Welcome to this month’s installment of Dear Urbaneer, where I answer my inquisitive readers’ real estate, housing, & home questions. Today I’m sharing some of the newest smart tech solutions that are sure to elevate his home life.
Given that I live in a small home, I am trying to make better use of my space and my time at my residence. I am still working from home often, and am enjoying being able to host friends more often this summer compared to years past. And I love gadgets. Do you have any thoughts on smart home products that could make my home and life more efficient?
Here’s my reply:
The question you pose is a timely one. There is a great deal of new technology available that can improve our lives by enhancing the efficiency of daily tasks while simplifying our domestic spaces. But with price tags running the gamut from cheap and cheerful to “…I’m sorry, HOW much?!’, the challenge is knowing what will uniquely serve you well and whether the price of admission is worth paying for.
Although tackling home renovations and dabbling in décor has been widely popularized and romanticized (thank you HGTV), the pandemic served to exacerbate that pop culture obsession with design even further. It only makes sense; after spending all that time confined to our living spaces, we have a brand new – and critical- lens through which we view our domestic domain. As a result, we now expect (and require) more from our dwellings, seeking smart solutions to better our lifestyles and improve our day-to-day.
In particular, the work-from-home movement that got sustainable legs during the pandemic has us looking for better ways to multi-purpose rooms. In fact, I have a whole series about COVID-19 and how it has shaped home design and real estate. For some WFH ideas, check out these blogs: Post-Pandemic Housing Trends To Watch For; Dear Urbaneer: How To Resolve Your Work From Home Dilemma During The COVID-19 Pandemic; and BLeisure, WFH, & An IKEA Hack.
So how do you make your home better work for you once you realize it’s lacking? Apart from selling your property and buying something more suitable – or taking on major home renovations to move walls and physically create a more intelligent space plan – there are smaller, but very effective tools for elevating your home to better support your unique needs (or simply make it prettier and more fun!) such as hi-tech home furnishings and products that can truly enhance your at-home aesthetic and living experience.
You are probably already familiar with things like smart thermostats (Nest, for example), smart security systems, and smart lighting – all of which can be controlled by voice or a mobile device. I wrote about smart homes, the IOT (Internet of Things) and domestic ‘connectedness’ in this post: Smart Technology And Homes Of The Future. But there is a slew of new smart products and innovations in the marketplace now, and I’d love to highlight a few for you!
It’s important to note that, in this context, smart can have different meanings; smart furniture, for example, can refer to it being ‘connected’ (i.e. electronic and part of the Internet of Things) or could simply mean intelligent design – as in an efficient complement to or enhancement of space, either for beauty or to expand or contract as required to improve your livability.
At the end of the day, it is about making your home most efficient with your space and your lifestyle. Without knowing what your specific needs or lifestyle look like, let’s explore some of the current innovations out right now!
Smart Space Savers
Live in a small space? That doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice functionality. For condo owners, in particular, having rooms that do double duty, or furniture that tucks away while not in use can have a significant impact; namely, you get more out of your home.
Wall beds are a great way to make a bedroom usable for something else during the day (i.e. that work-from-home office) or to increase sleeping space in a home. It’s even more efficient if you have a wall bed with storage. For inspiration, check out this Dwell article: “16 Modern Murphy Bed Designs That Magically Create More Space”“.
And it’s not just the bedroom that benefits from pack-away-when-not-in-use furniture. Here is the kitchen’s response to the Murphy bed. The Smart Kitchen opens up to house a full kitchen, including storage for pots, pans, plates, and glasses. A full kitchen, with sink, oven, stove and microwave is housed there as well, along with counter space for prep.
If you love to host large meals and gatherings, you need adequate seating, but chances are that you don’t need that much seating every day – and a table of that size takes up a lot of room – particularly in a small space. The answer is a transformer table, which in its smallest configuration is about the size of a desk, and can open up to be a large dining table, with seating for up to 12 people. Versatile!
Even having a coffee table with storage can make a big difference, as well as reduce clutter. Check out these ideas from HGTV, and have a peek at some next-level models like this one; it has a built-in fridge that opens at the touch of a button, enhanced Bluetooth speakers and voice recognition, and charging stations!
