How They Did It: Villa Stellarum

Ed Wenck
Mar 12, 2020


Winner, Best Lighting System, Americas 2019
Finalist, Best Integrated Home, Level IV, Americas 2019

Chris Pearson, founder and president of the Texas-based integration firm Service TECH, vividly remembers the work that went into the project dubbed “Villa Stellarum:” “That was about a 16,000-square-foot-house, built over two years,” he recalls. “We’ve probably got 1,500 man-hours into that house — easily.”

During the design phase of the home’s lighting system (which eventually picked up the top 2019 CEDIA Award in the Americas region), Pearson and his crew were figuring out technology that was then new. “We weren’t lighting newcomers by any means,” says Pearson, “but this was cutting edge stuff at the time for Ketra and QS integration. We had to get savvy with Ketra and Lutron at the same time, and ensure they seamlessly worked together.” (This project was undertaken prior to Lutron’s acquisition of Ketra.)

A View of the Stars

That they do. With a single button on a keypad, the homeowner can indulge his passion for stargazing. “When the client goes into his home observatory, he taps a ‘telescope’ command. We've automated all the shades and drapery along with the luminaires, and that button darkens all the windows that are motorized, turning the house into a darkroom where all the lights that are left on are set to a low red dim to minimize glare.”

What’s more, the homeowner can send the view from his telescope to a variety of displays. “All the video is 4K Crestron digital media,” explains Pearson. “We've got a 4K video feed from his telescope that goes to his Sony 4K theater, so he can view things there and control his telescope with an iPad.”

Pearson and his team also integrated other systems into the home (including distributed audio and the aforementioned dedicated home cinema), but the attention to lighting design shone brightest (pun intended).

“The toughest part of this project was really balancing the lights,” says Pearson “There's a lot of artwork, there's a lot of stone detail. So getting everything aimed correctly and the right lens, just as it should be — and of course doing that at the appropriate time of day — getting those scenes perfect required a lot of work.”

Lighting Takes the Lead

For Pearson, lighting has become a massive part of his balance sheet: “I’d say lighting and shades, along with fixtures, make up probably half our business now.” Pearson began to see things shifting for his company roughly five years ago, as he recalls. “We had three full time programmers, and I said, ‘Guess what, guys, the future for us is not automation, the future is lighting controls and fixtures.’ We had always done a bit of lighting integration as far as controls, but not the actual design — and we certainly weren’t heavy into shades and drapery. So, I brought on resources, I brought on a lighting designer, we brought on CAD people to do all of the fixtures and specifications, the different layers of these projects.

“Right now, we've got seven people in our lighting fixtures and shades department,” says Pearson.

Pearson’s team, armed with their ever-expanding breadth of expertise in lighting design, now speaks a language that architects and interior designers understand. “Our Vice President Shannon Bush and I are just one class away from our own lighting designer certifications. Once you know how lighting can be done correctly, it's easy to defend. And when you can properly say, using geometry, why a particular downlight is not going to work for an application, it's compelling. You're credible because you're asking about artwork, you're asking about the wardrobe, and ceiling heights and distance from a wall.”

All of that knowledge comes to bear in the final result at Villa Stellarum, a lighting design which inspired the CEDIA judging panel to describe the system with a single word: “Stunning.”

Service TECH, Inc.
CEDIA Member Since 2008

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CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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