Can a house sell itself? Tech entrepreneur Ted Dhanik’s high-tech Hollywood Hills home at 2118 Beech Knoll takes the concept further than you may expect. While it’s not for sale now, when he was trying to sell it over the last few years, he would turn on "open house mode" every Sunday.
Wired with many of the most up-to-date smart home technologies, the structure did everything short of putting up a lawn sign and chatting up potential buyers: blinds, shades, and doors popped open, the audio system played string quartet covers of popular songs, and the televisions even broadcast a drone video of the home’s exterior on loop, pulled from the building’s networked hard drive. After hosting potential buyers, at 5 p.m., the entire home would close down and assume night mode.
Dhanik, who co-founded engage:BDR, believes smart home tech should be responsive, not just flashy, and this home, originally purchased in 2008 for $1.6 million, serves as his proof of concept. Renovated and redesigned over the last eight years, it showcases his take on cutting-edge technologies, from lighting to security.
"A lot of people hook up these systems so they can control them with a universal remote, when they should be using them to eliminate the remote," he says. "I’ve gone beyond control, so it’s just automated. Lighting turns on and off on a schedule. I never think about shades; they just react to the sun."
Dhanik first spied this 4,538 square foot home in 2007, when he was working at MySpace and religiously attending home tours every weekend with friends (one of them happened to be Tom Anderson, whom users of the service may recognize as their first friend). He leased for a while and after experiencing the private location in the Hills, quiet street, and expansive view ("It’s a $34 million view in a $1.2 million home), decided to purchase.
Planning to sell at some point in the future, and looking to make a profit, he sunk money into renovating with a modern, minimalist aesthetic in mind. The three-bedroom, three-bath home, was decked out in reclaimed wood, steel, and concrete. While the term Internet of Things had yet to be coined and smart home tech was still a nascent stage of development compared to today, Dhanik began experimenting. Over the last few years, he’s become much more serious about the project, reflected in the home's array of controls and gadgets.
The linchpin of Dhanik’s home tech system is the Control4 system, which he prefers for its ease of integration. While many companies are creating walled gardens around their home tech protocols, the Control4 hub can be connected to a myriad of devices, making it much easier to upgrade systems without having to worry about compatibility. He can set up macros, a routine series of interactions, like open house mode, that choreograph technological interactions within the home. Every morning, for example, as he’s woken up by the sun streaming in from the blinds parting in his bedroom, the Dual Noritz tankless water heaters start warming up for his shower while the coffee machine begins prepping an espresso).
The hub talks to numerous devices around the home, a central control that enables Dhanik to turn on his Miele coffee machine in the morning, open the LiftMaster garage door, raise and lower the Somfy shades, and turn on the sprinklers, all from his iPhone. Integration also allows different systems to work together. When sun streams into the living room, the system can either adjust the Nest thermostat or close to Somfy shades to alter the interior temperature.
"Companies are putting devices on the market," he says, "but they aren’t thinking about integration."
Some of Dhanik’s favorite home tech features as best experiences when he's out. The security system, consisting of a set of 20 IP cameras, includes a doorbell cam that allows him to see and screen visitors from his phone. He also set up a system that allows him to drop photos from his iPhone into an image folder that feeds the screens around his home, allowing him curate home artwork remotely.
After trying to sell for a few years, Dhanik plans to wait a few more years while he installs a pool. He’s currently enjoying fine-tuning the control systems and technology, and being a home tech test subject doesn't seem like a bad job.