Furniture Of The Future
There is a burgeoning market for smart furniture. Cue the theme song from The Jetsons.
This Vancouver company Gryphon Nova is developing a project where suites have furniture affixed to the ceiling that raises and lowers with a touch of your smartphone, allowing for much more flexibility and truly multi-purpose living spaces. No expense was spared on the modular furniture and mechanics; there are safety sensors, for example, that ensure there is nothing on the bed when it raises, as well as a motion detector below to make sure it doesn’t come down on anything (or anyone).
This development has lots of other tech bells and whistles. Who needs those chunky visor clickers? Gain access to the garage with license plate recognition, and to your suite with keyless entry! Receive a package? You can visit a parcel locker linked to an app (so you can open it with your phone!)
There are a number of brands that are promoting smart furniture as well. IKEA is launching a smart home app called Dirigea. It focuses on connectivity and ease of use. Control lights, lower blinds and more. IKEA also has a whole line of smart products, including lighting, double-duty WIFI speakers and air purifiers.
This CTV article looks at some of the smart furniture trends Is Smart Furniture The New trend? Expert Says It’s Too Early To Tell.
A Room With [MORE Than] A View
Natural light is a must-have in any home (check out my post Dear Urbaneer: What Architectural Design Features Elevate The Value Of Toronto Real Estate?), but having windows, means creating holes in the building envelope. Having high-efficiency, triple-glazed windows is important, but an innovation called smart glass helps as well, by reacting to light and altering the level of opacity. This is helpful for insulation and energy conservation – but also helps for privacy as well.
The technology in smart glass light can control different forms of light, visible light, UV, and IR. Transparent materials switch on demand in response to the light using various technologies to increase opaqueness. The coating or film on smart glass is activated by an electrical charge.
You’ll see this tech at home and at work, as it is often employed in offices for partitions, at home in windows, in cars – and even in eyeglasses.
Have a read through “Everything You Want to Know About Smart Glass” for background information and diagrams on how the tech in smart glass actually works! Neat!
“Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall… What’s The Weather Like Today?”
Make the most of your getting-ready-in-the-morning time with a smart mirror. Smart mirrors have a digital display behind the glass and connect to your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi, meaning you can check the weather, read the news or listen to your favourite podcast, while shaving or putting on your makeup. Unlike standard mirrors, they feature two-way glass, as they need light to filter through so that the digital display appears. They also possess anti-fogging features and have a memory to recall your preferred lighting settings.
A smart mirror in the bedroom can help create a soft glow bedside while winding down for the night.
Also, smart mirrors are becoming a very popular fitness option – the perfect complement for your home gym. You can check your form in the mirror and/or join fitness classes, all from the comfort of your home.
When smart mirrors aren’t enabled, they function as an old-fashioned, reflective mirror – which still serves a practical and decorative function.
There is a slew of smart mirrors available across a number of price points, with varying levels of tech and functionality. Some, for instance, are voice-activated.
Use them anywhere in your home!
Check out this Forbes article “Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…The New Age Of Smart-Mirrors“.
Make Your Kitchen Work For You (Literally!)
Given their leanings towards hi-tech, smart appliances have been around longer relative to many other household items. And home cooks love how smart appliances support their passion.
You may have seen smart fridges and ovens that are WI-FI enabled; LG premiered a fridge in 2018 that tells you when your carrots are about to expire, and sends cooking instructions directly to your smart oven! The host of gadgets that are cool and useful in the kitchen is growing!
This countertop oven increases efficiency and reduces stress. It steams, bakes and broils – all by using QR codes! How about a touchscreen toaster? Touchscreen tech lowers bread into the toaster browns it evenly and perfectly.
Wondering if your meat is cooked? This wireless thermometer will alert you. You insert a probe in your meat, and select an option from the app on your phone. It will tell you when you’ve reached the right temperature; no more running to the oven every 20 minutes!Do you sous vide? A Wi-Fi enabled sous vide makes it quick and easy. You attach this to a pot, place your food in a sealed bag and then cook using the app on your phone.
