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Leveled-Up Living: Design and Materials for Optimal Home Functionality

In 2023, designers can elevate a client’s lifestyle with high-performance homes that redefine functionality and offer unparalleled luxury.

By Gianna Annunzio
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Modern technology has revolutionized the way we personalize our living spaces. With the introduction of luxury smart technology and a focus on wellness and performance, homeowners can now tailor their home environments to their specific needs and preferences for optimal home functionality. These luxury smart systems can be used to control a vast range of functions within the home, from lighting scenes to shower profiles and even heated floors.

Though the benefits of home automation systems extend far beyond mere convenience and aesthetics, with the ability to control everything from security to air conditioning and video cameras, these systems provide homeowners with a level of peace of mind that was once unimaginable. Nowadays, these systems even have the ability to observe patterns and movements within the home, allowing them to track and learn the homeowner’s habits and preferences.

“Designing a home with smart technology means if you go to bed around eight o’clock, the machine knows to automatically turn on the nightstand light or make the shades go down,” says Jaime Blomquist, designer and owner of Jaime Blomquist Interiors. “It can watch your habits for a month and track what you do, and then duplicate it when you’re not at home.”

Systems from Legrand and Lutron also allow homeowners to set “scenes” based on a specific time of day. With the ability to control every aspect of lighting, from intensity to color, homeowners can create a range of different moods and atmospheres.

“You can set scenes depending on your mood — a wake up scene, midday scene, afternoon scene, romance scene,” says Wendy Glaister, designer and owner of Wendy Glaister Interiors. “Then you’re not going all over your house, dimming your lamps or turning them on
and off.”

By setting scenes based on a particular time of day, homeowners can also create the illusion of natural light, which can be beneficial for those who focus on circadian rhythm and wellness within the home. With the convenience of controlling scenes directly from their smartphones, homeowners can create the perfect ambiance with just a few taps of a button.

“Homeowners can create a home that is not only efficient and convenient but also enhances their overall quality of life,” Glaister says. “That’s for the people who really focus on wellness within the home.”

Even certain bathroom cabinets feature lighting controls with customizable profiles for various scenarios.

“Maybe you use a white light in the morning to start off your day while you’re putting on your makeup or shaving,” says Kerrie Kelly, CEO and Creative Director at Kerrie Kelly Design Studio. “As you ease into the evening, you switch to a dim yellow light. Being able to customize that is something people are finding more importance in.”

This level of personalization is not only convenient, but it can also positively impact a homeowner’s overall well-being.

“The right lighting, temperature and music can all contribute to reducing stress levels and enhancing our sense of wellness,” she says. “People are realizing that lighting, a playlist or even the type of shower or steam you have can really impact your mood and help with stress levels.”

Steam showers are also on trend with certain homeowners focused on wellness, especially for allergy sufferers in areas with high pollen counts. The steam shower offers not only an option for relaxation, but health benefits such as improving blood pressure, sleep and lung function for people with asthma. The shower also offers options like chromotherapy and music to enhance the experience.

“One product I liked, Mr. Steam has a motor and a condenser and all of this fancy stuff that you hook up outside the room,” Glaister says. “Then the steam just comes in through a faucet. Many homeowners will
put a bench inside the shower too, to help them
enjoy the steam.”

  In the kitchen, touchless taps have also become increasingly popular due to their convenience and hygienic benefits. These taps use sensors to detect the presence of a user’s hands, automatically turning on the water flow without the need for physical contact. This not only reduces the spread of germs and bacteria but also saves water by only activating the flow when necessary.

“The taps work by providing filtered water, which can be either boiling hot, cold, room temperature or carbonated, depending on where you wave your hand over the faucet,” Glaister says. “It’s great too because if you really like to be a home chef, you can instantly sanitize your knives by just running it under the boiling water, or cook spinach in a colander.”

Other faucets on the market also feature measurement capabilities, according to Kelly.

“Someone who’s comfortable with Alexa can literally walk up to the faucet with a cup or a vessel in their hand, say ‘measure two cups of water,’ and it measures the right amount, right there,” she says.

While design clients today are looking for homes that offer high-tech capabilities, they’re simultaneously looking for materials with warm, tactile finishes. By combining high-tech capabilities with warm finishes, design clients can create a living space that offers both functionality and comfort, ensuring that their home is not only efficient but also a place that they can truly call their own.

“My clients want the high tech, but also want things to seem less mass produced,” Glaister says. “I’m seeing a big change from quartz going back to quartzite, for example, which is a natural stone. It has a really beautiful crystalline quality that is very durable, and it’s very interesting to look at. Almost like a gemstone.”

One unique advantage of quartzite countertops is that they come in a wide range of colors, patterns and textures, making it easy for clients to pull all of their kitchen’s colors from the countertop alone. They can then pull that color into the rest of the kitchen, creating a cohesive and harmonious design scheme. The natural variations in the countertop’s color and pattern also add depth and texture to the space, making it feel more dynamic and visually interesting.

“Let’s say for your kitchen, the upper cabinets can be the lighter ivory color in the stone,” Glaister says. “The lower cabinets can take on more of the taupe quality. You can stain the island to match a warmer vein that may run through — but it’s starting to set the tone for a lot of kitchens I’m working on. People just love natural counters.”

Glaister also uses Caeserstone, a brand of engineered quartz countertops that has gained a reputation for its durability, versatility and aesthetic appeal. Caesarstone countertops are made from a combination of natural quartz, polymers and pigments.

“They have really pretty options that can handle the UV rays and the heat of being outside,” she says. “Because I’m in California, that’s a huge deal. We’re actually planning to use it on this amazing outdoor kitchen we got to design last year, that’s being installed.”

As more people are investing in their homes in this way, they also aim for these inside spaces to blur seamlessly into the outside. This trend has led to the development of innovative design solutions, such as retractable glass walls, outdoor kitchens and outdoor living rooms. With these features, homeowners can entertain guests or relax in their backyard while enjoying the same level of comfort and convenience they would experience inside

“I think people have started to envision the outdoor space as additional square footage, even more than they have in the past,” says Kelly. “For some during COVID, that was the only way they could connect with people.”

Fabric manufacturers used to have exclusively indoor fabrics and outdoor fabrics. Designers are also now considering performance fabrics for most furnishings within the home as well.

“People want living rooms outside, and seating that fits like real seating in your house,” Glaister says. “I think people love it because it is a performance fabric. Their kids can crawl all over it with a rainbow popsicle out by the pool, and it doesn’t matter.”

Glaister says performance fabrics in general are the most aesthetically pleasing they’ve ever been.

“Perennials has a beautiful line of performance,” she says. “Kravet has some of the most beautiful, luxurious velvet performances. You just can’t believe it, it feels amazing. If you were to go with the regular, old fashioned velvet, you’d touch it and it would be stained forever. It’s not hard to make the decision to go to performance anymore.”

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