Renovated homes are getting smarter. Forty-five percent of renovators installed a smart device during the renovation process last year. The upshot: the architect and design communities are taking notice – and learning to warm to the trend.
These callouts, from surveys done by the home design and remodeling services search platform Houzz, were a couple of the eye-opening revelations provided during CE Week in New York City June 20 and 21. They were offered during a Connected Design-hosted panel at the show that addressed trends influencing home renovations – including the incorporation of smart devices into renovation planning.
The panel was moderated by Lee A. Rotenberg, founder, Ivy.co, a design workflow solutions software innovator whose company was acquired earlier this year by Houzz. Participants included Anastasia Harrison, architect and interior designer as well as owner and founding partner of And Design LLC; Melissa Andresko, communications director of lighting control system manufacturer Lutron; and Stuart Narofsky, architect and principal, Narofsky Architecture.
The discussion was wide-ranging, but some of it addressed the 55 percent of renovators who constitute smart tech’s non-adopters. The study cited disinterest, price and security/privacy concerns as primary reasons why those who resist deciding to take a pass on smartening up their homes.
“Smart products used to be viewed as ‘gadgets,’” offered Andresko. She suggested that these skeptical consumers need help in shaking that misconception and in learning to perceive smart connectivity as an enhancement to lifestyle – but at the same time, as something that needn’t be intimidating and complex.
Harrison observed that understanding of smart home’s benefits tends to be “generational. Clients in the early to mid-30s are savvy. They want robust Wi-Fi and they take it from there, telling our electricians what to put where.” But when it comes to Wi-Fi setups in high-ticket homes, their size and scale require the sophisticated skills of a professional, Andresko pointed out. “It’s their recommendations and their responsibility – and they have the right manufacturers behind them to help them troubleshoot if they need to.”
Reining in clients’ desire to self-design where smart devices play into renovation is often needed," said Narofsky. “I find my clients with lots of things in mind – ‘idea books.’ Part of the trouble is culling through it all. We have to make sure to organize the process and make it holistic for them.”
Harrison said what’s paramount with incorporating “smart” into a home is “starting the conversation sooner rather than later” in the design process. And part of that conversation, Narofsky added, is “convincing the client to bring in tech designers early.” Technology manufacturers fully agree – and most all, like Lutron, are cultivating relationships with architect and design professionals to become better known and understood, said Andresko, so that they can learn what is possible in “smart” and, in turn, help evangelize to clients about both the benefits and the need for professional involvement in smart technology inclusion. “We sponsor AIA and ASID events. We want them to know how well we design from every angle. Our products are beautiful and functional; we have 300 fabric options for shades. We’ve taken our cues from the design pros, so we don’t take away from the design of the room.
“The technology can just disappear,” Andresko said, citing motorized shades their line of whisper quiet Lutron solutions that improve the comfort as well as the aesthetics of a living space. “But consumers need to team up with installations professionals. I’m a firm believer in that.”
For that slim majority – but a majority, still – of home-renovating clients who remain wary of adding “smart,” products are appearing daily, said panelists, that are beginning to resonate with them – and beginning to soften their objections. Harrison cited Ring’s doorbell, which has been widely advertised and is now widely known as a simple security solution, as a “very helpful tool. Everyone’s putting it in; it’s two wires only.” Andresko cited voice control, courtesy of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which she predicted will serve to “skyrocket smart home product adoption. It is the entrée to everything else.” And a further entrée to everything else, she said, is price drops at the entry level of high-end smart solutions that have seen products like motorized shades brought down from the over-$1,000 level to a few hundred dollars.
What’s next for smart home, from these panelists’ perspective? “I foresee an evolution,” Narofsky said. “It will happen behind the scenes.” Andresko expanded upon that thought. “In five or 10 years,” she said, “we won’t be talking about ‘smart home.’ We’ll just be talking about ‘home.’ Adoption will be an everyday thing.”