During the annual consumer electronics tradeshow (CES 2017) last month in Las Vegas, a fun section to watch was the introduction of new technologies developed for the home. Forget drones and spyware; the kitchen, bathroom and even babies’ bedrooms are the hot spots to watch, with smart home technology and household robots taking center stage. Here are a few things that caught my eye:
Meet today’s version of “Rosie” the robot
Remember the Jetson’s cartoon robot, Rosie? Every kid wanted one of those (parents, too) and now it looks like we may finally be approaching the reality of helpful home robots with the debut of Kuri. One of the newest robot friends expected to enter households in 2017, Kuri (pictured here) is a 20-inch, 14-pound robot that features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 1080p camera, and full iOS/Android app control. Kuri can learn and navigate its surroundings, recognize specific people, follow homeowners around the house, play podcasts and music, and even read a bedtime story to the kids. At only $699, Kuri, available in the fall of this year, is expected to be be the first of its kind to become a truly affordable household resource. (Photo courtesy: heykuri.com)
Another bit of home tech that I think we’ll be seeing more of is smart mirrors that do much more than reflect your image. “Connected” mirrors can play music, TV shows, stream YouTube videos, display weather and news feeds, and even allow you to quickly scan calendars and emails. (Photo courtesy: Miliboo.com)
When Alexa debuted at CES last year, it created a popularity and ease of access for voice-controlled devices that has permeated new technology offerings this year. Voice-activation is entering practically every household device including things like vacuum cleaners, home security systems, retractable awnings, thermostats and lighting.
Even technology for the baby’s room is moving forward at light speed. Hailing itself as the “safest baby bed ever made,” SNOO debuted a few months ago with a smart crib developed in collaboration with pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp that rocks babies to sleep by mimicking the rhythms of the womb. There’s also Ray, a sleep and health monitor for the digitally savvy parent that is being billed as “the first and only non-contact health and sleep monitor” for babies and toddlers. The Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled monitor measures a baby’s respiratory rate, uses thermal sensors to keep track of sleep cycles, and notifies parents, via the Ray app, if the baby has a fever or shows signs of other illnesses. For those expecting, or wanting to lock in the title of Best Grandparents Ever, the Ray monitor is available for preorder via its Kickstarter page, and expected to be ready for delivery (no pun intended) in September of 2017. (Photo courtesy: Designboom)
One of the newest trends for 2017 in home design isn’t about what you see, but what you can’t see. Hidden appliances that easily blend into design schemes while offering a greater degree of functionality are giving us an unexpected peek into the future of home design, and the way that homeowners want to use their kitchens.
Appliance design for the most-used room in the house has generally been about providing bigger, better and bolder choices by adding size, space, color and even new technology for each new line. Homeowners today, however, are shifting their priorities to reducing the size of their home while increasing the ease of use and functionality of each piece in the home.
With this demand for appliances that provide high performance in smaller, more versatile sizes, homeowners have new opportunities for transforming kitchens into high-functioning hotspots of the home that merge the best of design, technology, and old-fashioned warmth and appeal.
Microwaves, refrigerators and dishwashers can now be installed in homes where they look like drawers. Vertical freezers and dishwashers can be had that are taller, narrower, and have more than two racks. Undercounter beverage coolers, warming drawers and freezer drawers, and even mini fridges that are at children’s eye level are seen more and more in kitchen design. And manufacturers are paying attention.
Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, known for giant refrigerators and red-knobbed ranges that span up to 60 inches, introduced late last year a line of 24-inches-or-less appliances for compact spaces “from luxury high-rises and city homes to beachfront bungalows and cozy mountain cabins,” according to its website. Several 15-inch “transitional multifunction modules” let users customize their small cooktops into a fryer, steamer or grill, among other functions. And for urban dwellers, the 24-inch Wolf oven is slim enough to fit in a small apartment.
