Serial entertainers Jack and Kathleen Jackson turned their unfinished basement into the ultimate party oasis with designs and technologies pulled right from their favorite bars and nightclubs.
PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA – Guitar aficionado Jack Jackson and his wife Kathleen throw one hell of a party — just ask the 80-plus people who attended their 2013 New Year’s bash, held in their new ultra-trendy, state-of-the-art basement lounge in their Hunterdon County, New Jersey home. The Jackson’s “basement” can go toe-to-toe with any posh Manhattan nightclub thanks to its custom-built bar, LED lighting accents, lounge area with a wraparound leather sofa and electric fireplace, 120-bottle wine cellar, ‘pillar of fire’ column with drink rests, a smoke machine and laser lights. But according to Jackson, the icing on this mini-nightclub’s cake is something that’s vital for a long night of partying — the room’s lighting, three TVs and two zones of audio are all super easy to control right from an iPad through the ELAN® g! Entertainment and Control System!
“We were used to going out to bars and clubs, but we love to entertain at home, too,” said Jack Jackson. “We’ve spent lots of time in Las Vegas, New York City, South Beach, you name it. So we used ideas from those places in the design of our new underground entertaining oasis, like the TVs in the bar area, the LED light strips underneath the marble bar, the pillar drink rests and the extra bar space on a separate wall. All the little accents make this a space most people don’t expect to see in a home. When we throw a party we want our guests to feel as if they are out at a bar or nightclub and let go of any reservations they might normally have when visiting a friend’s home.”
That’s not to say that entertaining guests is Jackson’s only hobby. After a brief addiction to the videogame Rock Band, he developed a strong desire to learn how to play a real guitar. In just a few months that desire turned into an entirely new pursuit — he outfitted a home workshop and began building his own custom guitars. From carving and painting the bodies to researching the right electronics and neck stocks to get the sound he wanted, this unexpected hobby taught him how to make something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts — a lesson he utilized when designing the new lounge.
“I love exploring new technologies and new hobbies, and I got really into Rock Band after I bought it for my kids,” he explained. “Kathleen and I would have competitions against our friends, and eventually I decided I needed to learn how to play the songs for real. I bought a Fender Mexican Stratocaster at Guitar Center, and when I wanted a second guitar, I decided to build it instead of buying another. Since then I’ve built more than a dozen guitars. I outfitted my home workshop solely for this purpose, and learning this craft taught me a lot about how a bunch of small parts can combine to create something incredible. It’s really a beautiful thing when everything comes together just how you pictured it.”
“If you compare the first guitar I built to the later models, it’s obvious that I learned a lot as I went along. It’s stunning how much difference a particular type of wood, or even the wood’s age, can make to the guitar’s sound and appearance. I approached the lounge design with this same idea, that the materials are as important as the implementation. So Kathleen and I enlisted the help of professionals to assist in choosing the best woods, countertops, tiling, cabinetry, decorations and electronics, and together we succeeded in breathing new life into an essentially dead space.”
The custom remodeler who built the lounge, helped design the space and suggested the materials, Joseph Pastore, had previously worked with Jackson to design his music studio and home gym, which are both located adjacent to the new lounge. To ensure all the electronics worked correctly and would make throwing parties easier than ever, Jackson hired a local custom integrator, 360 Media Innovations, to install the ELAN g! System, the in-ceiling speakers, the wall-mounted TVs, and integrate the lighting. This was 360 Media’s second job with Jackson as well, having wired and installed several in-wall speakers in the music studio.
After completing the new renovation, Jack and Kathleen needed to put their own special twist on the beverages they serve, so they embarked on yet another new hobby — brewing their own beer and bottling their own wine. With a fully stocked bar, two beer taps, a professional bar fridge with a selection of craft beers and the temperature-controlled wine cellar, they created what is quite literally the most state-of-the-art bar in their town.
