8 Gadgets to Make Your Home Smart

PC Magazine

P: PC Magazine

Smart home technology is becoming increasingly popular amongst homeowners, and it’s no wonder since this tech is designed to make our lives easier and less stressful. Out for the night and forget to turn off the lights? Not a problem, just open an app on your phone and shut the lights off. At the grocery store and can’t remember if you need milk? Open an app and see what’s in your fridge.

From appliances and electronics to tech that controls lighting and temperature, here are our 8 favorite smart home products:

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch – Probably the simplest way to ease yourself into smart home technology is with this WiFi enabled switch. Just plug the switch into an outlet and then plug and electronic device or appliance into the switch. You can then monitor and turn your appliances and electronic devices on or off from an app on your smartphone.

P: Digital Spy

P: Digital Spy

Nest Learning Thermostat – It only takes a week for this thermostat to learn what temperature you like and it will build a schedule around yours. It knows when you’re away and will automatically lower the temp to save energy. You can control the house temp from an app on your smartphone and the app will also show you how much energy you use each day.

August Smart Lock Homekit Enabled – Never copy a key again! With this smart lock, your smartphone is your key and you can create virtual keys for your family and guests, choosing when to grant them access. Your door will auto-lock behind you when you leave and will auto-unlock when you approach. The August Home app lets you monitor who enters your house 24/7.

Phillips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit – You can set timers to turn lights on and off, as well as control light color and brightness from an app on your phone. The system also works with the Nest Thermostat, when Nest senses you have left the house, the lights will automatically dim.

P: CNN Money

P: CNN Money

Amazon Echo – This voice-activated smart home speaker can play your music just by asking. You can ask Alexa to read the news, weather, sports scores,  or you can simply ask her any question. Maybe the best feature is that Amazon Echo is compatible with most smart home devices, so you can ask Alexa to lock the doors, turn off the lights, or turn up the heat!

GE Profile Free-Standing Gas Convection Range – The WiFi Connect allows you to preheat the oven and adjust the oven temp from anywhere via the GE Kitchen app on your smartphone. You can also set timer alerts for when you are baking. GE WiFi Connect also integrates with Amazon Echo so you can ask Alexa to preheat the oven to 350.

P: Samsung

P: Samsung

Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator – You’ll always know what’s in your fridge thanks to the 3 built-in cameras that take a photo every time the doors close, so when you’re grocery shopping you can access the app to see what you need to pick up. You can keep track of everyone’s schedule, post reminders, and show off your favorite photos on the refrigerator’s touchscreen. Entertain guests in the kitchen with streaming music or TV right on your fridge!

Whirlpool Smart Top Load Washer & Dryer – Control your laundry from anywhere with the Whirlpool app. Put a load in the dryer but heading out to run some errands? Activate Wrinkle Shield from your smartphone to help keep wrinkles from setting in. You can remotely start and pause cycles, as well as track progress and energy usage from the app. The Smart Top Load pair also connects to the Nest Thermostat.

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8 Ideas for Your Spare Room

Do you have a guest room, but no guests? Or maybe you have a great bonus room … but have no idea what to do with the space. Rather than leave the space empty or fill it with junk, create a functional space that will add to your quality of life and your home value!

Here are our favorite 8 spare room transformations:

P: HGTV

P: HGTV

Home Office – A home office is probably one of the best and most popular uses for a spare room. Bring in a desk and comfy chair to create a workspace and home for your computer. Keep all of your mail and important papers organized neatly in a filing cabinet. Bookshelves are great for organizing, well, books, but also office supplies, knick-knacks, photos, etc. Paint the room a soothing shade of blue or gray to make a relaxing, tranquil space that you will want to work in.

Craft or Art Studio – A wood or laminate floor works best in this type of space as you are likely to  drop craft materials or spill paint. Install cabinets to store supplies, or opt for a bookcase or open shelving with baskets to organize and hold supplies. Bring in a large table or floating island to place in the center of the room to provide a flat workspace.

