Get Smart: 5 Ways to Turn Your Home into a Smart Home
By Mikkie Mills
Smart homes are rapidly gaining popularity. Being able to control numerous features of your home even while you are away is not only convenient, but it can increase security. There are all kinds of ways to turn your home into a smart home. Some are a little more expensive than others. The following five home automation steps can help you get started.
1. Control your appliances from your smartphone.
You can invest in new appliances that have this feature, or you can replace electrical devices, such as sockets or plugs, with a smart version. A smart power strip is another option. It is as simple as plugging it in and connecting your devices or appliances. Each plug in the power strip works independently. Android and Apple are supported by the power strip and you can control these devices from anywhere. You can turn any appliance on or off, get notifications when a television, computer, or other device is turned on, monitor carbon monoxide levels, and more.
2. Know how to control the security system.
Although most people have security systems in place, it is very beneficial to be able to control them from anywhere. When automated access is used, you can limit access to certain areas of the home, such as your office. In addition, your phone can notify you in the event of a problem even when you are not home. Cameras can be used so that you can see every room in your home from your smartphone. Outdoor cameras will allow you to see who has been on your property when you are at work or elsewhere.
3. Save energy by adding your heating and cooling to an automation system.
If you are gone all day and want to keep heating or cooling costs down, you simply lower or raise the temperature setting. Then you can put it on a comfortable level a half hour or so before you will arrive home. This gives the home time to warm up or cool down before you get home, so you are not heating or cooling an empty house. You can also control blinds with this system, allowing sunlight in for your plants and helping to warm the home during the winter.
4. Learn how to communicate with your home.
You can control your home using technology similar to what is used when you talk to your smartphone to tell it to dial numbers or look up information. Microphones and a software program which is put on your computer is the simplest way to set up your home to respond to voice commands. The system is set up to recognize words or a phrase to perform virtually anything from turning on or dimming lights to opening drapes, turning on music, enabling or disabling alarms, and more. If you want to know what the weather is like before going out, simply ask. The systems can be set up to answer questions, as well. There are many systems to choose from and with advances in technology, they are doing more and becoming less expensive.
5. Install a home theater system.
An automated home theater system will provide you with the feel of a movie theater in your home. Movies, videos, music, and more can be streamed throughout your home and even in outdoor areas used for entertaining. An app for your smartphone is simple to use to control all of this and more. Control the lighting for optimal viewing of movies. The sound can be adjusted, providing you with surround sound that is more like what is experienced in movie theaters.
These are just a few of the ways of making your home smart. Not only does an automated system in your home provide convenience and comfort, but it will also give you peace of mind.
It’s High Time for High-Tech Homes
More houses are turning into high-tech hubs of connectivity and convenience. Technology, in fact, has become one of the improvements most requested by homeowners, reports the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA).
According to Matt Sneller, owner of Sneller Custom Homes and Remodeling in Spring, Texas, a low-voltage cabling and wiring infrastructure is the core of a connected home. The infrastructure supports everything from the alarm and audio systems to the HVAC and telephone.
Cameras are also a component in the connected home, says Bill Riley, owner of Bicycle Bungalows in Houston, Texas. Riley reports more of his clients are replacing costly security systems and monitoring services with self-controlled cameras.
LED lights are another sought-after, high-tech feature, due to their energy efficiency. Sneller recommends consulting with a cool lighting system company that offers products with geo-fencing technology, as well as smartphone control capability.
Appliance manufacturers have also joined the connected home club, now producing apps that allow homeowners to wirelessly control their appliances, and even take stock of the items within them, adds Riley.
According to Rob Douglass, owner of Texas Custom Patios, no high-tech home is complete without a connection to the outside. Douglass suggests installing a universal system that controls both indoor and outdoor features, such as a flat-screen television or surround-sound.
Source: Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA)
Get Inspired by These Design Trends from Around the World
A great way to add character and individuality to your home is to look beyond the United States and incorporate international interior design trends. It’s also a wonderful way to pay homage to your roots if you have ancestors or relatives from another part of the world.
Each culture has its own interior design flavor that stems from the area’s history, lifestyle trends and the materials available in the region. There are way too many beautiful trends from around the world to list them all here, but I’ve compiled a few of my favorites. From Mexico to Italy to Indonesia, get ready to take a trip around the world and get inspired!
Russia: Old World Elegance
According to Aleksey Dorozhkin, editor-in-chief of ELLE Decoration Russia, in many contemporary Russian homes, “you will see owners dreaming about the faded grandeur of old estates, dachas and bourgeoise apartments of [the] Belle Époque.”
Opt for modern comforts, like new kitchen appliances and lighting fixtures, but incorporate vintage or vintage-inspired finds, including art, fabrics, and maybe even an old-fashioned bust, like the one you can see at the back of the entryway in this Moscow home:
The trick is a mix of old and new. “We are quite sentimental about the past,” says Dorozhkin.
Italy: Industrial Materials and Traditional Charm
This is a big trend in Italian interior design. It’s a mix of modern and traditional, hard and soft, metal and wood. Wood, stone and textured fabrics hark back to Italy’s traditional roots, while the glass and metal elements add light, structure and intensity.
It’s hard to go too wrong with this concept — just make sure the different elements are in balance throughout your home. For example, the home above contrasts sharp corners and metal with softer elements like:
- A soft blue color scheme
- Textured rug and walls
Mexico: A Personal Touch
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Over the years, Mexican interior design has been heavily influenced by Mediterranean styles. Many homeowners in Mexico choose to embrace that influence, but also pay homage to the traditional history and culture of their own region.
