“How Alexa can Add Some Magic to Your Home Electronics”

Contributed by: Mike McMaster, Wilshire Media Systems

A couple of months ago, one of our customers was remodeling a home to sell. We added some nice upgrades; new speakers and music system, new lighting control system, climate control, and a nice iPad in the kitchen to have access to all of the technology apps at your fingertips. Then the customer made a simple request, “can you add Alexa into the house?”

I paused, and thoughtfully said, “Maybe…” I had seen all of the commercials during the holidays showing off the simplicity and elegance of Alexa, just like he did. It was like she was magic, and I knew there was a lot more to the picture than a $50 hockey puck shaped device. The truth is, I was really managing his expectations, because I didn’t want his home to be the first Alexa installation; we typically try to test new products in our showroom. I also didn’t want a few thousand dollars of good electronics to be at risk with a $50 device. I had seen a demonstration from Lutron at the CEDIA show last fall, and so I said, “OK, we will add Alexa”.

Voice control is like adding a steering wheel to your car.  It controls your direction, but is reliant on sub-systems like the engine, tires, transmission to change direction. Homes are no different. Alexa can interface with other systems that you have purchased and installed, there is no such thing as magic.  This house had Sonos for music, Nest for climate control, Lutron for lighting control. We weren’t covering the entire home, but the investment in sub systems was still enough cash to buy a small car with a few miles on it, around $20,000. We could have kept going- adding motorized shades, security cameras, and more.

A big part of our normal programming is to setup “scenes” which are labeled as buttons in each room that has lighting control. Welcome, Away, Family Room, High, Medium, Low… you get the idea. We added the Lutron Connect Bridge, a nice $300 addition to any newer lighting system that allows the system to talk to Alexa, Nest, Apple, and more.  We learned the skills into the Alexa app, and then tested the scenes by voice. The customer was coming by with his realtor in about an hour. This better work.


“Alexa, turn Family Room on”. Twenty lights in the big room slowly rose to full brightness.  “Wow, that’s very cool” said the realtor. I needed to keep the show going, and I had at least one more trick up my sleeve. I pulled back my left sleeve, opened the Lutron app on my Apple watch, and hit the “Welcome” button. The whole house lit up with lights, and the preset Pandora station starting playing to one of my customer’s favorites, Frank Sinatra. The customer was just blown away, just like a good magic trick.

Contributed by Mike McMaster: Wilshire Media Systems, www.wilshirehe.com 805-497-7536




How Do I Light Thee?… let me count the ways!

Lighting Design Basics

There is so much to know about lighting design.  By focusing on a few points the great look you desire can be achieved.

Balance – The best way to find balance in lighting is to triangulate fixtures in a room.  If you have recessed lighting but still want seating level lighting, add lamps in key areas and visualize a triangle.  A floor lamp next to a comfortable chair and table lamps on side tables or night stands make this easy.

1 Stop Lighting

Mood – Make sure that lighting isn’t too bright by adding dimmer switches for chandeliers and recessed lighting.  This inexpensive feature gives you many options for setting the mood in a room.  Under, over and in cabinet lighting are other great ways to accent and enhance the beauty of fine furniture and accessories in a room.


Efficiency – Today’s efforts to light a space without consuming too much energy are important, and there are several ways to achieve this.  Following are just a couple of energy-saving ideas on how to light a space:

  • Use lighting controls such as dimmers and occupancy sensors.  Dimming a light fixture by 25 percent uses less energy and adds to the life span of the fixture.  Occupancy sensors that turn the lights on or off when you enter or exit a room can save up to 20 percent in energy use as well.
  • Use fixtures which consume less energy such as LED’s.  LED lights can greatly reduce the amount of watts used without reducing the quality of light produced.  These types of lights are more expensive but are virtually maintenance free with 50,000-100,000 hour life spans. They can be dimmed and come in very attractive recessed trims. Well worth the investment.
  • California energy code now requires that 50% of lighting must be ‘green,’ which is comprised of LED, halogen and/or fluorescent, with the remainder being incandescent.


A professional interior designer can provide advice on lighting and typically has a licensed electrician or specialized lighting designer as part of her/his team.

Contributed by Julie Gerns, CAPID

Guest Room Must-Haves

Designing A Guest Room When designing a guest room on a budget, use  a five-star Hilton hotel for inspiration and discount stores and a savvy interior designer for implementation! Of greatest importance is the best bed you can afford.  A queen-sized bed is more than adequate for two people and usually fits in a guest […] Read more »