Game Room – Create a dedicated space to hang out with friends … or where your kids can hang out with their friends and not tear up the entire house! If you’ve got the space, a pool table is always a win for a game room focal point. But there are plenty of other options – poker table, bubble hockey, arcade games, or a folding table tennis table. Assemble a lounge area with seating and a coffee table or large ottoman to play board games or cards.

P: HGTV

Home Theater – Who wants to spend $9 on a movie ticket when you can kick back and relax in the comfort of your home? Bring in a large sectional and some recliners or chaise lounges for plenty of comfy seating. Mount a large flat screen on the wall, or get tech and install a projector and screen for the ultimate movie experience. Add a surround sound system, blackout drapes, and an old-school popcorn machine and get ready for some binge-watching.

Boutique Closet – Ladies, this one is for you! Take that tiny extra bedroom and turn it into your dream closet with dressing room. Install tons of storage – hanging, shelving, and drawers. Up the ante by adding a center island with storage and a stone top to display your jewels. Bring in a full length floor mirror (or 2!) to lean against a wall. Add some dazzle with a sparkly chandelier.

Wine Bar – If your idea of entertaining includes uncorking a fabulous bottle of wine, why not create a room dedicated to good taste? All wine, red or white, should be stored between 53 – 57 degrees Fahrenheit, so you will want to invest in a wine refrigerator or build your own wine cellar with wine racks and a cooling system. Bring in a simple bar, a few bar stools, and a wall-mounted wine shelf with glass rack to complete the bar. Add some cozy lounge chairs for guests to sip and relax.

P: Green Heat Initiative

P: Green Heat Initiative

Home Gym – There’s no excuse not to work out when you have a gym at home. Start with wood floors or interlocking rubber tiles to support any heavy equipment. Add mirrors to one wall to check your form and bring in a TV to do your workout videos or watch The Real Housewives when you’re running on the treadmill.

Library – If settling in to a comfy chair with a good book is your ideal Saturday afternoon, then consider turning that extra room into a library. It really won’t take much – bring in a few bookcases, you can buy cheap bookcases at Ikea and add your own molding to make them look like an expensive built-in. Add a couple plush chairs, pillows, and soft lighting to create a relaxing reading space.

Our Top 5 Home Trends for 2016

Thinking about a home renovation project or just want to spice up your decor for the New Year? You want to be sure that the items and projects you invest in will stand the test of time, and are not dated fads of years past, especially if you are planning to put your house on the market.

Here are our top 5 favorite home trends for 2016:

  1. P: BHG

    P: BHG

    Mismatched Cabinets – Add interest to your kitchen by pairing 2 different cabinet styles, varying in color or texture. Think a light color on wall-mounted cabinets and a darker color on cabinets under the counter. Or choose 1 color for wall cabinets and a different color for an island.

  2. P: bostondesignguide.com

    P: bostondesignguide.com

    Statement Pendant – Change the look and feel of a room just by updating the light fixture. You can find pendant lights in a variety of shapes and sizes, from brightly colored lanterns to industrial style metal-shaded fixtures.

  3. Fireplaces – The fireplace is once again becoming the focal point of rooms. Don’t ignore
    P: HGTV

    P: HGTV

    this feature if you have it! Arrange your furniture to put the fireplace center stage. Have a non-working fireplace? No problem, you can still dress it up to make it shine. Fill it with candle holders of varying heights to cast a warm fire-like glow.

  4. Black Stainless Appliances – Instead of shiny new silver, it
    P: CNET

    P: CNET

    looks like sleek black stainless steel appliances will be the finish choice of the future.

  5. Mixed Materials – Create a truly unique space by combining a variety of styles like a rustic wood, sleek tile, shiny metals, and vintage finds.

P.S. Mason jars are so 2015, and word on the street is that the rustic chic look is on the way out.