“I like having things that no one else has,” he declared, “which is why I’ve built replicas of Eddie Van Halen’s legendary white ‘Frankenstrat’, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar, and perhaps the most famous of them all, Eric Clapton’s ‘Daphne’. That’s why I wanted the lounge to be so professional and uniquely designed that no one has seen anything like it in a home, and that’s exactly what all our guests have said. Everything is gorgeous, from the bar to the tiled floor to the lounge furniture; I can tap my iPhone to change the TV, music and lights; and my music studio is just a few feet away with all my guitars on display. Between the bar, the lounge and the studio, our home has become much more than just another house.”
According to Kathleen Jackson, in order to maintain the feel of a real bar, eliminating wall clutter was a must-have feature. The g! System delivered in spades, letting them control the lounge’s lights, TVs and music from an iPad Mini or an iPhone. The custom integrators were able to move all the light switches into a separate room on a single large master control panel, so the Jacksons never have to use the individual light switches. Instead, they use the iPad Mini or two multi-button keypads located in the stairwell and behind the bar to activate pre-programmed lighting ‘scenes’ such as Lounge or Party that turn on or dim specific lighting fixtures throughout the room.
“Every design aspect resulted from a carefully considered decision,” she explained, “including removing the light switches and using in-ceiling speakers as opposed to obtrusive, boxy bookshelf or floor standing speakers. And along with the appearance, the ease of operation had to be absolutely seamless. We know that when a party starts, everyone is going to be coherent and quick thinking, but let’s be honest — we might not be in the same state at the end of the night! Again, it’s just like if you were out at a club. So we needed a way to control the lights, the TVs and the music that is super simple, and would also make it easy to shut everything off when the party dies down. With the ELAN g! System we can use the iPad Mini’s nice big touchscreen to change the channels, turn up the volume and dim the lights, and when the night’s over all it takes is a single button to turn everything off at once.”
To give the Jacksons complete control, 360 Media programmed the ELAN g! System so that all three TVs can display the same video or show different channels, just like a commercial bar, and the speakers in the bar can play different audio than the speakers in the lounge. That way they can have a sporting event on the main TV with hi-quality audio, and still have music playing by the bar. And all it takes is a few taps on the iPad Mini!
“At our 2013 New Years party everyone was trying to be the DJ, using the iPad Mini to change the music through the g! System,” Kathleen continued. “When our first guests arrived we showed them how to use it for 30 seconds, and that’s all it took for everyone to be able to use it all night. Plus the guys from 360 Media set up eight different lighting scenes for us, so there’s a special setting to bring up the bar lights, or for when we move the couches and have a dance floor, or for when we aren’t using the bar at all and are sitting in the lounge area. It’s so easy!
“Those types of nuances in the audiovisual and lighting system perfectly complement the design of the whole room. I set out to create a space where people would continue to discover new accents and flourishes throughout the night and even each time they revisit the house. It’s the little things — tiling that continues up the wall around the TV and fireplace, and also continues onto the step under the bar; coat hooks under the bar that you’d never expect in a home — that catch people off guard and keep them experiencing the room differently time after time.”
According to Jack, one of their favorite things about the ELAN g! System is that they didn’t have to break the bank to get everything they wanted. They were able to start off integrating the AV and lighting in the lounge, and then still have the ability to expand the system and control other subsystems in the future.
“We like it so much that we’re planning to grow the system and control the TVs and music upstairs,” he added, “and possibly tie in the HVAC and security system and add cameras, garage door controls and electronic door locks. We want to be able to look in on the house when we’re on vacation and have that extra peace of mind. It also makes things much more convenient, like if a package is being delivered we could open the garage door from anywhere in the world, and also set the outdoor lights to go on at night so it’s not obvious that no one is home. We know that automating the lights, heating and air conditioning could help us save energy and money, and it can even let us set up the house so it’s ready when we return from vacation. All things considered, the renovation has transformed our home into an entirely new house.”