Mad for media
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, April 2007
Prime time is a push
button away in these technology-packed homes
massive movie screen in the Bruce and Patricia
MacCormack’s Sudden Valley home drops down from the
ceiling. In Michael Hughes’ Bellingham place, it mounts
to the wall in all its flat-screen, plasma glory. Though
the ambience may differ, both spaces define “high-tech
home theater” — and both will have you longing for one
of your own.
the theater room of Bellingham doctor Michael Hughes and
you simultaneously walk into the past and the future.
With a mix of old-school cinema touches and
up-to-the-moment gadgetry, the space is both nostalgic
and completely au courant in today’s media-saturated
Michael, 39, and his children Hannah, 13, and Nathan,
12, share the space — a first-floor master bedroom in
the home’s original design — with high tech and retro
toys galore. The top-of-the-line plasma television and
Bose sound system mix with an old fashioned popcorn
machine and 6-foot-tall arcade game.
sand-colored walls are punctuated by vibrant movie
posters, from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to "March
of the Penguins." But the true star of the room is the
Mounted on the wall above a dark wood console table
housing all the electronics, the Philips television
commands center stage. Its crisp high definition, when
properly installed, stuns the uninitiated.
have to have the right cable and the proper cable box,
but a lot of people don’t know that,” says Michael.
“They learn it the hard way when they get it home and it
doesn’t look as good as they think it’s going to.”
and wires are key to a successful home cinema, but nary
a cord is visible at the Hughes home. Everything is
tucked away underneath the carpet, behind the moldings,
and inside the walls.
juggling multiple remotes here either. A Logitech
Harmony universal remote clicks into a dock atop the
console, replacing umpteen old remotes now packed away.
“It’s even easy for the kids to use,” says Michael.
“It’ll switch the receiver to the DVD, turn the DVD on,
and turn the TV to the proper channel for the DVD, all
with one button.”
any seat in the room and sink into the butter-smooth
leather finish on either of two chairs or the matching
sofa held aloft behind them on a clever, carpeted riser.
The couch seats three, but five adults have been known
to squeeze onto it.
Creative touches liven the space, from the “exit” sign
above the door to aisle lights that glow dimly when the
overhead lights are lowered.
Burgundy velvet drapes can be drawn over wood blinds to
completely darken the room. “For fun, we talk about also
putting a curtain across the TV wall,” says Michael.
“Nathan wants it to be electronic, so it can be moved
There’s even a row of glass canisters housing
Raisinettes, Skittles and Junior Mints. What more could
a kid — of any age — want?
kids also want a soda pop dispenser,” says Michael with
a smile. “But I like the new carpet too much to get
Sharing the room
tantalizing media menu in Bruce and Patricia
MacCormack’s Sudden Valley abode starts, appropriately
enough, in the kitchen. A stack of electronic equipment
hiding behind a cabinet lets the couple enjoy music
throughout the home. They can dial in Billie Holiday in
the sauna or Mozart on the deck, James Taylor in the
office or Eric Clapton in the garage.
is on all the time,” says Patricia, as Bruce pulls out a
Sony remote that resembles a miniscule laptop and sets
it on the countertop. “We listen to NPR most of the
time,” he says, pushing different buttons on the lighted
screen, “but this can run CDs, digital music from
Comcast, or FM stations.”
Originally from England, the couple has lived in Sudden
Valley for 24 years. In their 60s, they are retired,
though Bruce keeps busy on the board of the Whatcom
Museum of History and Art, and is chair of the
Bellingham Angel Group, among other community-centered
projects. Their current 4,500-square-foot home, which
Bruce calls “formal contemporary” style, was built in
1991 and enjoys lush views of Lake Whatcom and Lake
10-room and 2-deck speaker scheme was in place when he
and Patricia bought the house four years ago, but the
home’s true media epicenter was entirely Bruce’s
set in the hillside home’s lower level, which also
features big windows flooded with verdant views.
Visitors head into a large, open room with a
mirror-lined bar at the back. The sparkle from recessed
lights hitting mirrors draws the eye, making it easy to
miss the Hitachi front projector affixed to the ceiling
above two leather couches and a roomy leather chair.
Black-out blinds banish any bright light from outside.
one of five remotes at the ready and, with the push of a
button, a massive screen, ten feet wide and five feet
high, lowers from the ceiling to conceal the fireplace
speakers and two subwoofers hidden in the ceiling and
bulkhead complete the audio impact and visual spectacle
of the setup, complete with high-definition capability
and a SACD or super audio compact disc player. It makes
broadcast performers sound as though they’re playing
live in the room.
Bowl Sundays have seen as many as 20 people fit
comfortably in the space, enjoying a game so life-like,
it is as though they watched from the stands, minus the
chill. But films are the main reason for this impressive
watch a lot of movies,” says Bruce. Running through his
DVDs, he lists a few titles: "The Candidate," "A
Beautiful Mind," "Casablanca," "Three Days of the
Condor," "Syriana" and a superbit version of "Lawrence
of Arabia." His favorite is "Blade Runner."
Company often comes over to watch with the MacCormacks,
sinking luxuriously into the eggplant-hued couches and
chair set atop a bold area rug of purple, mauve and
taupe. “We enjoy sharing the room with our friends,”
says Bruce. “It isn’t just for us.”
Setting up the technology exactly the way Bruce
envisioned it was a challenge. Beams in the ceiling run
horizontal to the extensive cables’ path, necessitating
an awkward process of weaving wires through an outer
wall and feeding them back inside. “Installation was a
very frustrating experience,” says the technophile. In
addition, the state-of-the-art setup extends to a
sophisticated security system.
worth it in the end? “Judge for yourself,” Bruce says,
pushing a button, as the screen — and the rest of the
room — bursts into life.
Stacee Sledge is a
| Resume |
Clients & Projects |