Here’s what I love about this San Miguel de Allende home:
- The big, traditional painting is front and center.
- The rug and tapestry are patterned, but the rest is simple.
- The room lets in plenty of natural light.
- The gentle, brown color scheme fits both a Mediterranean and traditional Mexican vibe.
South Africa: Light, Bright and Sustainable
Most people don’t know a lot about South African interior design trends, which is a shame because it’s beautiful! It’s all about bright spaces and sustainable living. Homes in South Africa often incorporate:
- Outdoor elements (indoor greenery, plant patterns, etc.)
- Creative artwork (Check out this South African freelance illustrator’s work!)
- Geometric designs
- Eco-friendly solutions
Japan: Simple and Clean, Not Sterile
Many contemporary Japanese interior designers have perfectly mastered the art of creating simple, minimalist spaces that are also livable and inviting. That means goodbye to stark whites and hello to warmer elements like light wood and off-whites. In the kitchen above, both the table and cabinets get their color from a melamine material.
Many Tokyo dwellings are too small to have their own gardens, so indoor plants are a welcome touch.
England: Victorian Era Traditional
Trends in the U.K. are often pretty similar to U.S. trends, but this is one distinctly English trend I love. A classic Victorian era space can still incorporate many modern elements, but if you’re going for this look, build your design around dark browns, leather (or faux leather), wood elements and lots of books.
Just keep in mind, that a few traditional elements can go a long way. For a minute, imagine the room above without the big brown couch. The space would have a much different feel! That couch really completes the room.
Mid-century modern is a term used to describe sleek, geometric, Danish-inspired designs from the 1930s to mid 1960s. The design movement has been popular for decades and has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years all over the world, but no one does it better than Denmark.
Just make sure to bring the look into the 21st century with more contemporary elements like modern appliances or art you love.
India: Fine, Detailed Craftsmanship
Photo taken in India by Selmer van Alten
Because interior design has become so modernized in India over the last century, many homeowners and designers are making a concerted effort to use handcrafted materials in their designs, according to Sonia Dutt of ELLE Decor India.
You can incorporate traditional Indian craftsmanship in your wall treatments, accents, rugs, cushions, towels and even bed linens. To create a balance, it helps to stick to one color palette, like the reds in the photo above.
Greece: Cement Mortar
Covering walls in a cement-like mixture isn’t just an old Greek tradition, it’s actually a big trend in Greece today, according to Flora Tzimaka, editor of ELLE Decoration Greece. It can make “any space or room look like a sculpture,” she says. It’s easy to get the look, because cement can be painted as a thin layer over most wall surfaces.
The walls in the home above used cement painted with white washed lime.
Ready to Try a New International Trend?
Incorporating an international design trend is a great way to embrace your family’s roots (or just a different culture that inspires you)! I hope this post gave you some ideas to get started. If you’re interested in design trends from a different area that I didn’t get to here, there are plenty of places to research! ELLE Decor has websites for many different countries around the world. Pinterest and Google Image searches are also great research tools.
This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for top real estate tips and trends.
Window Screens Top the List When Preparing Your Home for Summer
Whether it’s your first summer in your new house—or even your 25th—preparing your home for the warm weather season is most likely at the top of your current to-do list. From simple home maintenance tasks to making sure the air conditioning unit is working, it’s also a good time to get the screens in the windows.
The advantages of screens are numerous. For one, they reduce sunlight and heat gain, which in warm weather is welcome, as they lessen sun damage to furniture and floors, plus keep cooling costs at bay. Screens also allow plenty of fresh air to come into the home, while at the same time keeping bugs and debris out. Plus, an open window with a screen will allow far less water into the home during a downpour than a window not equipped with a screen.
Before you begin placing screens in the windows throughout your home, you’ll want to make sure they’re clean. This can be done by spraying them down with a hose. For screens that are really dirty, laundry cleaner can be used to get rid of built-up dirt that’s been collecting during the off season.
It’s also important to make sure your screens are in good shape before placing them. If you notice a small tear, a quick trip to your local hardware store for a screen patch kit may be all you need. Mending a small tear is as simple as adhering the screen patch to the problem area. For really small holes, use clear-drying glue.
Once the screens are in for the season, use a duster to remove any dirt that accumulates, or lightly go over the surface with your vacuum’s brush attachment.
If you do need to invest in new screens, there are plenty of options to choose from. Window screens can be made of aluminum, fiberglass, metal wire, nylon or polyester, and depending on where you’ll be adding them, different options work best for different rooms. Generally speaking, fiberglass is typically recommended for the main rooms of the house.
You can also choose solar screens, popular in really hot climates, which are made of special window screen mesh, often a polyester weave and sometimes the added durability of PVC coating. One downside associated with solar screens is that they basically blacken the window, a look many homeowners don’t like. While they block a majority of the light coming into the home, they also offer a sense of privacy. And last but not least, they’re cheaper than most screens on the market, and will keep the home cooler during the hot summer months.
To keep the process running smoothly, when removing screens at the end of the season, place a piece of masking tape (or any other type of label) on each screen to identify which window it goes in. This will save you a lot of time and frustration next year.
For more information about preparing your home for summer, contact our office today.