There’s this notion going around that everything needs to be “smart” for ease of lifestyle — even your home. Fortunately for you, the market is saturated with smart-home tools, with new ones added almost every day. Below is a list of a few smart-home tools for your home that you did not know you needed.
The most common way that homeowners get started with smart-home technology is by purchasing a voice assistant device such as an Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home Assistant. These come in a variety of sizes. From the Google Mini or Echo Dot to the larger hubs such as the Google Hub or Echo Show (which offer touch screens and more robust speakers). You can place them in popular areas in the house, such as the kitchen or bedroom, to look up information, play music, and control other smart-home devices. From there, homeowners can choose other smart-home products that are compatible with their voice assistant.
The next item that energy-conscious homeowners will want to purchase is a smart thermostat. Popular brands include Ecobee, Nest, and Honeywell. Nest has been acquired by Google, which is transitioning the “works with Nest” program to work with Google Assistant and offer additional products such as a video doorbell, a smart-lock, cameras, and a security system. Ecobee is our personal favorite since it includes an additional occupancy and temperature sensor that can be placed in any room of the home. Both systems have scheduling and geofence features that will adjust settings based on whether the owner is home using their phone as a presence sensor.
Ring has helped video doorbells gain popularity with their aggressive advertising on Nextdoor and Facebook. There are other great options from Google, Simplisafe, and Skybell. A video doorbell allows the homeowner to see who’s at the door, monitor when packages arrive, and avoid those pesky door-to-door salespeople. Beware: if you don’t have a strong Wi-Fi connection you’ll be disappointed with the video quality.
Whether you install a switch at the wall or just replace a few lightbulbs, smart lighting is a popular choice for convenience, security, and entertainment. We recommend going with a system such as Lutron, which does not require a neutral wire and can be controlled via voice or application with a smart bridge device. Philips Hue or LIFX bulbs are both great options for lighting up a room with color, and each includes a variety of scenes that can help set the mood. Smart lights and switches can also be integrated with a home hub such as Hubitat and connected to other devices such as door or motion sensors. Smart bulbs can also be compatible with Alexa and Google Devices.
Plugs are another cost-effective way to control dated devices such as lamps, fans, or holiday lights. This allows the homeowner to setup a variety of automations and use his or her smartphone or voice assistant to turn them on or off. Some versions also include energy monitoring, which can be used to trigger other automations or to simply let the owner know how much power they’re currently using. Perk: You can set these to go on or off on a timer so that your pets aren’t left in the dark when the sun sets.
With only a couple weeks left in the first month of the year, there is no better time to ditch some of those 2018 home trends. While certain statement pieces will last through the seasons, the round-up below are so last year! So read below and start off fresh in 2019!!
1. Gallery walls
It’s time to cool it with nailing 20-piece photo collages onto our walls. Instead, make a bigger splash with one large piece that leaves an impression.
“I love family photos, but the stark black or blond wood frames—thank you, Ikea!—that we’ve put up on the wall are a little, well, not trending,” says Los Angeles home designer Kim Gordon.
A wall full of little frames, Gordon says, fails to make a statement and ends up being overlooked and ignored. Plus, those frames will just accumulate dust and fingerprints.
In the new year, Gordon says the tedious clutter will give way to “big, potentially colorful, and absolutely impactful” art that wows—think charcoal sketches or watercolors—“anything to relieve some of the monotony.”
2. Industrial kitchens
Three years later, and we’re still ringing the closing bell on this exhausted look. It seems old habits (and Edison bulbs) die hard.
So, we’ll say it again for the people in the back: Industrial chic is played out. It’s time to flip the switch on cage lighting and aggressively exposed pipes and beams.
“More often than not, [this look] fails and lacks the authenticity the designer is ardently trying to create,” says David Shove-Brown of Washington, DC–based architecture and design firm //3877.
Industrial kitchens are “not the most inviting place to be the heart of your home—more like living in a Costco,” O’Neill adds. “So, unless you are a professional chef, let’s retire this trend.”
Make the swap for lush, opulent hues in the kitchen—deep (almost black) greens and blues, and dark woodwork—and lean on matte metallics for contrast, recommends Debbie Schamberger of Elite Kitchen & Bath.
“Gold is strong for hardware, faucets, and lighting fixtures—a soft gold, like Champagne,” she says.
