9 design tips from the Sunset Smart Homes High-tech, eco-friendly, and efficiency ideas from our 2011 Idea Houses in Palo Alto, California 2 Smart Homes, 2 modern couples This year's Sunset Ideas Houses are part of a mixed-use development in a pedestrian-orientered transit district of Palo Alto, California, near offices, a train station, shopping, and entertainment. Dubbed the Smart Homes, the duo of 1,500-square-foot, side-by-side townhomes were designed for two forward-thinking (albeit imaginary) couples. The Optimists live life on the go, use the latest high-tech gadgets, and love a colorful, modern style. Equally at ease with innovation, the Explorers are worldly travelers, always just returning from a trip or planning one. These profiles sparked the ideas that follow. Pinterest Smart idea: Enlarge the living room Eighteen-foot ceilings and a wall of windows make the first floor of the Optimists' triplex feel larger than its 576 square feet. Floating shelves and a tangerine orange Sunbrella cushion pop against the neutrals. The coffee table is made from old shipping pallets—another smart detail. Smart idea: Kitchen that cooks Pale surfaces and light-reflecting glass cabinetry keep the Optimists' 59-square-foot kitchen from feeling cramped. The marble-like quartz counters are anchored by dark cabinetry with slab doors for a clean, modern look. Heath Ceramics subway tiles work both vertically and horizontally on the back-splash walls. The school-bus yellow metal stools ad instant fun. Designed for indoor-outdoor use, these lightweight seats can follow the party wherever it goes. Smart idea: Top-hinged cabinet doors The top-hinged doors on the aluminum-framed frosted-glass cabinets open upward (and out of the way). Smart idea: Induction cooktop Induction cooktops are faster and more efficient than gas or electric, and only the cooking vessel gets hot. Smart idea: Digital control A digital home interface—controlled by an Apple iPad, it's also accessible via mobile devices—connects the home's audiovisual, security, climate, and lighting systems. Smart idea: Simple solutions Simple Ikea curtain wires provide a clever way to display art, mementos, and jewelry in the Optimists' home office. LED numerals glow through the wood veneer of EQ3's Hedge clock. Smart idea: High-tech bath In the Explorers' master bath, the mirrored doors of the Robern medicine cabinet slide up to reveal outlets, a defogger control, and an ultra-slim television. The shower's temperature, steam level, and water pressure can be programmed in to the digital Kohler interface—as can the morning's playlist. Smart idea: Shower style In the shower, we installed vertical bands of shimmery glass tile (instead of the expected horizontal strips) to emphasize the room's height. Smart idea: Quiet retreat Located at the top level of the Explorers' triplex, the master retreat feels insulated from the home's social spaces. The headboard of the queen-size bed was custom-made using wood sustainably harvested from sugar palm trees. The bamboo sconce—from Schmitt Design—adds a warm, soft glow. The bedding is from Macy's.