What’s Hot Besides the Carolina Sun?
By Kelly McCall Branson, writer for New Homes & Ideas
Photo courtesy of Eastwood Homes
New technologies are making so much possible in homes today. Our little nests are getting greener and smarter, more durable, more functional and, yes, more unique and individual. Here are some of the latest new options for your 21st-century home.
Home automation and connectivity continues to grow by leaps and bounds. One of the favorite new products at this year’s International Builders’ Show (IBS) was the Eaton Home Automation Hub. This one device provides a control central for home automation and energy management. With the ability to integrate with popular smart home systems like Honeywell thermostats, Kwikset locks, Denon Heos music systems and Clare Controls security devices, homeowners can control myriad home functions with the touch of a button, by voice or even remotely.
Due on the market this fall, the new VELUX Active system allows homeowners to pair home automation with skylights to allow natural light and fresh air into homes. The system monitors CO2, humidity, and temperature, and automatically opens the skylights two-to-three times daily to remove stale, harmful air. The controls are operable by a smartphone app or with Apple HomeKit. It can also read local weather reports and open or close windows or blinds accordingly.
The new Onelink Safe and Sound smoke and carbon monoxide alarm can process voice commands and, with its location detection, alert homeowners of dangers in their area. It’s Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatible and also has the ability to connect with other hardwired home alarms and activate them when it detects danger.
A Shade Greener
Named Best in Show and Most Innovative Building Material Product at the International Builders’ Show, the AeroBarrier offers a breakthrough in passive home envelope tightness. Blown into a pressurized space, the AeroBarrier sealant particles are drawn to any leaks in the building envelope, until any hole is tightly sealed. This system increases energy efficiency and also reduces labor costs for builders.
The brand new patented-technology Retrax Solar Solutions feature preassembled solar panels that are easy to install and relocate. They won’t damage your roof, and they’re easy to remove when you move (or need roof repairs). Retrax panels come prewired and can be activated in less than 30 minutes and come folded up so they can be easily transported.
Another award winner at the IBS was the Ecobee smart thermostat. The newest version features a built-in speaker and microphone and can be controlled through a touchscreen, a smart device or by voice and pairs with Amazon Alexa and other far-field voice recognition. Ecobee’s signature room-sensing technology measures occupancy and temperature for maximum energy efficiency.
Photo courtesy of Eastwood Homes
A Whole New World of Flooring Choices
When it comes to flooring, our old friend vinyl has come a long way. New technology in 3D printing perfectly mimics the colors and textures of stone or wood, while advanced coatings provide incredible durability. (And it’s waterproof.) “In the past two years, we’ve just seen so many new colors and better dimensionality,” says Ann Mainor, sales manager at Eastwood Homes. “With engineered vinyl plank, you really have so many more choices than you do with hardwood floors, with the added benefit of lower maintenance.” Looking for exotic acacia wood? Wide-plank hickory driftwood? How about Tuscan granite or natural river pebbles? Luxury vinyl tile or plank comes in a huge range of patterns and styles.
For those with a flair for drama, cement and porcelain graphic tiles are now available in hundreds of designs — from a black-and-white geometric to a Moorish mosaic to a classic Mid-Century Modern pattern. Whatever your style, there is a graphic tile to fit your vision. (And those bold patterns work great on kitchen backsplashes and bathroom walls, as well.)
While radiant floor heating is not new, recent advances have made it a more accessible option for homeowners. Radiant heating offers an even, comfortable, super-energy efficient heating option for your home, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. STEP Warmfloor features innovative solutions for new construction and also retrofitting existing floors. It can be installed under most floors, including stone, wood, engineered floors and carpet.
Everything Old is New Again
One of the hot new products for homes these days isn’t new at all, but it is being used in a whole new way: reclaimed wood — from old barns, warehouses, cabins and factories. Much in keeping with the Japanese aesthetic, wabi-sabi, in which imperfection is celebrated, homeowners today are creating focal points that feature the unique, even flawed, personality of reclaimed wood.
“Shiplap-paneled accent walls and barn doors are our most popular products now, but we also do flooring, mantles, bars, stair treads, birdhouses, kitchen islands and furniture” says Brian Hoschek, owner of Revient Reclaimed Raleigh, a company that reclaims, rehabilitates and refits a wide variety of reclaimed wood products. And it’s not just rustic homes showcasing the unique character of reclaimed wood; it’s being used for accents inside and out in ultra-modern homes as well. “Not everybody wants to live in a mountain cabin or a historical house,” says Hoschek. “But more and more, designers are seeing the vision of incorporating contemporary with reclaimed.”
Photo Courtesy of Revient Reclaimed Raleigh
The most unusual piece that Revient Reclaimed Raleigh has created to date is a 14-foot dining table made from 100% reclaimed wood, set in a herringbone pattern. “It’s pretty amazing, really,” says Hoschek. “Each piece has a deep history, has its own story to tell, and we take pride in finding new homes and new uses for them.”
The Adaptable Home
The latest buzz in home design is all about adaptability. Homeowners are looking at their use of space differently and builders are responding, not only with more options, but with rooms specifically designed for flexibility. What may function as a formal dining room today can easily morph into a playroom next year and a home office a few years later.
At the forefront of new home designs is multi-generational capacity. Families staying together across generations is on the rise in the U.S., whether it’s grandparents downsizing and needing the assistance of family close by, young couples just starting out, or in-the-middle families that want to be closer or can use the help — both financial and physical.
“I would say that four out of five customers I talk to have some interest in multi-generational living, even if it’s just temporary,” says Eastwood Homes’ Ann Mainor. “Folks are just getting back to the family unit, and we’ve responded with a whole variety of options to meet those needs.” Ground-floor second master bedrooms, ranch floorplans, bonus space that can be converted to an en-suite — all represent new thinking and new design offerings from Triangle builders.
Take it Outside
Advances in products built to withstand the elements are making extending your living spaces out of doors easier than ever. New sophisticated, low-energy heating units from Bromic Heating feature gas and electric heating systems, both portable and recess-mounted ceiling units, so you can live in your outdoor rooms year round.
Photo Courtesy of Lighthouse Outdoor Lighting
And for enhancing those spaces after the sun goes down, new outdoor lighting technologies offer greater functionality, beauty and energy efficiency. “LED bulbs just keep getting better,” says Tim Adcock of Lighthouse Outdoor Lighting. “One thing that’s really trending now are the new bollard lights. These are four-sided fixtures with designs that project decorative patterns onto the pathway, wall or area.” These striking shadow designs can be anything from geometric shapes to swirling tree branches to whimsical flowers. “It’s so important to have a comprehensive plan to get the kind of dramatic impact that’s possible today,” adds Adcock. “That’s one of the reasons we recommend a professional design and install your outdoor lighting for you.”
The pace of advancement in design, materials and systems for the home, inside and out, continues to accelerate. Just in the past decade, the opportunities for automation, energy savings, durability, functionality and creative expression have truly exploded. How long before we’re writing about the one-of-a-kind fully customized house that builds and runs itself for a hundred years?