Kitchen & Bath Design News

APR 2014

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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16 | Kitchen & Bath Design News April 2014 W hen I was growing up, technology and design were worlds apart. In those days, technology was a very nerdy, uncool afair. We had calcula- tor watches, ugly computer terminals and search engines called "Ask Jeeves" and "Altavista." Remember when every appliance had a digital clock that you could never set? That was my youth (I was the youth that could actually set those clocks). Not only is technology today far better and easier to use, it's way more fashionable. If I pulled a small tablet com- puter out of my bag 15 years ago (those did exist), I'd be laughed out of the room like Doc Brown trying to give fash- ion advice. Now, an iPad is just as much of a fashion statement as a functional computer. This is good news for the home design industry, as fashion-forward rooms like the kitchen and bath are benefting tremendously from today's technology – and without sacrifcing the aesthetics that remain a high priority for today's kitchen and bath consumers. Technology is coming to design just as much as design is coming to technology, and it's impacting everything from lighting to faucets to appliances to home automation products. Let's take a look at a few ex- amples of how technology and design are coming together. TECH GETTING DESIGN Thermostats…who cares about them? I never did, at least outside of their func- tionality. At their most basic, a thermostat is just an ugly wall accoutrement that con- trols the temperature when you spin its cheap plastic ring. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the growth of the automated home concept, in which you get a dreary plastic rectangle full of buttons that unfortu- nately doesn't come with an engineer or teenager to set it up. These units promise to automate your heat, air con- ditioning and half a dozen other home functions…if you can fgure them out. Imagine what would hap- pen if the guy who designed the iPod got a lot of money and decided to invent a ther- mostat. Well, actually, that very thing happened, and the results will speak to anyone with a passion for design. Take a look at the Nest thermostat. This magical device blends style and tech- nology remarkably. At frst glance, its machined metal ring and glass front are ooz- ing with sharp industrial design. The setup and instal- lation is as easy as an iPod. There's no programming it, either; you just turn it up when you want to be warm and down when you don't. This beautiful jewel of a gad- get knows when you're home or away, it knows the weather and it even knows when you last changed your furnace air flter. No teenager or engineer required; if you can set the temperature, you can use this thermostat. After trying out the Nest, for the first time ever, I've talked about – and even wanted – a thermostat. And, when was the last time you were in a public bathroom and used one of those hand-free faucets? At best, those gadgets are un- inspired chunks of metal. At worst, they can be frustrat - ingly unreliable at doing the one thing they were designed to do – turn on the water when you need it, and turn it of when you're done. A number of faucet com- panies, including Brizo and Delta, have stepped up to re- design those for the better. At frst glance, they are sexy, stylized faucets that you fall in love with. Some of Brizo's line is actually designed by a real fashion designer, not an engineer. On top of that, the hands-free and touch technology actually works. The amount of thought that goes into it is amazing for something that you just tap or wave at to make work. The companies have taken a bor- ing lump of stainless steel and turned it into something stylish, magical and function - al – just like Apple did with the smartphone. DESIGN GETTING 'TECH' Our kitchen designs are in- creasingly calling for the inclusion of technology. In fact, it's all but impossible these days to create a high- ly functional kitchen that doesn't integrate various aspects of technology. One example of this is LED lighting, which is becoming increas- ingly popular as its cost has gone down. The in- stallation is also easier, making it more accessible. You're probably aware of the LED strips that are popping up in kitchens all over the place. Well, the evolution of the LED is the smart LED. I recently got a chance to try out a Phillips HUE system. The system consists of three LED bulbs that fit in stan- dard lamp sockets. These lights are connected to your wi-fi, and controlled by a smartphone app. The lights can be mixed to any color of the rainbow that you or your client might desire. Now, color changing bulbs are nothing new, but the smartness of these lights is. They can be set to come on when you arrive home, and turn of when you leave. If it's going to rain, you can have them turn a blue color. Since the system is open, any developer can access them. In addition to being smart, these are highly functional, with possible uses ranging from safety to setting a mood to providing simple visual reminders for kitchen func- tions. For example, the lights can be used to remind you that you have an oven run- ning, or to make it appear that someone is home when you're on vacation. Moving on to the kitchen as the social nerve center of the home, we realize it's now becoming a tech center as well. Consumers are in- creasingly looking to have charging stations incorpo- rated into the kitchen for all of their electronics, and kitchen designers can't get away with having just a few outlets on the backsplash. You need to be cre- ative with where you put these. To that end, there are any number of popup outlets, including models that hide in drawers, and ones that are made for those USB charging blocks. Speaking of USB charg- ing, a simple new kitchen gadget that is now available is an outlet that features USB sockets as well. These don't take up any more space than a regular outlet, and they still have two 110 plugs. But they also have twin USB ports, which are almost a must in today's kitchens. We're in a great renais- sance of design. No longer is technology utilitarian and ugly; it's a fashionable and functional part of our lives. Kitchens and baths are as much a functional part of the home as they are a fashion accessory. The integration of technology into them and our homes can make for incredible – and incredibly adaptable – spaces. HIGH DESIGN Comes to Technology The blending of technology and fashion continues to have a powerful efect on the kitchen and bath design industry. "Technology is coming to design just as much as design is coming to technology, and it's impacting everything from lighting to faucets to appliances to home automation products." The old design- challenged thermostat (bottom) is being replaced by design savvy models like the Nest, which incorporates high design and smart technology. Read past columns and features and send us your comments about this article and others by logging onto our Web site: Design Technology { Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD } KBD_16-17_DesignTech.indd 16 3/14/14 8:54 AM

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