Move over color, shape, texture and materials. There’s a new major player in luxury interiors and home remodeling, and it fits in the palm of your hand: the smart phone.
Technology is dramatically changing the way homes look and operate. Does technology conform to changing design demands or does it create them? Does it expand your home renovating options or limit them?
I’ve been thinking about these and other geek-design questions since the 2015 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) awarded its highest honor to a wireless smartphone charging station embedded into a kitchen countertop.
At first the Best in Show distinction awarded to LG Hausys on Jan. 21 seemed a bit ridiculous. Is it really that big a deal to plug your phone into an outlet? Would anyone actually choose a countertop based on its ability to keep an iPhone charged? Does its phone charging capabilities make LG Hausys’s technology-friendly, solid-surface countertops a serious threat to quartz, granite and marble countertops?
I want to say “No!” to all three questions, proving perhaps that I’m as old as my kids think I am! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there’s no denying the impact of smart phones on the way we decorate and design our homes (as well as the way we live our lives.)
Here are five products that prove the vital connection between home technology and luxury home design:
1. Hue Lights by Philips
Hue LED lights fit into your regular ceiling or lamp sockets so they blend seamlessly with your current fixtures. But they operate with wireless technology, including your iPhone.
And you can do a lot more than just turn them on and off.
You can turn the lights the bluest shade of white, the warmest shade of yellow or virtually any color. Like the Horse of a Different Color in The Wizard of Oz, the rooms of your house can change according to your whim or mood.
Using an app on your phone, you can change the color of a single bulb or every Hue bulb in the house. You can even color-match your lighting to a favorite photo. If, for example, you want to recreate a Hawaiian sunset you enjoyed on your honeymoon, you can add those colors to your Hue palette and bathe your bedroom in the oranges, reds and blues from the photograph.
Having a party? You can set the lights to vibrate or pulse. Want a gentle wake-up call in the morning? Program your lights to gradually illuminate. You can also program the lights to turn on from your office so you won’t return home to a dark house or to deter burglars.
The starter kit, which includes three LED bulbs and a bridge component that connects to a wireless router, sells for about $200 at the Apple Store, Amazon, Home Depot and Best Buy.
2. Nest Thermostat
You might find it hard to get excited about the design – or function – of a home thermostat. You’re probably glad that it’s in an inconspicuous location and satisfied if it keeps the house warmed or cooled to the temperature you set.
The Nest, built by a company co-founded by the designer of the iPod, may change your mind. It has certainly inspired a lot of praise from the media:
- “smartest and prettiest thermostat available.” — Mashable
- “marries Apple IQ with Frank Gehry-style design.” — Huffington Post
- “The Nest may well be one of the most beautiful objects you install in your home – it looks like something from the future, if the future were ruled by people with impeccable taste in Scandinavian furniture.” — Slate
Part of what makes the Nest attractive, apart from its sleek Apple-esque design, is that the thin, round thermostat reflects the color of the wall it sits on. It blends into your home décor rather than distracts from it.
What makes the Nest worth its $250 price tag? It includes a motion detector and automatically resets your home’s temperature when no one’s home. It also programs itself. Spend a few days adjusting the thermostat to your liking and the Nest will learn your preferences and automatically turn the temperature up or down based on your habits.
If your schedule changes – you know you’re going to get home early – you can reset the temperature from an app on your smart phone.
Nest says its thermostat works on 90 percent of heating and cooling systems and can reduce your annual bills by 20 percent.
3. Oculus Rift Gaming Headset
Tired of arranging living spaces to suit the gamers in your household? Is the sofa way too close for normal viewing comfort? Did you forego buying a coffee table you loved because it got in a gamer’s way?
A new virtual reality headset that works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 may solve such design dilemmas. The Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset eliminates a gamer’s need for a TV set so he can use it anywhere in the house without infringing on a room’s design. The headset lets a gamer interact with a 360-degree virtual environment.
Technically, the Oculus VR is currently available only to game developers, but anyone can buy it for $350 from Oculus or Samsung. The price does not include the cost of a Samsung smartphone.
4. August Smart Lock
Want to let the cleaning lady in on Thursday afternoons without giving her a set of house keys? Want to keep an ex out of your house without changing the locks?
The August smart lock works with your existing single cylinder deadbolt locks and your smart phone.
You can send a virtual key to anyone with a smartphone and specify the times of access – 24/7 for family members, a one-time, 2-hour slot for a plumber or a weekly afternoon window for the cleaning lady.
The app makes it possible for you to keep tabs on anyone who enters and exits, add or revoke access at any time and works even if your home power goes out. You can also continue to use your regular keys.
August works with both iPhone and Android mobile devices and comes in four colors: dark gray, red, champagne and silver. The August smart lock, which replaces the interior portion of your existing deadbolt, sells for about $250 on the August website.
5. Zonoff Software for Smart Device Compatibility
Do you already have a technology-enabled home? Are you already too busy checking the app connected to the motion sensors for your dogs, the one for the nanny cam in the nursery and the security cameras on your property?
If you love the potential of technology but struggle to keep track of it all, a company called Zonoff may help.
It is a software platform that connects multiple smart devices so they can communicate with each other. Devices that can be connected through the platform include smartphones, tablets, laptops, HDTVs, alarm panels and clock radios.
In simple terms, the Zonoff is like a universal remote control for your smart devices so you don’t feel dumb trying to keep track of all of the apps for your home.