April 9, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally published in March/April OmahaHome

The quarter-million-dollar, 8,800-watt Steinway & Sons speaker system is very visible in the “Man Cave” section of the Echo Systems store because, well, guys still think 7-foot-tall speakers are cool to look at. Even the bank of 11 Steinway 800-watt amplifiers (with enough power for an outdoor heavy-metal concert) is visible off to the side of the bar, which has two televisions in case, as Echo’s marketing coordinator Doug Dushan says, “you don’t want to crane your neck” to look over the $43,000 pool table to see the Man Cave’s big screen TV, which is maybe 20 feet from the even-bigger-screened TV over by the custom-built shuffle board.

But the one-percenter excesses of the Cave aren’t really what the new Echo Systems store is about, says Dushan, a longtime home tech expert who also serves as the company’s senior sales consultant. Most of this complete luxury-home layout is filled with technology you don’t see. Think of the new Echo Systems space just north of 120th and L streets (previously occupied by the company’s lighting design store) as a permanent Street of Dreams home mashed up with a 21st-century House of Tomorrow. “You’re walking through a million-dollar home and that’s obvious. You have the beautiful light fixtures, you have the high-end art and sculpture,” Dushan says. “But we’re really focused on giving people the best technology in their home with minimal visual impact. We’re about technology, but in a house, the technology needs to be concealed technology.”

Beyond the Man Cave, subtlety begins to rule. The spacious kitchen is tasteful luxury, but not really awe-inspiring (Full disclosure, though: the writer is a dude). But then Dushan starts pressing buttons on the barely-visible wall switch. One button pours bright LED light onto the counter areas for food preparation. Another button lowers the overhead lighting and raises floor and recess lighting for a dinner ambiance. Another push of a button and the lighting shifts to nighttime mode—just enough light on the floor to get you safely to a midnight snack.

Mixed inconspicuously with the recessed lights above are two banks of speakers. Hidden behind another wall is a subwoofer big enough for car audio competitions. You can preset the myriad lights and speakers to any level and configuration you choose.

In the dining room—so that there’s absolutely no sign of speakers—the sound equipment is installed behind the walls. Above the table, the ceiling is specially designed to transmit even higher-frequency sounds without visible tweeters.

Push one button and the mirror above the fireplace turns into a 65-inch TV. If that’s too small a screen, you can push another button to lower a 110-inch motorized movie screen. Again, the projector itself is barely visible on the back wall of the room. In the bedroom, even an acrylic-on-canvas painting rolls up to expose a television.

And then there’s the real movie room, a tri-leveled, 17-seat theater that, with walls of surround-sound speakers on both sides and a screen nearly the size of secondary theaters in a multiplex, makes for an experience “we believe is better than the experience you would get in a commercial theater,” Dushan says.

Dushan queued up a scene from Need for Speed (Again, the writer is a dude). Remember the scene in which the Koenigsegg Agera R flips across the bridge at 200 mph? In this theater, it sounds like the supercar is hurtling right past your head.

More tasteful films are probably pretty good in here, too.

Finally, you exit the faux-home through a room built to look like a patio. Here there’s a large opaque window that, sure, is actually a rear-projection screen for watching movies outside.

The features, both hidden and obvious, are too numerous to mention. And honestly, a bit of envy-fatigue can start to set in after a while.

Dushan says he’s aware that most of us won’t be able to take the store home. (He says he’s hoping he can build just a couple of the amenities into his own place). But, he argues, even if a customer thinks most of the amenities are crazy or out-of-reach, “they might see that one thing that really excites them.”

“This place is a showcase of what’s possible in a home,” he says. “It’s a Street of Dreams home that isn’t going anywhere.”