Automation Eliminates Tedious Chores for Dallas Homeowners

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By Dwell and Helen Thompson
Closing the blinds for 29 windows? No longer an issue for this couple.

"I wanted something simpler," says Dallas builder Matthew Thomas, "a place to relax after being in other houses all day long." Matthew, who works with his wife, Lindsay, constructing homes, longed for a streamlined life. A residence with an efficient layout was important, but so was a home-automation program that would consolidate and, better yet, perform time-consuming everyday chores, like closing the shades in all the rooms at night. The couple got the chance to turn a dream into reality when they built their first home, a 3,700-square-foot HardiePlank-sided dwelling in a central neighborhood in Dallas.

Automation Eliminates Tedious Chores for Dallas Homeowners - Photo 1 of 6 - The cozy, traditional farmhouse style of this Dallas residence belies the 21st-century automated systems that power it. Among the smart-wired features is a retractable screen door by Phantom Screens. Controlled via a system called RTI (Remote Technologies Interface), it slides upward to connect the breezeway to the pool.

The cozy, traditional farmhouse style of this Dallas residence belies the 21st-century automated systems that power it. Among the smart-wired features is a retractable screen door by Phantom Screens. Controlled via a system called RTI (Remote Technologies Interface), it slides upward to connect the breezeway to the pool.

"It’s a traditional farmhouse on the front, modernized in the back," says architect Todd Hamilton, who, along with Scott Slagle, helped with the four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath project. But that’s where tradition comes to a halt and the future begins: "We wanted our house to be fully automated," says Matthew. 

Automation Eliminates Tedious Chores for Dallas Homeowners - Photo 2 of 6 - Homeowners Matthew and Lindsay Thomas, who build houses for a living, worked with architects Todd Hamilton and Scott Slagle to create their own residence—a vernacular form characterized by horizontal clapboard cladding and a standing-seam, paint-grip roof.

Homeowners Matthew and Lindsay Thomas, who build houses for a living, worked with architects Todd Hamilton and Scott Slagle to create their own residence—a vernacular form characterized by horizontal clapboard cladding and a standing-seam, paint-grip roof.

The couple saw the benefits of automation in quantifiable terms. "We have twenty-nine windows in the house," says Lindsay. That’s nice for natural light during the day, but at night covering that many windows becomes a chore. "It would take me twenty minutes in the morning and another twenty minutes at night to walk around the house pulling down shades," notes Matthew. "That’s forty minutes a day that I freed up with this system."


Automation Eliminates Tedious Chores for Dallas Homeowners - Photo 3 of 6 - The two-story structure includes a simple office furnished with desks and cabinets by Hon Voi. Nearly all of the home’s 29 windows—which help keep cooling and lighting costs to a minimum—are controlled via the RTI app, which consolidates nearly a dozen apps from Lutron, Honeywell, and others.

The two-story structure includes a simple office furnished with desks and cabinets by Hon Voi. Nearly all of the home’s 29 windows—which help keep cooling and lighting costs to a minimum—are controlled via the RTI app, which consolidates nearly a dozen apps from Lutron, Honeywell, and others.

He’s referring to the house’s RTI (Remote Technologies Interface) smart system, which they use to centralize several proprietary apps from Lutron, Big Ass Fans, Honeywell, and others. With a tap on a tablet, the Thomases can close nearly all of the shades in their home. The RTI is in control in other ways, too: It improves the indoor air quality and thermal performance by activating a skylight to release hot air. It also responds to the weather; a fresh air-makeup system measures humidity and temperature every 15 minutes and draws in or expels air based on exterior conditions. Or, if the Thomases are cooking pizza on their 600-square-foot breezeway and mosquitoes want to join them, the system alerts retractable insect screens to drop down and thwart airborne intruders. "It’s like a hub," says Lindsay about the inclusive technology that monitors and controls household functions through intuitive interfaces on their tablet device. 


Automation Eliminates Tedious Chores for Dallas Homeowners - Photo 4 of 6 - The Thomases’ daughter lounges in the living room on a sofa from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

The Thomases’ daughter lounges in the living room on a sofa from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

There are no telltale signs of a high-tech agenda in the one-and-a-half-story gabled house that the Thomases live in with their six-year-old daughter—except for walls largely uncluttered by light switches. The AV and home automation system equipment rack has its own wee space: a niche in the Thomases’ coat closet. Lindsay and Matthew chose the RTI system for its convenience and straightforward ease of use when they built their house in 2015. "Five years ago, it was revolutionary to have home automation systems," says Hamilton. "Now it’s common practice."


Automation Eliminates Tedious Chores for Dallas Homeowners - Photo 5 of 6 - A set of Eames molded-plastic bar stools line the Caesarstone countertop in the kitchen. 

A set of Eames molded-plastic bar stools line the Caesarstone countertop in the kitchen. 

If there were two people waiting for the current revolution, they were time-strapped Lindsay and Matthew Thomas. "These are things I don’t have to think about anymore," says Matthew.  


Automation Eliminates Tedious Chores for Dallas Homeowners - Photo 6 of 6 - In the dining room, a Brendan Ravenhill fixture hangs above a custom walnut table and Wishbone chairs by Hans Wegner. Customized features, like an outlet flush-installed beneath the kitchen cupboards, subtly conceal signs of a wired house. 

In the dining room, a Brendan Ravenhill fixture hangs above a custom walnut table and Wishbone chairs by Hans Wegner. Customized features, like an outlet flush-installed beneath the kitchen cupboards, subtly conceal signs of a wired house.