Transforming your home into a connected smart house can seem like a daunting task that will turn it into a land of wires and questionable gadgets everywhere you look. But adding some smarts doesn’t have to take away from your home’s beauty—and in some ways, it can even enhance it.
“There are zero reasons to sacrifice style when it comes to choosing technology for your home,” says Carley Knobloch, a digital lifestyle expert who works with the likes of HGTV, The Today Show and The Inspired Home. “There are many great options that are clean and minimal, or jazzy and colorful.”
Alessandra Wood, PhD and director of style at 3D home design service Modsy, agrees. “Sometimes we forget that our homes shouldn't just be stylish for the sake of being stylish, but should be havens that reflect ourselves and our own personal needs. Technology within the home can help create small comforts that make a big impact on day-to-day life.”
There’s a smart device for everything nowadays—lights, speakers, even bassinets—but where are the best spots to place these devices?
Since they need to easily pick up on speech, “Voice-control devices want to be where people congregate—a kitchen counter is perfect,” advises Knobloch. A centrally located media console would also suffice.
“For anything like speakers or lamps, I'd place them exactly where you would put non-smart pieces of the same kind,” says Wood.
Once your latest device is in the best spot to call home, the universal tip from experts is to give it a few friendly companion pieces to sit with.
“Layer your tech items with other decor pieces,” says Decorist Creative Director Jessica McCarthy. “For example, place your Amazon Echo on your bookshelf with a stack of books or a fresh arrangement of flowers. The key to designing with smart devices is to blend them into your everyday life, not have them stand out.”
Wood shares that philosophy: “For pieces like the Amazon Echo, I'd style them like any other decorative accessory,” she says. “It's nice to set vases or candles in sets of three, so add Alexa to a decorative grouping.”
A smart home isn’t just about adding an Amazon Echo, though. The tech you’d find in an everyday house—DVRs, wi-fi routers, surround-sound speaker systems—have not only been upgraded with new smarts, but also with fresh designs.
“Have you seen the TiVo Bolt, or the eero router? The former is a show-stopping sculpture that also happens to be a killer DVR, and the latter is a beautifully rounded wireless router that you can hide in plain sight,” Knobloch says. Other good examples of stylish gadgets include Google Home and Norton's Core.
Smart lightbulbs are a great entry point for integrating smart tech into your home. They’re affordable and don’t require a big installation project. What’s more, smart lights can amp up your home’s aesthetic.
“I love Hue lightbulbs,” says Wood. “They're not trying to be anything but light bulbs, they're seamlessly integrated into your home, and provide an upgrade to regular bulbs by offering a variety of colors, smart controls, and energy savings.”
Knobloch also advocates smart lighting. “I like putting smart lamps in front windows so that they're scheduled to light the window at night, and turn off in the morning. It's a pretty effect, and doesn't require you to turn it off each morning.”
Philips Hue’s smart lighting isn’t just limited to light bulbs, but also includes beautifully designed lamps that include connected lighting. The Wellner lamp ($99) has a sleek orb-like design that gives off shades of white, making it a great addition to the bedroom. The Go lamp ($79.99), with its chic half-moon shape, emits rainbow and white hues. The best part? It’s portable! The Go can hold a charge so that it can be moved anywhere in the home, so you can change up the lighting in any room depending on your mood.
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A Smarter Kitchen
Samsung Family Hub 4-Door Flex, from $3,299; samsung.com
Wi-fi routers and lightbulbs aren’t the only everyday objects that have gotten a stylish smart makeover. McCarthy is a fan of smart fridges, which take the idea of the fridge as a family bulletin board and turn it into a digital hub for everyone in the house.
“For a modern kitchen, Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigerator has a sleek stainless steel design that’s good looking, and the technology is incredible,” says McCarthy. “You can be at the grocery store and pull up the app to see if you’re low on milk or need eggs.”
Knobloch is especially familiar with the world of beautifully designed devices, and shared a few more of her favorites for their aesthetic alone. “I absolutely love Beoplay's speakers, as well as Vifa’s— they're both sculptural and beautiful, and come in colors that will compliment anyone's design scheme,” she says.
She also pointed out that even the most functional gadgets can be beacons of style. For example, “Nest's learning thermostat comes in beautiful finishes now like copper and white that help it blend with my decor, or be a jewel on the wall. Legrand's Adorne collection of switches and outlets come in fun finishes that make these mundane parts of the room into real show-stoppers.”
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But even with all these ways to add tech to your home, where do experts recommend omitting devices?
“I always love to leave my bedroom as a sanctuary. As much as we all love technology, it's also so important to be able to disconnect,” recommends McCarthy. “Keeping your nightstands clear of electronics will help you get a better night’s sleep and keep distractions at bay.”
Knobloch is also a fan of a low-tech bedroom, and works to minimize the electromagnetic fields in her family’s home. “Relegating most of the tech to the first floor of our home makes me feel better that we're not sleeping in a bath of wi-fi signals each night. And of course, having a wireless router like eero that can turn off the Internet at night is a big help.”