Interiors are becoming more automated and technology-led. Lucy Baker-Kind investigates which systems are raising the stakes in the home technology market
In today’s world of interior design, the decisions do not begin and end with fabric choice, furniture placement and kitchen layout. Now, homes are going hi-tech and technology plays a large part in how our houses function and operate.
Now that winter is upon us, our thoughts turn to heating. Karen Chugg, Managing Director of Intelligent Abodes in Exeter, is finding her customers are moving towards more intelligent heating management systems. The Nest thermostat replaces the programmer so that heating can be controlled from one place. “The Nest thermostat learns the temperatures that you like and creates a personalised schedule, and helps you manage heating more effectively so that you can save on energy too.” The device even detects if it is very cold and will increase the temperature, which in turn will prevent water pipes freezing.
Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds to match the desire to create all-singing, all-dancing home entertainment systems on which to view the traditional Christmas films. The trend today is to have several televisions in various rooms, and these screens can now access the viewing sources, such as Apple, Sky and Blu-ray, from a central location, so there is no need for supplier boxes by each set.
Televisions themselves have had a redesign and many manufacturers offer curved screens, which are designed to track the natural shape of the eyes and immerse the viewer in the picture. Karen is impressed with this new shape. “The first thing I noticed was the depth of picture and that it felt like 3D. This is because the image on a curved screen exists on multiple depth planes, with a physical foreground and background like a 3D image. The main downside is getting your seating position correct for viewing, so this needs to be taken into consideration when choosing the TV.”
Ben Davies, Branch Manager of Beacon Electrical in Kingsbridge, agrees that the quality of televisions has increased dramatically. “The Sony and Samsung new 4k TVs give incredible picture quality, with really punchy colours and sharp images.” If space allows, a room dedicated to a home cinema experience is filled with the latest gadgets, including soundbar and sub-woofer. “Normally they have a large TV and many, many speakers to give that ultimate cinematic experience. The sub gives that wonderful bass and bottom end, whilst the soundbar makes speech crystal clear.”
The sound quality from the television is just as important as the picture, and soundbars can be installed that create surround sound. The bars incorporate an array of speakers in one unit that is mounted underneath the TV, or several speakers can be placed strategically around the room.
Karen is finding that customers are focusing on the importance of sound quality. “There are a great variety of options, with Sonance producing an adjustable soundbar so that it can be matched to the size of the TV; Samsung has produced a curved soundbar to match the TVs and Arcam has released the Solo bar for TV and music.”
Television siting is also undergoing a technological breakthrough, with innovative brackets and wall-mounting systems available. “TVs can be hidden behind artwork or stored in ceiling or wall spaces with discreet motorised brackets, or can be built into cabinets. One solution that is very popular is the TV at the bottom of the bed appearing as desired on a motorised lift from a cabinet,” says Karen.
Clients like to surround themselves with excellent music quality in the home, and Ben recommends the Sonos system for indulgence. “The quality and ease of use are simply breathtaking. Each room that has a Sonos unit can be playing different music and can be easily managed on your PC, tablet or phone.” For a smaller budget, the Pure Jongo has Bluetooth connectivity and will play music from any Bluetooth device.
Gadgets that enable customers to put their feet up and enjoy their entertainment systems without worrying about cleaning up after festive parties are also becoming more popular! Robot floor cleaners take the hassle out of keeping floors clean. Ben thinks they have a valuable place in the home. “The Miele Robot Cleaner is fun but a serious bit of kit. They are cordless so no tripping on wires, they map the ceiling with a camera, don’t fall off edges and have bump protection to protect your valuable furniture and other items. It also has 120 minutes on non-stop power before it makes its way back to its docking station to charge.”
Even window dressings can be hi-tech. Blinds and curtains can be opened and closed at the touch of a button via Lutron software and Karen is finding that these are one of the most popular requests from customers. “Lutron has generated curtain and blind materials that effectively control the heat in your home, maintaining warmth in winter and coolness in summer.”
Once the curtains are drawn, lights need to be switched on. Again, this can be done throughout the desired areas, and scene settings can be chosen, by using one central control panel.
Even ‘old-fashioned’ apparatus is being given an overhaul and Ben thinks it may be time to dig out those old LPs. “Turntables are so popular and are really affordable. They also have built-in speakers, so the vinyls can come out of the attic or cupboard and be played once again. Some of our younger generation will be amazed that this is the way we used to listen to music but will be blown away by the quality of sound.”
Leaving the house and making it secure has been given enhancements. Lockitron attaches to door locks and allows the door to be locked and unlocked via an app, tablet or smart phone. Vicky Wilkins, from VK Colourworks in Ifracombe, sees this as beneficial to those who are not in the house full-time. “It’s ideal for holiday home-owners to reassure themselves that they have locked up.”
If home-owners want their house to be at the cutting edge of technology, then Karen thinks a Home Control Solution is the pinnacle. “The RTi or Vantage will allow the client to control heating, lighting, curtains/blinds, music, TV and security systems from their smart phone or tablet, whether home or away – it’s the ultimate in luxury, security, convenience and fun!”
“The Nest thermostat learns the temperatures that you like and creates a personalised schedule”
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