In our techno-savvy, ultra-connected society, there is always something greater — cooler, better — just around the corner, shouting at you from a screen.
The innovation of new software, computers, cellphones, cars, televisions and general electronic conveniences is constant, and the “Internet of Things,” referring to physical objects connected virtually (as through wireless Internet or Bluetooth), gains more momentum and connectivity with every passing nanosecond. Upgrades are no longer purely out of necessity; they are often born of the simple desire for the next new, ultra-connected, wireless convenience.
Regularly, though, we forget about the household electronics that have sustained us over the decades. These “retro” home staples are used and abused everyday but not associated in the same sexy category as cellphones and tablets — though maybe they should be.
Once revered as the latest and greatest in home innovation and convenience, home fixtures and appliances have waited decades for their moment to shine again. Today’s fast-paced, constantly evolving society of electronics has finally collided with the biggest home-remodeling boom in a century: Exciting, techno-upgrades are finally ready to debut in every room of your home.
Virtually every home is wirelessly connected to the outside. But now you can truly start wirelessly connecting your home on the inside. As never before, electronics of all sizes — from 500-pound refrigerators to two-ounce cellphones — are now capable of communicating with each other to enhance your day-to-day life.
Efficiency is the pivotal driver of innovation in kitchen appliances (with “the cool factor” leading a close second place). After a long day at work, who wants to come home and wait 20 minutes for the oven to preheat? If you choose to be “smart,” there are Bluetooth and wireless ovens to solve that problem. What about standing at the grocery store, racking your brain to remember whether you have enough milk or berries or ketchup? You could check your in-refrigerator camera to answer that question.
Your kitchen is not the only room in your home ready for upgrades. Maybe you do not want a computerized fridge or baking unit; maybe those upgrades are just too mundane for you. Maybe you want the greatest technology experience money can buy for the second most popular room to be renovated in today’s home: the bathroom.
Overwhelmingly, trends in bathroom design are pointing toward a luxurious, spalike experience. Not surprisingly, many of the technologies available for the bathroom are geared toward that very experience, and the boom in techno-savvy upgrades directly reflects that. There are standard upgrades, such as heated radiant floors and LED mirrors, or the elevated experience options: coffee makers built into your vanity cabinetry (why wait to go downstairs to jump-start your morning) and anti-fogging mirrors with integrated televisions behind the mirror glass.
Using technology in the bathroom can, on the spectrum, lean a little more toward fun than function. The ceiling tub filler is a popular-to-show-off innovation that streams a narrow column of water from the ceiling straight into your tub. Inversely, you can choose to integrate a virtual tub spout, which invisibly fills the tub internally from the bottom of the tub up.
More than any other feature in the bathroom, the shower takes center stage when it comes to technology upgrades. Chromotherapy, aromatherapy, steam-integration, body sprays, ceiling water tiles, Bluetooth speaker systems — if you can dream it, you can design it into your shower. Whether you prefer to shower in an idyllic spring rain or full-blown carwash, there is a shower experience just waiting for you to remotely turn it on (preset to your personal user preferences and temperature).
Another, debatably more functional, techno-integrated fixture in the bathroom is the toilet. Now truly deserving of its Porcelain Throne title, heated seats, night lights, touchless-flushes, pre-misting bowls, and motion-censored open/close lids (and auto-close seats) are readily available upgrades. In-wall tank systems and wall-mounted bowls give both a clean look and easy-to-clean functionality.
Lighting is a technology integration that is transforming both bathrooms as well as other spaces throughout the home. With motion-sensor LED lights, a softly glowing path can illuminate the way to a hall bathroom in the middle of the night (especially helpful for visiting guests and children). Attached to the toe kick of vanities, a motion-activated LED night light can greet anyone who opens the bathroom door in the dark. Staircases, closet rods and full-length mirrors are also receiving LED integration for better, more energy-efficient lighting where you need it most.
Keep in mind that, just as with cellphones and laptops, there is always going to be a new, great, technological innovation just around the corner. These innovations may be fun, functional or both — or sometimes neither. As whole-house technology hubs, artificial intelligence assistants and the Internet of Things are integrated into our lives and homes, knowing some of the available technologies, as well as being able to prioritize function or the “cool factor,” will help you navigate the world of new and exciting household tech upgrades.
Stephanie Brick is senior architectural designer at Sustainable Design Group in Gaithersburg, Md.