Striking a Healthy Aesthetic Balance With Smart Home Tech

September 11, 2015

8:00 pm

Much has been written about the smart home technologies of tomorrow, and for those in the tech industry, it is easy to go overboard with the latest and greatest home automation devices. But a very real issue within the world of custom integration is the fact that while many homeowners enjoy the conveniences brought about by these devices, they do not appreciate the way technology impacts the look of their home. With a little planning there are ways you can utilize new technologies to lessen the impact of electronics upon the decor of your home.

Balancing Design and Function

Building a high-end custom home is a project that involves a great deal of time and money. Architects, designers, and interior decorators spend months creating a space that fits their clients vision, everything from wall colors and artwork to door hardware and lighting fixtures are specified in minute detail. And then, after all of this, your AV guy comes in at the final stage of the project and throws a bunch of TV's and touch screens up on the walls. This not only ruins the look of the home, but spoils the attitude of many consumers toward home technologies.

It doesn't have to be this way. To start with, it is crucial to get your home automation consultant on board for any large project during the early design phases. This allows them to have a clear understanding of what you're trying to accomplish in terms of the design and function of each room. For example:

If you know you will be using your living room as both a space for entertaining and as a high-performance media room, the TV should be hidden when it's not in use. There a plenty of options for accomplishing this, but some require advanced planning to execute properly. One option is to have retractable artwork that covers the TV while off. Once it's turned on, the artwork disappears from view. One such solution from Vutec is designed specifically for this use case. The catch is that to make this a seamless solution, the wall oftentimes needs to be built specifically to house the TV.

Speakers are another piece of equipment that can affect the look of a room. In-ceiling and in-wall speakers are a good solution, but what if you want the speakers to disappear entirely?

For this you'll want a solution like Stealth Acoustics invisible speakers. As with the hidden TV, these speakers require a bit of advanced planning. They should be installed before the drywall is hung in the room, which will enable the drywall crew to blend them in with the rest of the wall. Once painted they are, quite literally, impossible to see.

Cleaning Up the Clutter

Providing simple control for a media room or home theater system is often one of the primary purposes of a smart home automation system, but automation products also enable you to cut down on wall clutter, creating a cleaner look for every room in your home. What are two of the most common, and ugly, types of wall clutter?

Let's start with the biggest culprit: light switches – every room in your house has them. And large rooms often have multiple banks of switches controlling a wide variety of lights. What if you could replace these banks of switches with one switch that controls the entire room? That's exactly what automated lighting controls do.

Banks of switches are replaced with a single keypad that is programmed to turn the lights on to a specific level. This not only simplifies operations, but it also saves energy. It also allows you to use the lighting to more effectively highlight artwork or architectural details of the room. As an added bonus, you can also turn all of the lights in your home off with the touch of a single button. Imagine never having to schlep around the house turning off lights again. You can even integrate your lighting system with other technologies to further improve your home's energy efficiency.

A lighting control system requires completely different electrical wiring than traditional lighting. This type of system should be decided upon early in the design phase of a new home.

Thermostats are another eyesore, but what if you could replace them with a temperature sensor that is hidden from view and adjust the temperature from your smartphone or tablet?

A tiny temperature sensor (which can be painted) is installed in the room. The thermostat is installed out of site in an equipment closet. Whenever you need to adjust the temperature or schedule for the room you simply open the Crestron mobile application on your smartphone or tablet. As with lighting systems, the climate control solution should be decided upon early in the project to ensure that proper wiring can be run.

What better way to leverage today's technologies than by utilizing it to preserve the carefully crafted design of your home? Good luck with your projects!

Image Credit: Flickr / Wonderlane's page / cropped, resized


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Jason Gshwandtner is a former business owner in the home technology space. He writes about a range of technology topics including home automation, home theater, and residential energy management.