Smart Home Tech and Design Taking the fear and mystery out of home technology. By Loren Kessell
Smart home technology shows continued growth, and consumers want to include it in their kitchen and bathroom projects. An expert group discussed making integrating tech into designs more approachable to clients during a panel sponsored by Control4 and moderated by Jill Waage, editor in chief of Traditional Home.
“What I’ve noticed, as an editor and even from the consumer aspect, is that people can embrace [technology] more when it comes from a utility standpoint.”
Panel members included David VanWert, principal of VanWert Technology Design; Joe Whitaker, president of The Thoughtful Home; Molly Switzer, AKBD, principal and owner of Molly N. Switzer Designs LLC, and Toni Sabatino, AKBD, owner of Toni Sabatino Style.
Incorporating smart-home technology into designs brings challenges, but there are ways to streamline the process. See what the experts had to say about this trending topic.
- Get Educated and Utilize Connections
To translate technology jargon for their clients, designers must learn foundational elements about technology. Everyone agreed that making connections and reaching out to experts is necessary for this step.
“I got myself educated enough to have an intelligent conversation about the client and what we could do,” Switzer said. “And then, I bring this person to my client and discuss as a whole about where we can go together.”
It is important to bring in experts to ensure processes are completed correctly, and it serves as a learning opportunity.
“As a designer you’re constantly trying to bring what’s best for your clients to the table,” Switzer said. “They don’t know what they don’t know, so why not put it out in front of them and just ask?”
Creating symbiosis between designers and technology professionals helps build the design and technology “ecosystem.”
- Client Consultation
Conduct a meeting with a client that provides information about his or her lifestyle. This determines more than just design elements—it also helps to figure what smart home technology is right for the space and lifestyle.
“Ask them, ‘How do you live? What would improve the way you live?’” Sabatino said. “Talk to them about their lifestyle.”
Take the time to walk through the client’s space during an introductory meeting to evaluate what’s in the home.
- Choose Tech Best-Suited for Lifestyle
Pinpointing clients’ current technology leads to a deeper dive into their lifestyles. Once overall client needs are identified, designers can fine-tune with questions about travel or entertaining preferences, for example. A frequent traveler or vacation homeowner might want remote access to appliances or water-senseing technology to monitor for a burst pipe.
Designers create spaces based on their clients’ personalities, and they can think of technology as an extension of this practice. Incorporate technology that will enhance the user experience.
- Plan, Plan, Plan
Just like designing a kitchen or bath, technology specifications should be established early in the planning, along with a budget.
“Get this stuff established early,” VanWert said. “You wouldn’t dream of having an electrician wire a new home and install of these fixtures without an electrical engineer planning it first.”
During the planning phase, designers find solutions that they can ultimately present to clients, and determine where they want to spend their money. Working out the kinks prioritizes tasks while making clients gain an understanding of the process
- Stay Updated on Trends
Be informed about technology trends to give well-founded opinions to clients. The panel conveyed their hopes and observations about what might come down the technology pipeline.
“I think we’re going to get to the point where we’ll stop seeing connected for the sake of connected,” Whitaker said. “We’ll actually start seeing the utilitarian portions.”
Living in Place applications are also on the forefront as the desire for the connected home continues.
“For people who have cognitive or physical mobility issues, there’s so much technology that can make life safer, more convenient and more comfortable,” Sabatino said.
But the overall takeaway was the need for streamlined technology without too many complications.
As VanWert said, “Bringing in and simplifying technology, or removing ‘technophobia,’ is going to help both the design community and clients to embrace it.”
LEFT TO RIGHT: Joe Whitaker; Toni Sabatino; David VanWert; Molly Switzer, AKBD, and Jill Waage discuss how to make smart-home technology more approachable to clients.
PHOTO BY LOREN KESSELL