Bosch last year also began rolling out more small options after noting rising demand in cities across the U.S. including Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. And on their blog, Lifestyle expert Danny Seo has addressed small space design and small kitchen functionality in several articles, showcasing Bosch’s small-space friendly options along the way. LG and Thermador as also designing for this trend, as small refrigerators are seen more and more outside the kitchen in places like bedrooms, libraries, offices, exercise rooms and home offices.
As Millennials are buying their first homes and Baby Boomers are downsizing for retirement, I’m predicting that this trend is here to stay. If you’re interested in the Arlington and surrounding Northern Virginia are for your next home – no matter what size – give me a call at 703-593-6320 and I’ll be happy to get you started. (email’s good too: firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you’re renovating, redecorating, or even building a new home in the Arlington, Virginia area, I’ve gathered up a quick list of a few trends for 2017 that you can work into your plans, as well design ideas that have run their course. Don’t worry that you’ve got to throw everything out and start from scratch, though. A lot of what was popular last year is still fresh and worth keeping.
Colors of the Year: The Pantone color “Greenery” was announced this week as the Pantone Color of the Year selection for 2017. According to their announcement, Greenery is “a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore, and renew.” Designers and retailers immediately started working this fresh springy color into home design and you’re sure to see it as a theme throughout next year, such as with this fun collection of Greenery-inspired home décor items curated by the Design Milk blog to celebrate Pantone’s announcement.
Don’t worry, your street won’t be going too green this year with a row of Kermit-colored homes, because Pantone also announced their home and interior color trend forecast for 2017 that includes rich floral hues, citrus paired with grays, nostalgic blues, and Native American pottery-inspired neutrals.
Terracotta: All-white kitchens and cool-colored tiles have enjoyed their time in the spotlight, according to design gurus, who are predicting that warm, rustic materials such as terracotta tiles will be coming back. Unlike the shiny orangey-brown floors of the 80’s, modern terracotta tiles with natural matte finishes will be used more as feature walls or to frame fireplaces to add character and warmth to interiors.
What’s Still Fresh
Nooks and crannies for technology, and for escaping from technology, are still popular and functional for the modern world we live in. No-tech Living Rooms where you can ditch the matrix and spend quality time with friends, family or pursuing other interests still holds true. But when you need to plug back in, Smart Spaces cleverly arranged throughout a home, such as in kitchens, entries, bedrooms and man caves are perfect for storing, charging and using smart phones, tablets, TVs and more.
Understated Luxury: Luxury is in, excess is out. That’s why décor and styling elements such as glamorous statement lighting, luxurious upholstered headboards, and statement furniture that anchors a room are a good way to treat yourself without going overboard.
Shiny Copper: As a material, copper will always be a classic. But the overuse of super-shiny copper in kitchens and bathrooms for everything from fixtures to appliances to décor is done. Instead, design pros say that we’ll see a turn toward either industrial (think black steel and burnished metals) or understated rustics.
Quote Artwork: After years of popularity and countless Etsy shops, consumers are finally moving away from using quote artworks as design elements throughout their homes. So “Keep calm and…” take a look at these trends and others as you plan for your next home design adventure. And remember, staying true to your personal aesthetics and functional needs is a trend that will never go away.
Sooner than you know, temperatures will be dropping here in Arlington, Virginia. Snow will start falling, and people will start looking forward to quiet evenings in front of their fireplaces with festive lights, hot cocoa and hot toddies. This all sounds warm and cozy, but add in just one clogged chimney, frozen pipe or broken window, and things can turn from cozy to chaotic in the drop of a hat (or a tree limb). To avoid winter’s little danger zones, here are eight ways to keep your home and family happy and safe throughout the season:
- Inspect the roof, gutters and downspouts. Before winter weather sets in, take a quick visual inspection around the exterior of your home. Note any loose or missing shingles, then schedule a professional inspection to see if repairs are needed. Downspouts and gutters also need a thorough check, clean out leaves and dirt, tighten loose fastenings.