Coffee connoisseur? There are a ton of options to brew your favourite cup of coffee perfectly with your smartphone.
A Spotlight On NFT Artwork
Beyond digital picture frames that display your treasured photos, artwork has gotten smarter over the last few years. NFT (Non-Fungible Token) art exists digitally. NFT are digital tokens tied to assets that can be bought, sold and traded – and the artwork in this case is the asset. Think of an NFT as a computer file that comes with proof of ownership and authenticity, like a deed. This artwork exists on a cryptocurrency blockchain. Like Bitcoin, they exist on a blockchain.
The most notable features of NFT pieces of art are authenticity and rarity; the fact that they can’t be replicated offers greater value to those who seek them. In the market for a piece or two? You can browse NFT art from a variety of sellers and there is a market for supportive products – like NFT frames (large digital canvases) that offer optimal display in your home.
NFT artwork has really taken off, with pieces of art already fetching huge sums at auction. For background information on NFT art and the impact it is having on the art world right now read “NFT art: what is it, how it works and what it means for the creative industry and NFTs explained“.
Another innovation in the realm of ‘artwork’ is the advent of Smart TVs that double as wall paintings when not in use. It’s a clever and obvious solution given so many black screen TVs are hung on the wall and look like empty voids in space when not in use. By doing this you get decorative use out of your TV. You can stream your favourite artwork right into your TV for display! For those without the dollars to spend for NFT, this is a great hack!
Sleep Easy With A Smart Bed
A good night’s sleep is essential to mental and physical health, so buying a new mattress could be a risky proposition – if it doesn’t fit you quite right, or is too soft or too hard.
You can take the guesswork out of finding the right mattress by having a smart bed, which will collect data as you are sleeping and adjust accordingly. Some even connect to your phone to provide feedback and tips on how to improve your sleep. It’s like a built-in sleep coach. A smart bed can control temperature, adjust position and more. There are even self-making models! Now that’s a smart home feature!
Click here to read What Is a Smart Bed?
In the Bathroom
Ideally, a bathroom should be spa-like: inviting and luxurious, encouraging relaxation. How much better could it be with voice activation and other smart features? Less work = double dreamy!
Using an app on your smartphone to load your preferences, you can ask your bathroom for what you’d like. Ask your smart mirror to light according to your preferred lighting. Heat your toilet seat (which comes with an LED nightlight). Ask to start your morning shower- and you can pre-select your favourite temperature and the intensity of the water- spa-like or invigorating. Fill your bathtub to your preferred level with your voice.
Tech is always evolving, and the sky’s the limit. What’s on the radar for home tech? Check out “10 Smart Home Trends This Year”
Smarter, prettier, more efficient… we keep raising the bar for our homes as well as for the thinkers, investors, conceptualists, and stylists behind the latest tech and trends.
Technology has an increasingly important role in how and where we live our lives at home. I’ve always got my finger on the pulse of design trends, and that includes smart tech to enrich our homes. With decades of experience in real estate and a passion for all things housing, I am happy to share my advice and recommendations on how you can make your home the best it can be. I am here to help!
Here are some complementary reads I think you’ll enjoy!
Behold The HGTV Effect On Toronto Real Estate
Toronto’s Booming Technology Economy And Our Real Estate Market
From 2019 –> Hey – Stop With That Real Estate Photoshop!
From 2017 –> Smart Technology And Homes Of The Future (In just 5 years since this post, we’ve gone from remote thermostats and door locks to interactive mirrors that show you the news!!)
From 2014 –> Do Your Walls Think? Exploring Technology In The Home
If you’re considering purchasing or selling Toronto real estate, consider speaking with us. Why? Because along with helping you create your personal custom housing matrix for now and tomorrow, we develop a comprehensive, data-driven, tactical strategy tailored specifically for you and your objectives. This is especially important during changing times when there are so many mitigating factors shaping our economic and socio-political climates (oh, don’t forget the Climate Crisis too!).
May we be of assistance to you, or someone you love? We’d be honoured to be your realtors of choice.
– Steve & The Urbaneer Team
The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000
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