3. Boho accessories
We can already hear the boos and hisses on this one, but Portland, OR, designer Justin Riordan isn’t having it.
“Boho has to die,” he says. “It’s totally flippin’ over.”
You know what we’re talking about: The macrame wall hangings, the waxy-fake succulents (“You’re not fooling anybody,” Riordan says), and your Moroccan lanterns all had a good run, but it’s time to rein it in.
“You can, of course, continue to buy $19 batik pillows at Target, but stuff like that is just fodder for your next garage sale,” Riordan says. “It comes on really fast and goes away really fast.”
If you just can’t tear yourself away from that gypsy-soul-world-citizen vibe, Riordan suggests channeling those feelings into an authentic piece that reflects a real ethnic tradition—say, a kilim rug—and building the room around that.
4. Word art
We know—we can’t believe it either, but the word art trend is still happening. In 2019, however, the pros are determined to make it finally stop. Even if you can live, laugh, and love with the best of them, those words don’t belong on your walls.
“Any text art hung in the home meant to be positive just comes across as cheesy and predictable,” says Jessica Boudreaux, an interior designer in Miami and New York City. “Stuart Smalley called, and he wants his signage back.”
Ana Cummings of Ana Interiors agrees: “It’s about as hokey as you can get.”
5. Kitchen islands
But isn’t the island sort of ultimate #kitchengoals? Diana Blaszkiewicz, an associate with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in Washington, DC, doesn’t think so. Her clients increasingly want to ditch the kitchen island, and she’s happy to oblige.
“They’re bulky and often don’t provide adequate storage space; plus, they’re very easy to bump into in the middle of the night,” she says.
In lieu of an island, situate the dining table closer to the kitchen, Blaszkiewicz recommends, or use modular, moveable storage instead.
6. Gray everything
Will 2019 be the year we do away with gray?
“From walls to napkins, from Florida to Maine, it has been all about gray for so long now, I can hardly remember when it snuck in,” O’Neill laments.
“Because we’ve concentrated on cool grays for so long, it just feels dated at this point,” Riordan adds. “Everything I see in that palette just feels really cold to me.”
That doesn’t mean neutrals are out, but designers are ready for a shift to warmer tones, like sandy taupes.
7. Over-the-stove microwaves
Certain residential features are the brainchildren of home builders—notinterior designers. Such is the story of microwaves situated above cooktops.
“It was never a good design choice,” Cummings says. “Microwaves are so ugly, to put it bluntly.”
The microwave-over-the-range setup is not even functional, says Doug Lewis, a kitchen and bath remodeler in Richmond, VA. The combo’s popularity is driven entirely by the need to economize space—and it sacrifices the ventilation capabilities of a full-size hood vent (as opposed to the scrawny item built into the bottom of over-range microwaves).
“With those, you’re maybe getting 25% venting function,” Lewis says. “Plus, it’s just an awkward height for younger or shorter people to use. Ever tried to reach over your head to get hot soup out of the microwave? Not good.”
So what’s a space-starved homeowner to do? Undercounter microwaves are gaining popularity, Lewis says, and a growing number of cabinet manufacturers offer designs that accommodate them. You can also mount your microwave under upper cabinets while still preserving that precious counter space.
8. Microfiber upholstery
For years now, microfiber has been the hero of home furniture—an affordable and practical choice for its durability. So durable, in fact, that this vaguely suede-like fabric is ready for a rest.
Why? Most microfiber furniture can make the overall design of a room appear dated and cheap, says Beverly Hills, CA–based designer Kita Williams. And while it’s not impossible to find a microfiber piece in a modern shape, aren’t you ready to try something new?
“Err on the side of caution, and stay away from microfiber,” Williams says. “Stick with linen, leather, pleather, tweed, and canvas-type fabrics.”
One of the best and least expensive ways to feel better about your home is to clear it of clutter.
Each year most of us acquire a mountain of stuff. Without some regular purging, cabinets and drawers get jam-packed and it becomes hard to find the things you use and enjoy the most. (All that clutter also makes your house look dated and dirty, designers say.)
This year resolve to go room-by-room periodically clearing anything that you don’t use, wear or love and donate it to charity. After that, think twice about what you bring in, says Antoinette Nue, an Atlanta consultant who specializes in helping people simplify and go green.
