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Why Smart Home Isn't Just Another Buzz Word

"Smart" is a buzzword that has become synonymous with the latest technology. Smart phones. Smart car. Smart boards. And now there's the smart home. What exactly is a smart home? As an example, think about The Jetsons, a cartoon many of us grew up watching. We marveled at the family's everyday conveniences like automated appliances, robot maids, and flying cars. Well, while we can't help you with the flying car, we can certainly introduce you to home automation. smarthome

You've probably seen the term "home of the future" somewhere. It's one that's been used widely for the last century or so. The prime feature at the General Electric pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair explored the home of the future through Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. In this attraction, which now lives at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, viewers sit in a moving, circular theater and experience the advent of electricity and technological advances during the 20th century via the typical American family. The attraction shows how people have been amazed by new technology for the home throughout the centuries. From the poupularization of electricity in the private home to the invention of high-definition television and voice-automated appliances, technology for the home has come a long way.

Home automation is a big deal in smart homes. Single integrated systems allow users to connect appliances, thermostats, security systems, and more from one device, such as a smartphone. Appliances can be monitored and controlled remotely through these systems. Say you turned the air conditioning off while you were out of town for a summer vacation. Instead of coming home to a stiflingly hot house, you can use your phone to turn on the a/c when you board your plane or start your car trip home. Lighting can also be controlled remotely or set to automatically turn on or off at any given time. Energy-efficient smart lightbulbs can be controlled with a phone for different lighting for tasks and mood. With systems like LG's HomeChat, users can text their appliances. For example, text "What are you doing?" to your washing machine and receive a response telling your which cycle the washer is currently in.

Most importantly, security systems have never been more, well, secure than they are now with smart technology. Homeowners who take advantage of smart security systems can use their phones for remote surveillance of their homes and check to see if doors have been locked and appliances have been turned off. Smart security systems can also be programmed to simulate the appearance of an occupied home by automatically adjusting lighting or moving window coverings when unauthorized movement is detected. These systems can also notify homeowners in the event of a fire or gas, carbon monoxide, and water leaks.

Another benefit of the smart home is home automation for elderly and disabled. Those who prefer to live in their own homes as opposed to an assisted living facility can do so safely through features like reminder systems and domotics (domestic robots) that assist with medication dispensing and spoon-feeding.

Smart technology isn't without its problems, however. Many protestors complain that it's making us lazy. And of course, there's always the chance of malfunction. Even the Carousel of Progress shows its audience how technology can go wrong, from blowing fuses to smart appliances that misunderstand directions. While there are caveats to relying completely on smart devices, the fact is that they're here to stay and are constantly being tweaked and improved. Smartphones weren't the norm even less than a decade ago. Now you'll be hard-pressed to find an individual without one in your general vicinity. Who knows? Perhaps in the next ten years, we'll all be enjoying the benefits of a smart home!

 

How-To Tuesday: Modernize an Outdated Fireplace

Summer is winding down, and though we won't be seeing cold temperatures in Charleston for a couple of months, we think this is the perfect time to start thinking about home projects for fall and winter. Today, we want to talk about fireplaces. More specifically, we want to talk about old, outdated, sooty, red brick, brass-trimmed fireplaces. Now is the perfect time to update that less-than-glamorous monster sitting in the middle of your living room. Take one or two of these ideas and run with them before the cooler weather hits.

  • Paint the bricks. A coat of paint over brick that isn't your taste is the simplest update we can think of. It's a cheap and easy way to make your fireplace match your decor and your tastes.
  • If you don't like the look of brick at all, replace it with a new facade of limestone, slate, tile, or river stones. Using faux versions of these materials makes things easier and guarantees that you won't have to add floor support.
  • Use plaster to cover over brick instead of removing it completely. Then paint the plaster as desired.
  • Builtins are certainly useful and can be lovely additions to any room, but sometimes a surrounding builtin can dwarf a fireplace, taking attention away from what could be a beautiful focal point. Consider removing builtings or minimizing them so your fireplace can stand front and center.
  • Build a new mantle. Make it modern crisp white, deep, sophisticated mahogany, or go rustic with reclaimed wood or driftwood.
  • Add a little color. You can do this with paint, tile, a new screen, or accessories.
  • For heaven's sake, remove that brass trim! This is one of the biggest culprits in making a fireplace look dated. You could also paint the trim for a completely different look.
  • Have an entire mantle, hearth, and surround built out of smooth marble or granite. This makes for a contemporary, smooth finish and accentuates clean lines in a minimalist space.
  • If your fireplace has beautiful brick or stone that simply looks old, dull, or dark, have them cleaned and etched to lighten the color.

What other ideas do you have for updating an outdated fireplace? Have you completed a project like this? Tell us in the comments below and send us some before and after photos.

 

Friday Five // August 22, 2014

The new school year has begun, which means football season is upon us! Celebrate the start of high school football tonight, Friday, August 22nd, at the annual Sertoma Football Classic. The games start at 5pm at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Connoisseurs of all things beer-related will flock to Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park (a.k.a. The Joe) this Saturday from 6-9pm for the 2014 Ballpark Festival of Beers. Beer lovers will have the chance to sample of 100 American and international brands and specialty as well as enjoy live music and food trucks. Tickets may be purchased for $25 at any Kickin' Chicken location or for $30 at the Riverdogs box office.

Here's a fun way to beat the heat this weekend: join a massive, flash mob-style water balloon fight! The fun takes place at 11am on Saturday during the Farmer's Market on Marion Square. Anyone can participate in this free event. Just be sure to wear clothes you don't mind getting wet.

