivered by efficient drones. Meanwhile, smart boilers and batteries in future homes will have a big role in solving the storage problems of renewable energy. Tomorrow’s homes could loan each other energy when their batteries are too full for efficient generation. They could even plan the amount sold to the grid for maximum effect. Communities in California are looking to combine all these innovations to become energy-independent smart towns. These will save CO2 while cutting the fire risk of long-range energy transfer via pylons in hot weather.



Smart sustainability; a revolution worth joining?

Turning a home into a smart home can be a major step toward environmental sustainability. A well-managed smart home refurbishment can reduce your energy consumption vastly, paying off in carbon terms in only a few years. As well as owners, home designers and creators can make their practices more sustainable and valuable by incorporating smart tech.


Call us and join the revolution today


First thing in the morning, your blinds open to wake you with healthy, natural sunlight. Moments later one of your favourite energising songs fades up on the room’s speakers. Taking your first comfortable steps on a floor that’s pre-warmed to your ideal temperature, you’re drawn to the kitchen by the smell of coffee where your morning latte stands ready for you, made just the way you like it.

You enjoy it and listen to the upbeat music that followed you into the kitchen on shrewdly hidden speakers, getting ready for the day.

This, and a thousand other experiences like it, is what a smart home feels like. It is these experiences that make the investment worthwhile. Once you recognise that, the processes of planning, purchasing and designing a smart home take on different meanings.



Experience-focused planning, briefing and smart home design

Whether you’re a professional working with a client or an individual thinking of investing in your own smart home design or upgrade, you need to begin at the end. Start with the end result that you or the user wants to experience and work your way backward, designing everything based on this.

The key question is, ‘What do you want to happen in your smart home?’

Dig deep enough into this and you should be able to start creating a pretty good plan or brief.

Other important questions to explore include:

These questions require a bit of breaking down, research and consideration to answer, but they are essential to planning a smart home project. Another essential factor is knowing what is possible with smart technology. This may require a professional Smart Systems Integrator or Smart Home Designer. These professionals will help you answer the questions above and more besides. They’ll support you in creating and executing a complete brief for your home or your client’s

Whoever is involved though, it’s good to have some idea of what you want from the start, not least because it will help you pick the right professionals.

Because the ideal smart home is a very subjective thing, it’s important to be clear of what you want and to work with people who will enable and empower your needs and desires, or those of the end user. Some guesswork may be required if the end user isn’t definite, as with commercially built homes for sale. There’s one factor that everyone appreciates in their smart homes though … simplicity.

For more on what to expect from a good, experience-focused smart home, take a look at our page on the subject


The simplest takeaway: Keep it simple

We could write for months on creating an outstanding smart home experience, and it’s a process that is different for every individual.

Among all this complexity, you can begin with one big, easy takeaway though:


With tech, a great experience is often a simple experience.


Tech can involve a lot of fiddling and wasted time for the end user if it is poorly executed. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the irritation of adding plugging something into our TV system, PC or Stereo (delete as age and preference dictates).

One of the main advantages of smart tech is that it provides all the benefits of cutting-edge technology with none of the common irritations. However, it can only do that when it’s correctly installed with a focus on keeping the user’s life as simple as possible.


“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

Leonardo Da Vinci

In practice, this means planning out a complete smart home as a single, experience-focussed project, not a piecemeal series of add-ons.



It’s not all about the shiny tech

Those add-ons usually come in the form of the latest bit of shiny “smart” tech.

Type the words ‘Smart home’ into Amazon and you will get over 50,000 products running from light bulbs to kettles to picture frames. Adding all these things to a home may provide a few buzzes of novelty, but it won’t improve your long-term homelife anywhere near as much as a well-planned smart home designed around your experience though. In fact, a home full of smart gadgets bought without any integration can often make life more complex and fiddly, rather than more enjoyable.

The takeaway here is plan and purchase an integrated smart home solution, rather than a group of gadgets. There are some good off-the-shelf solutions out there, but if these won’t cut it, or they don’t feel personal enough, consider hiring a professional to select and integrate the technologies seamlessly. No need to worry about losing control, a good smart systems integrator or designer will always work around your desires.



Create experiences, don’t add functions

Ultimately, designing a truly enjoyable smart home means creating experiences and solutions that cater for the user. It doesn’t necessarily mean adding functions, but it does mean synchronising them shrewdly.

Take a look at some of the things smart tech can do in a home, then build a picture in your mind of what yours might do for you, and how different systems can come together to give you a particular great experience. If you’re a professional; a designer or architect; consider this when discussing smart tech with your client.




The great thing about truly smart homes is that they learn and adapt to you. This starts with a bespoke installation and continues as your home learns your routines and preferences. The right start can make all the difference here so think carefully on what you want from the start.



Experience-focused smart home design - Takeaways




Design and experience a superior smart home with Baker Stone

At Baker Stone we know how to create the perfect smart home experience. If you’re planning a smart home for yourself or your clients, get in touch today to ensure it feels just right.