- Trim your trees. No, not with lights and décor. Rather, check if there are any broken tree limbs or ones that have grown during the summer and need to be trimmed back. Check with a professional if you think you need extensive work.
- Dig out winter gear such as snow shovels, window scrapers, or snow blowers. Make sure they are serviced and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- Seal windows and doors to keep cold where it belongs – outside. Loose seals and drafty areas can often be taken care of with simple window insulation kits from your local home improvement store.
- If you have a fireplace, schedule a professional chimney inspection or cleaning. Weather damage, creosote buildup, and other issues such as foundation settling can cause serious problems that won’t show up until you light your first fire and it’s too late.
- Service your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC). Changing your filters is a good first step, but it’s also a good idea to hire a professional for a full-system inspection including pipe, wiring and thermostat tests.
- Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and have fresh batteries. (Many people use Daylight Savings Time as a reminder for this task).
- And finally, for both your home and your car (aka: many people’s second home!) create or restock a winter emergency supply kit. Storms, power outages, and other emergencies are more common this time of year. Make sure you have the right supplies on hand to weather any emergencies including blankets, candles, matches, flashlights, flares, first aid kits, water, nutrition bars, and necessary medications. For a list of recommendations, check out this page on The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA website.
It used to be that adding features that adapt to lifestyle changes in your home meant you had to make do with design that looked less like a stylish, comfortable retreat, and more like a hospital room.
The good news is that contemporary universal design features have become much more aesthetically pleasing and adaptable to many different styles. In fact, a well-designed accessible space can be quite spa-like and luxurious due to creative design ideas and high-end finishes. Plus, the cost of universal design isn’t prohibitive anymore, often only adding a few hundred dollars to your original budget for features that last a lifetime.
According to AARP, older home owners overwhelmingly prefer to age in place, which means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level. In fact, this is so prevalent that the NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in collaboration with Home Innovation Research Labs, NAHB 50+ Housing Council, and AARP, developed the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) program to address the growing number of consumers that seek these modifications. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants.
No matter what stage of life you are in, here are a few common-sense features perfect for creating living spaces that allow you to enjoy your home at any time of life:
- Wall-mounted sinks: With no vanity cabinet or supporting legs underneath, wall-mounted sinks are a creative design choice with the added bonus of making cleaning floors a snap. They are also perfect for accommodating wheelchair footrests and walkers.
- Slip-resistant tile: Slip-and-falls are a danger for any age, so slip-resistant tile is always a good idea. Ask your contractor for tile with a COF rating of .60 or above, which meets safety requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plus it’s about the same cost as normal tiles.
- Wider doors: Anytime a room is remodeled, widening the doors to 36 inches wide is considered universal access friendly.
- Curbless showers: Head to your nearest spa and you’ll probably see curbless showers as part of their facilities. From a design standpoint, the minimalist lines fit seamlessly into a contemporary spa-style bathroom. Curbless showers have no lip at the floor and can be easily accessed by wheelchairs.
- Lever-style door handles and faucets: Lever-type handles are easier to use than twist-type knobs or handles, and they’re especially convenient for kids or anyone with limited dexterity.
- Touch faucets: While you’re looking at faucets, check out touch-sensitive faucets that turn off and on with a simple touch. These are great and extremely convenient for any age.
- Tall toilets with no-slam seats and lids. Toilet seats with soft-close mechanisms are a dream for anyone who has ever been woken up late at night by the sharp bang of a falling lid. They are usually only slightly higher in cost than regular lids, and can be easily installed on your own.
The next time you schedule a remodel or upgrade in your home, stop and take a minute to think about adding a few features like these. With only a few changes you can have a stylish home sure to gracefully accommodate every life stage.
Got questions or ideas about living in Arlington, Virginia? I’m here to help. I’ve lived and worked in the area for more than 30 years and can help you find the right accommodations for your specific needs. Please feel free to call or email me at 703-593-6320 or email@example.com.
