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Interior designer Jack Brown shares his tips for embracing technological advancements without compromising style.
With everything from invisible speakers and 4K projectors to centralized control systems available on the market—plus endless ways to customize each—choosing the right tech for your home may seem daunting.
And while it’s easy to be drawn to fancy contraptions that promise to make our lives easier, Jack Brown, principal of Vancouver-based Jack Brown Interiors, believes that home tech only makes sense when you know why it’s beneficial to you. “It started out as a toy, but now, it’s transformed into this sort of ‘wellness technology,'” he says. “And people understand its benefits more than ever.”
Ahead, Brown shares his tips for expertly incorporating tech into the home—and what items to incorporate—in a way that offer functionality and doesn’t distract from the design of your space.
From energy-saving LED technology to multi-functional keypads that have replaced on/off switches, advancements in light control have resulted in big changes for designers and their clients, says Brown.
Whether you opt for lighting that helps you tune into your body’s circadian rhythms or a basic dimmer that controls the quantity of light in a room, customization is key so that the fixture caters to various moods and settings. “You don’t want to feel that you’re at a hospital and everything is blurring under this terrible light quality,” says Brown. “Once you’ve tried light control, you’ll never want to go back to a light just going on or off.”
Different hues look best under different light temperatures, so keeping in mind how a space’s colour scheme interacts with your lighting is also important. Brown even has an “experience room” in his office where he shows clients what materials look like under various colour temperatures.
“While traditional incandescent light has a warm golden tone and suits cream-, wood- and chocolate-hued interiors, bluer light works best for white and grey fabrics,” he says.
Given the popularity of open-concept layouts—where anything and everything can easily be seen—most people prefer to hide bulky appliances and unsightly cables to ensure a clean look. In order to meet these standards, technology is becoming invisible, says Brown.
For example, if you don’t want your TV to look like a “black hole” when it’s off, Brown advises opting for an “artistic TV” that displays electronic pieces of art when not in use. Many of them come equipped with “frames” and built-in speakers that don’t disrupt a room’s design.
Installing a home security system offers you peace of mind while you’re away or on vacation. And there are plenty of options to choose from, including devices that may be accessed via smartphone applications and wireless control keys. Many of them allow you to lock (or unlock) your house at the touch of a button, and let you remotely control your home’s air conditioning, heating, lighting and audio systems, too.
Brown suggests opting for control systems like Lutron’s RadioRa 2 or HomeWorks, which allow users to control a home’s lighting, window treatments and temperature. Smart doorbells with built-in video cameras, which are available at local hardware stores, are handy if you’d like to answer your door digitally.
If you choose to install motion-detection devices, these need to be placed in a specific locations—for example, on a wall that is parallel to an intruder’s potential path. Also, take into account that motion sensors usually work between 50 and 80 feet of their subject. “It’s always a good idea to invite a designer and a technician in, who can work together to make the best decisions for your home,” says Brown.
As the cost of technology goes down, renewable energy sources are becoming more accessible for homeowners. So consider installing solar panels to supplement your home’s standard power system. These can be utilized to generate hot water for domestic use or to heat a swimming pool, for example.
However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons prior to installment, advises Brown. Solar energy is an intermittent source, so its function depends largely on the weather conditions. Storage systems for solar panels also are quite expensive and require a lot of space.
Making the transition to LED lighting is the simplest way to lower your energy bills, says Brown. Aside from being environmentally friendly and durable, LEDs consume up to 90 percent less power than incandescent light and deliver excellent colour rendering. “This transition is as easy as going to your local hardware store and purchasing and switching the bulbs,” notes the designer.
Food stains, spills and dog hair are inevitable if you live with small kids and pets. So opt for a modern, stain-resistant fabrics in your living areas that are easy to maintain, says Brown.
You can use outdoor fabric for your home upholstery to ensure everything stays in a good state after years of active use. “A home should be lived in and serve as a sanctuary for everyone,” says the designer. “It shouldn’t be something like a museum, where nothing should be touched.”
Thanks to companies like Crypton and Sunbrella, which use state-of-the-art tech to produce stain-resistant coverings, outdoor fabrics that used to be crunchy and rough are now just as soft and comfortable as their indoor counterparts, says Brown.