If your kids are fans of Disney Channel's Good Luck Charlie, they'll be thrilled to know that this weekend presents an opportunity to meet Bridgit Mendler (who plays Teddy on the show) Friday evening! The beloved Disney star will perform a free concert at Tanger Outlets at 6pm, followed by a meet and greet at 7pm.

In memory of the late Robin Williams, Cinebarre will show Good Will Hunting, the film which won Williams an Academy Award for his performance as Dr. Sean Maguire. The movie will be shown on the theater's giant outdoor screen at dusk. Food and drinks will be available for purchase, and sound bites from Robin Williams' comedy shows will be played prior to the screening.

From all of us here at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company, have a safe and happy weekend!

 

How-To Tuesday: Change the Look and Feel of a Room with Lighting

Does your home need a makeover? Does your decor look tired and uninspiring? Before you dive into a remodel or redecorating project, consider one thing. The culprit of your "blah" feeling probably boils down to one little, seemingly insignificant detail:

Lighting.

Lighting is more important than you think. Sometimes, all a room makeover needs to consist of is a small change in the way a room is lit. The right light bathes a room in an impeccable way, makes a space look comfortable and inviting, emphasizes the use and feel of the room, and makes you look and feel your best. Allow us to illuminate the subject. (See what we did there? Clever bunch, we are.)

First, let's go over the number one rule of lighting: No bright lights! Overly bright lighting makes a room look too sterile and washes everything out. This isn't to say that a room shouldn't be bright and cheery. The trick is to layer your sources of light (including natural window light) to achieve the perfect balance. There's no need to light an entire room. Think about the rooms in your house, their functions, and which areas need which kind of lighting.

Architect and designer David Rockwell says, "Choose your light source, and then determine how to diffuse it." According to Rockwell, simply switching out a lampshade can make a huge difference. Another way to diffuse light is to add a dimmer. In fact, it's a smart move to install a dimmer on every overhead light in your home, if feasible. Dimmers allow for flexibility as far as mood, time of day, and usage. Huge bonus: they also reduce energy consupmtion and make bulbs last longer. If multiple light sources are the only option in any given room, always install a dimmer switch.

The wrong type of bulb can also be the culprit of a poorly lit room. Repeat after us: never, ever, ever use fluorescent tubes. Even if you think they're an efficient way to light a large space. Just don't. They're too industrial, and not in the cool, funky, downtown loft way. They make colors look off and can cause fatigued eyes. As a different option to incandescent bulbs, consider compact fluorescent bulbs (CFEs). Screw-in LEDs are also a good choice, but they can be pricey. Dimmable white A-19 LED bulbs are another great way to add warmth to your light source.

Let's take a look at lighting each room. Think about the function of a room before you go out and buy whatever you think looks good. In a dining room, an overhead chandelier with a dimmer works best. Not only does it allow you to adjust the lighting based on mood, but it's more pleasing aesthetically. In the kitchen, consider the most-used sections. Focus direct light on work areas, utilizing under-cabinet task lights, pendant lights, and lights above the stove cooktop. The living room is one of those rooms where layers of light work best. Choose a pleasing combination of floor lamps, table lamps, and overheads like recessed lighting. Put some thought into how each light source fits in with the overall decor and feel of the living room. In the bedroom, overhead light is harsh and not relaxing at all. Once again, if you must have an overhead light, install a dimmer. But ultimately, all you really need are bedside lamps, reading lights by the bed or sitting area, and perhaps a brighter task light for dressing. The bathroom is another tricky area. Some people stand firmly in the "brighter is better" camp. Others prefer a soft glow for a relaxing feel. This is completely up to you and how you want your bathroom to feel. A kids' bathroom, for example, probably calls for bright white light. But the master might need something softer for ambience. Use candles as an option to enhance any lighting you decide on.

Now that we've shed some light on the situation, we hope a light bulb has gone off over your head. (We're full of bad puns today, but we just can't resist.) Try switching up the light in your home for a small change that makes a big impact. If you take this mini-challenge, let us know how it works for you!

 

Friday Five // August 15, 2014

 

It's time once again for the Friday Five, where we bring you five events happening in the Lowcountry this weekend. Cheer on young triathletes, plan your wedding, do a little fishing, and more! Click on the links below for more information on each event.

Put on your dancing shoes and head over to the Mt. Pleasant Pier for Shaggin' on the Cooper with the Coppertones this Saturday at 7pm. Beverages are available for purchase.

School starts again for most of the Lowcountry this week. Families with school-aged children can stop by Liberty Square near the S.C. Aquarium on Sunday for the First Day Festival. At this free event, students and their families receive school supplies, discover student support services, learn about healthy snacks, and enjoy Aquarium tours and boat rides.

If you're looking for something to do outdoors, check out the Big Kahuna Fishing Tournament on Folly Beach Saturday from 6am to 4pm. Prizes will be awarded for the best adult, lady, youth, and senior anglers. 

The busy season for weddings might be winding down, but the time for wedding planning is always right. At the Southern Bridal Show this weekend, brides and grooms will have the opportunity to speak with wedding vendors, taste caterers' offerings, and get excited about their big day. The event takes place at noon on Sunday at the Charleston Area Convention Center.

On Saturday morning, the Summerville Family YMCA hosts the 2014 Youth Triathlon at The Ponds. Kids ages 7 to 14 will swim, bike, and run their way to the finish line at 7:30am at The Ponds Farmhouse.

As always, we at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy weekend!

 

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