Hidden But Heard

July 25th, 2019 by

by Stacy Downs

No doubt you’re familiar with the old-fashioned saying about children: “…they’re best seen but not heard.” But when it comes to new display devices and sound systems, the opposite is true – and cranked up to 11.

“While speakers and televisions provide lots of desired function, we try to keep the tech stuff as discreet as possible for the aesthetics and overall feeling of the room,” says interior designer Sara Noble, owner of Noble Designs in Leawood.

Indeed. There’s definitely a bet-ya-can’t-see-it element to most interior designers’ portfolios these days for all things AV. Minimalism is the maxim for music and movies.

Now there are options to install speakers behind walls that aren’t even visible. Televisions can be concealed in furniture.

“We worked on a home that has the kitchen TV come out of the counter,” Noble says.

To her and other interior designers, it’s important to collaborate with audio-visual designers from the get go. They help guide the wiring and planning that are often needed before the drywall even goes up.

“Making these decisions early and incorporating them into our designs is crucial,” Noble says. “Because the worst thing we could do is design a beautiful theater room that doesn’t have the proper sound or picture.”


Noble is working on several projects with Brian Hoyer of In-Tone, an integrative media and music systems company. Hoyer and his wife, Laura, routinely team up with architects and designers.

“When you work together, you can shape rooms into special places for the homeowners,” Hoyer says. “With subtle touches, you can create symmetrical placements of windows and fireplaces seamlessly with televisions and sound.”

Hoyer, who grew up wanting to be an architect, started working with AV as a hobby in high school. He always focused on design details. As demand for his AV work grew, he made it is his living.

In his decades-long career, the evolution of listening to music and watching movies at home has been staggering.

1980s: Turntables, cassettes, boxy televisions, big speakers, VCRs. No integration.

1990s and 2000s: CDs, big-screen televisions, surround sound, DVD players, lots of remotes. Some integration.

2010s: Phones as music storage, flat-panel televisions, hidden speakers, voice-activated controls. Total integration.

“Never before have people’s music and film collections been larger,” Hoyer says. “And it all can fit in their pockets.”

While Hoyer and the rest of us have seen this huge tech shift in our lifetime, his guiding principle of integrating media into the home has remained the same.

Keep it simple. Eliminate all complexities.

“If it’s not easy for people, they won’t use it,” he says. “And that defeats the whole purpose.”

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