“Fill your home with the things that raise your energy level and make you feel good, and get rid of the things that drain your energy or are broken,” she says.
Stash useful (but not beautiful) items such as DVDs, remotes and those kicked-off shoes in simple woven baskets. Group similar items together on sleek trays, says Stuart McCormick, a designer with Liz Levin Interiors in Washington D.C.
Clear your counters of everything you don’t use on a daily basis. And get ready to breathe a little easier in your own home.
2: Make it safe and sound
Your home may be beautiful, but is it safe?
First, check your house for radon. This colorless, odorless gas causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year from the radioactive particles it traps in your lungs as you breathe, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One in every fifteen homes has elevated levels. And with test kits costing as little as $20 at your local hardware store, there’s no reason not to get right on that.
While we’re on the subject of deadly gas, make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector on every bedroom floor in addition to fire detectors. If a chimney flue or furnace vent gets blocked or leaks, carbon monoxide could back up in your house and kill you. Like a radon test, this is a small investment — $40 or more — for such an important safeguard.
Watch out for dryer lint. We know you clean the little trap inside the door, but most people neglect to clean the vents and ducts behind the dryer. Lint may seem innocent, but it’s highly combustible, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, accounting for more than 15,000 building fires a year.
Make sure your house can breathe. Many people’s bathrooms and attics aren’t vented to the outside (or the vents are covered over with shingles.) This makes you a prime candidate for mold.
And if you’re considering a remodel — and your home was last built or remodeled before 1978 — consider testing for lead paint and asbestos flooring. It will have to handled properly during removal, or particles can be released into the air for you to ingest.
3: Shrink your bills (and your carbon footprint in the process)
When people think of going green, they often think it takes solar panels to make a difference.
Not so, says Bob Schildgen, who wrote the “Hey Mr. Green” column for Sierra magazine. It just takes a little old-fashioned common sense.
The best place to start is by cutting your energy usage in your home:
– Remember your mom’s advice and switch off the lights when you leave a room.
– Turn off your air conditioner when you leave the house and dial your heater down to 55 degrees at night.
– Install LED bulbs and low-flow showerheads.
– Turn off your power strips and/or set your home computer to revert to sleep mode when not in use.
– Water your yard less. Put in drought-tolerant landscaping if necessary.
– Give composting a try. Your garden will thank you.
4: Work out a weekly system for keeping your house clean
Here are a few tips for keeping the mess under control from Jeff Campbell. He is the author of the book Speed Cleaning and owner of the Clean Team housekeeping service in San Francisco.
Daily: Dishes go in the dishwasher every night – no excuses! Dirty clothes go in the hamper and jackets or clean clothes are hung in the closet. Bring everything back to its assigned place.
Weekly: Clean your entire house, using these tips:
– Keep all of your cleaners in a portable carryall that moves with you from room to room.
– Focus on one type of cleaning at a time. It’s faster, Campbell says. Wipe down fingerprints on all of the cabinets, for instance, before moving on to spraying and wiping counters. Then move on to windows and mirrors and appliances. Once that’s done move on to sweeping and then mopping floors.
– For optimum efficiency, enlist the help of your family. If you can, divide the jobs among at least three parties. One of you can do the dusting/vacuuming and changing beds. The other can do the bathroom cleanup, leaving only the kitchen and trash emptying for you to handle. The upside? You can get the whole house done in 45 minutes, Campbell says. Leaving more time on the weekends for the park or the movies.
5: Get your place ready for entertaining
Each year most of us vow to spend more time with family and friends. To make you feel like inviting people in, why not give the areas you entertain in a little update?
You don’t have go for broke here and invest in a new kitchen remodel. All it takes to get a fresh new look is a little bit of rearranging and a few updates, says designer McCormick.
One easy update that makes your home seem more “finished” is the addition of plants, she says.
“They bring in new energy and help clean the air,” she says. “And it’s a great way to decorate if you’re on a budget.”
Pulling out a new accent color from your existing decor can make the whole room seem fresh. Pick an underused color in the room and add more of it in the form of a new pillow or throw to update your look, McCormick advises. A colorful rug or runner can also help anchor your space.
Lastly, take some time to rearrange your furniture so it is oriented in conversation groups and not just facing the television. That just might up for chances for real conversation and connection in the New Year.