Fuel prices are on the rise, and even in modern homes, winter can mean dramatic spikes in your utility bills. According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs account for 56 percent of the energy use in an average American home. Don’t stock up on wool socks just yet, though. There’s a lot more you can do than “put on a sweater” this winter to keep your bills down and your home toasty warm.
- Reverse ceiling fans
Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer. Typically, people think of ceiling fans as a way to cool down, but they can also be used for heat. When temperatures start to chill, set your fan to a low speed and use the button the fan to change the direction to clockwise. Warm air trapped at the ceiling will be pulled down to mix with cooler air and warm up the entire room. Do this, and you could see a 15 percent savings on your heating bill for the entire house.
- Use a programmable thermostat
If you have a manual thermostat, it’s time for an upgrade. If you already have one, but don’t know how to use it, time to dig out the manual. “Smart” thermostats don’t cost that much money and more than make up for it in the reduction of utility costs and sheer convenience. They can be programmed to automatically raise and lower temperatures depending on time of day or day of week. And with the proliferation of Wi-Fi in residential homes, many can be controlled via smart phone when you’re away from home.
- Prevent heat loss from your fireplace
Many homes here in the Arlington, VA area have at least one or more fireplaces throughout the residence. This may sound counter-intuitive, but fireplaces can be one of the worst culprits when it comes to heat loss. Yes, loss! If you keep the damper open when a fire is not burning, it’s like leaving a window wide open during the winter, warm air from inside the home escapes right up the chimney. Imagine little dollar bills floating out your chimney, that’s the best way to remember to close the damper each time after enjoying a toasty fire.
There are a lot of other ways to reduce heating and utility costs during the winter season, from investing in LED holiday lights to layering on those ugly holiday sweaters you bought for the last office party. These three simple tips are a great way to get started, though, without a lot of inconvenience or stress, and you’ll notice immediate savings that will go a long way toward a very happy holiday season.
Fire safety in the home is definitely a year-round concern, however as Fall approaches and families are gearing up for the holidays, homeowners need to be extra diligent in and around their homes. While the neighborhood kids would certainly love a visit from the firemen, I doubt it’s on your wish list.
A large number of residential fires are often the result of simple accidents or carelessness with electrical appliances and open flames. As the holidays approach and fun seasonal decorations go up, we find ourselves literally surrounded by an abundance of fire hazards when it comes to traditional decor.
All it takes, thankfully, is a little extra attention and maybe a few upgrades in the materials used for decorating. Here’s a few simple ideas you can incorporate into your family traditions for fire-free fun:
Upgrade decorative lighting: Indoor and outdoor lights are popular from Halloween through the New Year. Old-fashion lights, however, can burn extremely hot. And weathered wires easily spark and burn. When purchasing lights, make sure they have passed strict safety tests conducted by Underwriters Lab (UL) or another established testing facility. They will be marked with a holographic UL label. A red label means lights can be used indoors and out, while green means indoor-use only. Take advantage of pre-season sales to upgrade your lights and be sure to check out cool-to-the-touch LED lighting that gives you the same great festive look without the danger. Bonus: These lights also use less electricity and are great for keeping your utility bill under control.
Check your outlets: Be sure that the outlets you use for decorative lights are ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These shut the circuit down if there is overcurrent, preventing hazardous sparks. If you don’t have a GFCI outlet, it’s worth the small investment to have a qualified electrician install one or two outdoors that will serve your for many holidays to come.
Candles: Did you know that candles can heat up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit? We know not to place candles near curtains, loose papers, or where children can get at them. But at that high temperature it’s possible for other materials to become flammable as well. Be sure tabletop centerpieces with decorative items such as berries, dried leaves, corn husks, or Styrofoam decorations are arranged so that flames aren’t too close. And when in doubt, replace open flame candles with modern electrical candles that so closely resemble the real thing no one will ever know.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 5,000 people visit the emergency room each holiday season due to indoor and outdoor electrical decoration mishaps. Follow these tips and you’re sure to avoid any unplanned ER trips or visits from your local fire station. And still enjoy the season in style.