Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Disguising an Old Intercom System: Three Ideas


I bet my home's intercom system was pretty cool when first installed over 20 years ago.  In the years since, however, technology has changed immensely.  Wireless phones, WiFi, satellite TV, and mobile devices now render this intercom system obsolete.
Our now-defunct intercom's master station
We found no user manual for the system when we took ownership of our house, and the manufacturer, Music and Sound (M&S), is out of business.  While we do use the built-in doorbell function, the radio, clock and intercom features do not work.  And, in order to hear the doorbell on the main floor, we must put up with a low-tone buzzing emitted by the system.  Argh!

I spent some time searching online and was able to locate a manual (.pdf format) of a similar model.  After hours switching switches and turning knobs, I just cannot get the intercom to work as designed.  That makes this intercom not only archaic, but also an unnecessary eyesore.

What to do?  My husband and I discussed the following options:
  • Remove the master station/room and patio speakers.  A few neighbors suggested this option.  We would need to patch the drywall and exterior walls - it's not rocket science, but it is also no small task.  We are hesitant to mess with the exterior, stucco wall repair at this time and can't bring ourselves to hire the job out.
  • Upgrade to a newer intercom system:  A few other neighbors suggested this option.  Unfortunately, we fail to see the return on investment - a replacement unit will cost over one thousand dollars.  
  • Disguise the existing master station/room and patio speakers and forget about it:  This is the least expensive option.  And, of course, my husband's favorite option. 
For now, I agreed to disguise the existing station and speakers.  I refuse to forget about alternatives, but I agree that this low-cost fix will at least remove the eyesore from my sight.  I am confident that, down the road, an opportunity for a long-term solution will present itself.   Do you have an outdated intercom speaker system also?  Keep reading to see how we managed to disguise ours.  You may get a tip or two for dealing with your eyesore.  

Disguise One:  Hide Intercom Master Station with Artwork:
Homeowners and renters have been disguising thermostats, electric panels, and such behind artwork for years.  This seemed like a great idea for the intercom master station.
Intercom master station hidden  behind artwork
The master station measures 16"x 8" x 1".  I needed a frame or shadow box that was deep enough to cover the station, but not take up a ton of space - I only have about 18" of vertical space to work with.  Unhappy with product options I found in stores and online, I decided to modify and re-purpose an existing  frame by adding depth.  One inexpensive furring strip and an hour of our time was all it took to complete the project.  Read below to see what steps we took to modify an existing frame in order to disguise the intercom master station:

Materials:
  • Frame larger than item to be disguised.  
  • Furring strip
  • Measuring tape and level
  • Miter saw
  • Finishing nails and hammer
  • Artwork
  • Caulk and paint
General How-To:

  • Locate a frame that is slightly larger than item to be disguised.
    Note:  We used an old frame that measured about 17" x 13" x 1/2".  Seems an odd size, eh?  I think it was meant for certificates.  I bought the frame, originally washed in a pale blue color, on clearance years ago and.  It hung in the office at our old house.  Since the move, it's been sitting in a closet.  Time to re purpose. 
Frame hung in our old house, but's been in storage since the move.
  • Measure furring strip to form a slightly larger frame around the existing frame.
Picture frame molding sit on top of the furring strip.
  • Cut furring strip, using miter saw, to create 45-degree angles.  
  • Verify cuts and attach furring strip using finishing nails.
    Note:  you can also use construction adhesive.
  • Sand, caulk joints and paint the entire frame.
Back of frame shows how furring strip is attached.
  • Place art inside frame and hang.
    Note:  We added hanging hardware, but found we did not need it.  The frame simply rests on top of the master station.  When we need access, we lift the frame away and do whatever we need to do.
    Result:  Eyesore disguised!
Eyesore disguised.
What an easy, and low-cost, disguise.  I almost forget that the master station is even in the room.  Now, to tackle the patio speaker. 

Disguise Two:  Hide Patio Speaker with Outdoor Clock:
The patio speaker sits on a narrow exterior wall, near our Big Green Egg.  It's visible from all spots on the deck.  Because the speaker does not work, I wanted it out of sight. 
Patio speaker is disguised behind a clock.
Inspiration came in the form of our old outdoor clock/thermometer, which was still in a box waiting to be hung.  Unlike the intercom speaker, the clock serves a function, and would be very useful on the back deck.  We pulled it out of storage, placed it over the speaker, and agreed it would make a great disguise the for the speaker.  We dug out some fishing line and strung it through the back of the clock.  
Fishing line tied to the back of outdoor clock.
Then, we strung the fishing line through the light fixture above and tied it off.  Perfect!
Eyesore disguised!
Not only is the speaker disguised, but we also avoided putting any additional holes in the stucco wall.

Disguise Three:  Hide Room Speaker with Paint:
One of the room speakers sits just above the basement bar backsplash.  We are able to hear the doorbell chime through the speaker, so we don't mind having it around.  The plastic case, however, yellowed over the years and the intercom feature does not work.  No sense in drawing attention to it.  We decided to disguise it. 
Room speaker is disguised with paint.
This past weekend, my husband painted the walls in this room.  As he prepped the walls, he removed the speaker from the wall.
We removed the room speaker and bracket before painting the wall.
Then, he cleaned the speaker and applied two coats of the wall color, Wheat Bread, by Behr.  
Room speaker dries after second coat of paint.
After the paint was dry, he reattached the speaker to the wall.  
Eyesore Disguised!
Now, the speaker is accessible, but blends in with the wall.  Hooray.
  
There you have it:  Three easy ideas for disguising an old intercom system.  If these things ever become retro-cool, we are all set.  Until then, they are out of sight, and out of mind!  

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