Think entertainment, information and efficiency when selecting technologies for the most popular room of the house.In which room in the house do you spend most of your time? The bedroom, bathroom or living room? Chances are in the age of fast-paced living and complex lives, particularly in the urban environment, the room you really spend most of your quality time in the kitchen.
All roads lead to the kitchen – bills, memos and shopping lists are posted on the fridge, after work wind-downs are held during the cooking of meals and children do their homework but none of this can be done without an adequately organised ‘hub’.
To cope with such a complex amount of must-do tasks creating a system to allow all these things to be done both easily and efficiently is the ideal. Automation is the key word, one system to control all the elements of the home, and what better place for that to exist than in the ‘hub of the home’.
From the ‘hub’ we need to create a command centre for the rest of the home, a one-stop shop for all the important elements – security, climate control, entertainment, communications (both internal and external), lighting and naturally each of the appliances essential to the kitchen environment, including cooking, refrigeration and food storage.
Space-saving is a must however, also a must is keeping the hub stress-free and designed in such a way it is easy for the occupants to all exist in what is in many homes a cramped space.
No longer just for the movies
Manufacturers such as LG, Fisher & Paykel and Miele, just to name a few, have all started to produce these smart appliances in readiness for the Australian market coming online. Check out the LG website (www.lge.com.au) for a tour of its Digital home.network is just one example of the vastly expanding area of smart appliances and there are many more to come.
Smaller appliances, while not usually on the automated network like the bigger variety, continue to astound with new and improved options hitting the shelves at every turn. Coffee machines which wake you with a hot cuppa, toasters that can do everything except butter your toast and ovens which can both defrost and cook your meal without having to touch it twice are all already a reality. And as a bonus, the majority of them are affordable for the everyday person.
Appliances that talk to one another are already a reality, an alarm clock which wakes you up and sends a message to the coffee machine to start brewing and turns off the electric blanket are all available overseas and will hit our shores soon.
Appliances can be linked together to be controlled by the one command post, possibly the touch screen, but be aware that many appliances are not cross compatible, so mixing and matching to suit your own requirements and tastes is not an option.
It is worthwhile doing your homework in regards to what is becoming available, and more importantly preparing your kitchen now to take these elements when they do arrive. The smartest way to do this is to have
data and cable jacks mounted behind all of your major appliances, this ensures that you are ready should you decide to install the technology when it arrives. Additionally, think about future-proofing for technology currently in production. Units that communicate, refrigerate and cook food – everybody wants one but as yet they aren’t available. Keep your eyes open, though, they are on the way.
In the early 1980s, people began bringing small TV sets into the kitchen. Propped up on any available space on the bench top, rabbit ears protruding into the valuable work area. Now we have flat screen, under-cabinet television. Slim and tidy for the already busy kitchen, it hangs from the underside of the kitchen cabinet eliminating the space problems of old.
This is the perfect solution if you are looking to update an older kitchen as it generally requires no changes to the existing kitchen format and can be mounted under any cabinet or fixed shelf. The only modification that needs to be made is to install a data jack, but for the fully automated kitchen and ‘home hub’, this will be an essential requirement and will mean installing more than one anyway.
Generally, under-cabinet TVs are so advanced that they will also integrate a clock, AM/FM radio, speaker phone and a number of other devices depending on which model you choose. Best of all, in the age of space saving, is the idea that the screen for the under-cabinet TV can fold away when not in use, leaving a tiny control box from where you can control all the other elements included.
Automation the key
By automating the kitchen into the controls for the rest of the home it gives you the ability to link appliances in other rooms to the kitchen. This is where the home command system comes into play.
By wiring the house to the command system, each and every element linked can be controlled through a simple touch screen or wall mounted keypad in the kitchen. This touch screen is fed information about all things that are important throughout the home, through a central processor generally hidden away in the garage or basement.
You can adjust the heating or air conditioning, check security cameras, surf the internet and change the lighting patterns all by navigating through the touch screen menus, but it doesn’t end there. By wiring the entertainment units in the home to the touch screen, mum or dad can change the DVD for the children in the lounge room, select music from an audio system or even control preset profiles for each and every room in the house.
Communications can also be controlled through the touch screen: send and receive faxes, emails and phone calls, monitor the baby in the nursery upstairs and, with some models, have the command systems answer the front door and even take a message if you aren’t home – the options are endless.
Storing it up
Storage is definitely something to consider when designing a new kitchen, there is nothing worse than cluttered bench tops which both detract from the overall aesthetic appeal of the kitchen, but also create problems in a busy kitchen.
Ergonomics are something to consider here also, smart cabinet designs minimise bending down or having to stretch for items in hard-to-reach corners of cupboards. The ease of accessibility offered by these cabinets means the use of pullout, rather than fixed shelves can make a huge difference for older people and those of us with certain ‘height restrictions’ working against us.
The overall trend in kitchen storage is moving towards draws rather than doors, where you are able to access items at the rear of the cupboard without sorting through and pulling out items in front of them to get there.
Corner cabinet storage has also gone through a new era, gone are the cornershaped cupboards that although solved some of the problem still left odd-shaped areas, the solution is the use of a ‘lazy-susan’ type turntable inside the cabinet and a convex door to keep the flow of the cupboards smooth.