Home & Garden

Aesthetic tech for the home

The Leeo, a clever little night light that can detect a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector beeping.
The Leeo, a clever little night light that can detect a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector beeping. Leeo

Once upon a time, home technology — alarm systems, vacuums and the like — was pretty much all about function. Then along came Apple, and now consumers demand that their smoke detectors and thermostats look as slick as their laptops and phones.

There’s been a “waterfall effect,” says Anna Matthews, a Washington interior designer, in which people expect products that are “pretty and usable.”

Jeff Akseizer, owner of Akseizer Design Group in Alexandria, Virginia, calls it the age of the connected home, “a home that you can almost run from your phone.”

For Akseizer, the biggest benefit to homeowners is the time saved. “Everybody is about time management,” he says. “Every minute matters.” So forget coming home and turning on your lights, heat, music – or even your tea kettle. Now you can do it all from the office or the road.

▪ For a “chic take” on a traditional power strip, Matthews likes the Oon ($79, www.okum.co). With maple blocks and a cloth cord, the three-socket strip is one you won’t mind setting out on your desk or in your living room for all to see. Choose from one of three color combinations to coordinate even more precisely with your home decor.

▪ “Can a home security system be a piece of art?” asks Canary, the company behind the home-security system of the same name ($249, shipping starting this month, http://canary.is/). Place the device — choose from unobtrusive black, white or silver models — in a prominent location, and when armed, it will notify you with a recorded video of any event it deems suspicious. You choose whether to alert neighbors or the authorities, eliminating false alarms. With a three-inch diameter, it’s a great fit for small spaces.

▪ With the Nest Learning Thermostat — acquired last year by Google — and now Honeywell’s Lyric, attractive, future-forward, thermostats have become de rigueur ($279, www.lyric.honeywell.com). Whereas the Nest learns your temperature patterns over time, the Lyric uses your smartphone to detect when you are and are not home. It can even sense when you’re within 500 feet or seven miles of your house and adjust the temperature before you step in the door.

The device takes humidity into account to create perceived, not real, temperature, and can be set for different activities, such as working out or hosting a party. It’s a snazzy addition to any wall, with its Apple-esque white face and sleek chrome trim.

▪ Who doesn’t want the best sleep possible? Enter the globe-shaped Sense Sleep Monitor by Hello ($129, available for preorder to ship this month, https://hello.is/). The included Sleep Pill clips to your pillow to track movement, which is then recorded and analyzed. The monitor tracks noise, light, temperature, humidity and air particles to help you sleuth out the whys behind your sleep patterns and adjust for a better slumber.

And it looks good on your nighstand: A soft black or white polycarbonate shell in a geometric pattern covers acoustic mesh, through which the monitor sends white noise for falling asleep and a pleasant alarm for waking up at the right point in your sleep cycle.

▪ One product that’s a hit with Akseizer’s clients is Kohler’s Moxie showerhead ($199-$299, www.us.kohler.com/us/). The Bluetooth-enabled speaker syncs with music as selected by smartphone, then pops into the water-saving showerhead for a seven-hour, singing-in-the-shower charge. Akseizer installed them in the six-room White Moose Inn in Washington, Virginia., “and they’re a huge success,” he says. “Most people who stay there immediately comment on them.”

▪ Many of the new smartphone-run appliances are all about smoothing out daily routines — especially the morning scramble. With the world’s first WiFi kettle, the iKettle, you can turn on your hot water before you even get out of bed ($150, www.firebox.com).

“It knows what temperature is best for coffee versus tea, and will even ask you if you’d like to put the kettle on when your alarm goes off,” Matthews says. The kettle will keep the water warm for 30 minutes after boiling. Buy an optional colored skin for even more insulation. (Note: The kettle comes with a U.K. plug and requires a transformer for U.S. usage.)

▪ A fancy thermostat is all well and good for single-family homes, but when you’re on your own in an apartment or studio and the summer heat blazes, something like the Aros might be a better fit ($300, www.quirky.com).

The window unit can be turned on and off with a smartphone app, but it also learns your patterns and, through geofencing, determines when you’re close to home.

▪ Unless your smoke alarm is connected to a security system, it’s no good if nobody’s around to hear it. Enter the Leeo, a clever little night light that can detect a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector beeping ($99, www.leeo.com). It even keeps track of temperature and humidity.

Installation is as simple as plugging it in and downloading the app, which will call you in the event of an emergency. If you don’t answer, it will work its way down a list of preselected emergency contacts. And it’s pretty, too: The twistable ring adjusts the brightness of one of 16 million night-light colors.

▪ Akseizer points to smartphone-controlled ovens, laundry machines and refrigerators as the way of the future. “Samsung, LG, Whirlpool all now have top-crack technology on their washers and dryers,” he says. LG’s Smart ThinQ washers and dryers allow you to monitor your laundry remotely from your phone, so that you can control the start time of the washer or extend the cycle time of the dryer, or even select custom stain-removal settings ($1,600-$1,700, www.lg.com).

GE’s free-standing Profile Series gas and electric ranges are similar, allowing you to preheat the oven before you get home ($1,599-$2,099, www.ge.com/appliances).

▪ August is one of the best of the first-generation keyless smart locks, Akseizer says ($250, www.august.com). Not only does it let you get into your house sans keys or codes, but the battery-powered lock allows you to grant guests and service workers temporary access when you invite them via smartphone. (And don’t worry, if your phone dies, you can still use traditional keys for access.)

Choose from gray, red, champagne or silver finishes for the designer lock that touts a well-heeled pedigree: It was conceived by celebrated industrial designer Yves Béhar.