Toy Scout

A guide to gadgets, games and gear sure to get attention.

Every luxury home needs a major toy or two. Ideally, it’s something no one else on the block has. It could be high-tech or incredibly collectible. It’s almost always expensive. For those too busy working to search for that elusive plaything, we have a few suggestions:

Walk-in Wine Vault by GE Monogram
It’s the perfect solution for the collector who’s outgrown refrigerator-sized storage and doesn’t have a wine cellar — yet. According to Barbara Ford, builder sales manager at Snow Bros. Appliance Co. in Lyndhurst, the customizable components of this recently unveiled innovation allow homeowners to put it in a surprisingly diverse range of spaces: recreation rooms, libraries, kitchens, even large pantries. And the self-contained unit requires no special wiring, plumbing or architectural plans, which means it can be installed in as little as a day. Inside the well-insulated stainless-steel walls, redwood racks provide storage for more than 1,000 bottles. Features include a liquid-based digital thermostat and electronic inventory systems. The latter, with its 15-inch, touch-screen console, label printer and scanner, can be used to do everything from quickly locating wines in the vault to store pricing and tasting notes. An optional wine-tasting area with arched backdrop, display racks and European cork tabletop add a touch of Old World authenticity.
Price tag: $31,000 to $35,000, depending upon location in the home; add an additional $1,000 for installation

World Poker Tour Pinball Machine by Stern Pinball
The popularity of poker and a limited first release of 2,000 units have contributed to the massive appeal of this pinball machine, a creation based on the hit Travel Channel series “World Poker Tour,” featuring the images and voices of host Courtney Friel and color commentators Vince Van Patten and Mike Sexton. But Kathy Vegh, CEO of Danny Vegh’s Billiards and Home, says it isn’t the only model that’s moving out of her Cleveland, Mayfield Heights and Montrose showrooms. “All of the new pinball machines end up being collector’s items, because there’s really one true manufacturer left,” she explains. “And they all come out in limited editions.” For some, one machine isn’t enough. Vegh says some of her clients create full-blown home arcades.
Price tag: $4,995

The Coffee System by Dacor (Model CM24P)
The morning trips to Starbucks will end the day this plumbed stainless-steel unit is installed in your kitchen. “It pretty much does everything,” says Bill Tanner, appliance manager at BandB Appliance’s Euclid location. The man isn’t just bragging. There’s an integrated milk dispenser and frothing system for preparing cappuccinos, lattes and old-fashioned hot chocolate. It even grinds the beans. A digital display and customized brewing software provide precise control over the amount of grounds, milk and water, as well as beverage size and temperature. The coffee dispenser adjusts to accommodate tall latte and travel mugs. “A lot of times when you get these systems, all they hold are coffee cups,” Tanner says. There’s even a side drawer to keep cups, saucers and mugs close at hand.
Price tag: $2,799

Television Mirror by Seura
Edelman Plumbing Supply displays this innovative device over a bathroom vanity in its Westlake showroom. The lower center section functions as an LCD television, so you can keep your eye on the morning news while shaving or flossing. But some people are putting the television mirror, which offers screen sizes as large as 45 inches, over bathtubs, bedroom bureaus, living room fireplaces, recreation room bars and workout room treadmills — anywhere they might normally hang a mirror. Custom sizing, a choice of recessed or slim surface-mount models and the option of adding a second screen adds to the versatility. Turn off the television and the unit just looks like a mirror. Kind of makes the flat-screen television seem obsolete, doesn’t it?
Price tag: $2,800 to $13,400

Refurbished IGT Red, White and Blue Slot Machine
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” doesn’t apply to automated games of chance. People registered with the U.S. Department of Justice such as Keith Rose, of Malibu Slots in Parma Heights, can buy slot machines from casinos replacing their one-armed bandits with newer models. Rose’s company cleans, repairs and resells the machines to gaming aficionados or homeowners searching for that distinctive addition to a recreation room or den. Forget about buying new. According to Rose, “you can’t buy a new slot machines unless you are a licensed casino.”
Price tag: $1,000 with bill acceptor (Solid oak stand is an additional $139.)

Megatouch Gametime by Merit Industries
Why pay to play this touch-screen entertainment system at the local watering hole when you can put one on your very own bar? “It’s sleek-looking, and it’s not obtrusive, so it fits pretty much anywhere,” says Vegh, who sells the units at her Danny Vegh’s Billiards and Home stores. The home version of the machine — basically a 15-inch flat-screen monitor — doesn’t have all the games found on the commercial units, but it’s still packed with more than 90 games in categories such as “puzzles,” “quiz and word,” “strategy,” “kid’s club,” “megasports” and “cards” (the newest versions include Texas hold ’em) that can be played in nine languages. Owners can buy a membership that includes upgrades, while games exclusive to the commercial version of the machines are periodically available for purchase.
Price tag: $3,895

YSP-800 Digital Sound Projector by Yamaha
John Ramsay, merchandise manager for Audio Craft’s four regional stores, admits that this slick single speaker may not satisfy the exacting standards of hard-core audiophiles. But it’s a godsend for anyone who’s tired of messing with multiple speakers and the tangle of wires that comes with them when setting up a home sound system. Although Ramsay says the 31 1/2-by-6-by-4 1/2-inch unit is designed to complement a 42-inch flat-screen television — indeed, it appears to become part of the TV when mounted directly below — it can be used with any television or audio system. And the surround sound generated is so impressive it makes people spin around and look for the rear speakers. Ramsay says. “It works within room boundaries and sets up specific delays and reflections so that you get a very, very convincing rear-channel stage when there are no rear-channel speakers present,” Ramsay says.
Price tag: $799.95

MusicCast Home Music Network System by Yamaha
Think of it as an iPod for your home. The 160-gigobite MCX-2000 digital audio server stores roughly 2,000 hours of music (in the MP3 digital format) in a component the size of the average stereo receiver. Just drop a CD in the drawer of the unit, push a button that records the CD to the machine’s hard drive and you’ll never misplace your favorite disc again. “Whenever you want to listen to one of your songs, you’re going to have instant access to it,” says Audio Craft’s John Ramsay. The MCX-2000 accommodates wireless connections for up to five MCX-C15 in-wall or MCX-A10 tabletop digital audio terminals, which access the stored songs.
Price tag: MCX-2000 digital audio server, $2,000; MCX-C15 or MCX-A10 digital audio terminal, $600 each.

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