Summer 2023

Amazing Automation

Words by Lisa Waterman Gray  |  Photos by Josie Henderson

This modern home operates with the touch of a button or the sound of a voice.


ear the southern edge of rural Overland Park, set within a heavily wooded 10-acre lot, a 9,600-square-foot home presents a sleek, contemporary architecture with its eight-car garage and expansive driveway. After dark, abundant landscape and soffit lighting accentuate the home’s façade. Natural stone and floor-to-ceiling windows cover its multistory back side, which overlooks a putting green, a resort-style pool and a quarter-mile paved walking trail  wide enough for go-karts—all with an integrated lighting and sound system. Longtime architect John Gaar, AIA, says, “The homeowners did most of the design and layout, while I pulled together all the elements to achieve the unique modern architecture.” But there’s more to this property than looks.

As a member of Crestron Home’s design-build program and as a developer himself, the homeowner was already familiar with high-end residential automation. He had used it in several business projects, too.

“We have some multi-use developments utilizing Crestron products to automate our common-area amenities, such as lighting and audio-video, but the scope in our home is much larger than what we did in our developments,” he says.

Originally, Crestron had only designed for large commercial use. “What I like about Crestron Home is that it automates everything in your home,” he says. “They are the only ones who could do everything as a single manufacturer.”

A home the couple toured on the biennial Artisan Home Tour inspired—and connected—them.

“One of the really impressive homes we visited during the tour had an automation system in it,” the homeowner recalls. That’s when he became aware of Simplicity Kansas City’s work. With an engineering background, owner Joe Acree’s firm has been a certified Crestron retailer for many years. So it  was a natural match for the couple’s new build.

“He came to us,” Joe says. “He already knew he wanted certain things out of the house. It’s such an impressive place to walk through.”

The homeowner says that Joe’s experience and connections with Crestron helped them work together as a team. “We did things the smart way,” he says. “It was a good fit for our family.”

For the homeowners, the goal was to control all things simply so that they don’t need to be in a room to initiate control. Multiple Crestron touch screens—plus a Crestron handheld remote—facilitate this. A key component of the system is Josh A.I., a voice-activated interface, located in certain rooms.

“You just tell Josh what you want,” the homeowner says, and then it activates centralized lighting, turns on the TV and much more. “The only thing it doesn’t control is appliances. One button or voice command that says ‘entertain’ sets everything the way we want it when we are having people over.”

Outdoor fire bowls and an indoor fireplace respond to voice commands. Opening a specific door turns on kitchen lights. Additional kitchen automation includes a TV above the stove, which the homeowners and guests can hear over external speakers. Music from a player piano can fill the house, and nearly 10,000 watts of power supply the 13-speaker, seven-seat, 155-inch basement theater.

Floor-to-ceiling automated shades provide privacy—as well as desirable views—from 17-foot windows; they control the light levels and heat from outside as well. Automated sliding glass doors and screens also enhance temperature control from outside to inside. In addition, an app monitors temperature throughout the house and even senses when it should turn on fans, without using any visible thermostats or Wi-Fi access points.

Joe encourages potential  home-automation clients to be exceptionally honest about what they value in their homes, what they want to do, and how it plays into the house.

“We sit down and start finding out what would be the most amazing experience for their lifestyle,” Joe says. “A lot of people don’t really budget for these things before they come in, but you do get what you pay for.”

The homeowner agrees, saying, “I think people should set aside an appropriate budget for automation. It’s probably the biggest appliance in your house. Setting aside 5 to 10 percent of your budget will get you a quality system, but it can be expensive. You have to think ahead because you don’t realize you need it until you need it.” 


Instagram @simplicity.kc


Architect: John Gaar, Finkle+Williams Architecture  Excavation: JAG Excavating 
Foundation: Premier Foundations 
Electrical: Crown Electric 
Home Automation: Simplicity
Windows: Pella 
Drywall: Leiker Drywall 
Tile: Turner Ceramic Tile

Flooring: Kenny’s Hardwood Flooring 
Asphast: J&B Asphalt 
Doors: Industrial Door Company 
Hardware: Locks & Pulls 
Painting: Titans Painting 
Pool: Complete Pools 
Woodworking: Byrne Custom Woodworking

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