Hi-tech electronic tools continue to transform our homes and lives, which makes careful planning for today’s – and tomorrow’s – technologies essential in kitchen and bath design.
“It’s so important to plan and design properly, to accommodate all the cool new gadgets,” explained Meghan Lewellyn, a designer with Markraft Cabinets. Homeowners should not only take into account devices built into homes today, she said, but also include the necessary infrastructure for amenities that might not have been invented yet.
That starts, she said, before the first cabinet is installed, by making sure to build in adequate electrical capacity. Likewise, data connections such as coaxial cable, for televisions, and Ethernet cable, for computers, should be considered in any design. The cost is minor to run these lines at a project’s start. Going back after the work is finished might be prohibitive.
These are some new features showing up in kitchen designs:
- “Pop-up” outlets, often installed in island countertops. Flush with the surface when not in use, they can include power and data connections, such as USB links, for charging phones and tablets.
- Docking drawers, with built-in charging stations, that allow smartphones, tablets or laptop computers to stay out of sight until needed.
- Hidden flat-screen televisions tucked behind mirrors, paintings and other “niche areas,” invisible until needed. A related device is a TV screen that pops up from a countertop. TVs are even being hidden behind bathroom mirrors!
- “Servo-drive” cabinets, with sensors and little motors to open and close doors and drawers. Helpful as accessibility aids for people with disabilities, they also show up in extremely modern minimalist designs that dispense with hardware. A simple tap on a drawer opens it automatically
- Motion-sensor faucets, providing hands-free control when cooking.
Because so many of these features require electrical power, normal house current or special low-voltage feeds, up-front planning is essential. Lewellyn says hiring a designer early, before major decisions about amenities and placement are locked in, opens up new possibilities that homeowners might not think of otherwise.
One consideration in kitchen design involves under-cabinet lighting. Rather than hard-wiring, Lewellyn recommends “plug and play,” using discreetly placed outlets. This makes it easy to replace or upgrade lighting as technology advances or the user’s needs evolve.
In bath design, popular new features include mist or steam shower units; electronic on-off switches for showers; and audio systems such as Bluetooth-enabled showerhead speakers. These play music wirelessly from a smartphone or MP3 player.
Since 1985, Markraft has specialized in cabinet and countertop design and installation in residential and commercial construction and custom remodeling. To learn more about Markraft, go to www.markraft.com. Contract Markraft at 910-762-1986 and like Markraft on Facebook at www.facebook.com/markraftcabinets.