Are You Inviting “Big Brother” into Your Home with Smart Technology?

The debate continues about whether smart technology makes sense in the kitchen. It’s hard to argue against appliances that notify owners of problems and schedule service. However, some object to delegating tasks and thinking to smart devices. They worry that smart devices are making us lazy, or worse, dumb and anti-social.

As the baby boomer population continues to grow and people are busier than ever, one can easily make the case for employing smart technology in kitchen design. Configuring smart devices and appliances with smart phones, Google Home, or Amazon Alexa lets you remotely complete tasks that normally require your presence or direct touch.

Who Is Interested in Smart Home Technology?

According to The New York Times article, To Invade Homes, Tech Is Trying to Get in Your Kitchen, only 5% of Americans own smart appliances. Yet, appliance brands lead us to believe there is high demand.

In a related survey from October 2017, RICKI – Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence, the nation’s leading authority for kitchen research and trends, revealed statistics about who is interested in smart technology:


If only 5% of Americans own smart appliances, these percentages translate to fairly small numbers. Interest does not necessarily result in a purchase.

Appliance Brands Need to Walk the Talk

I live in the high-tech region of North Carolina known as Research Triangle Park (RTP). RTP is home to numerous IT companies from hi-tech startups to well-established giants like IBM. Local designers enjoy a higher level of interest in technology products here.

During a recent visit to The Appliance Center in Durham, I spoke with owner, Stu Stewart, and Marketing Director, Kim Stewart. They supply appliances to the building and design communities, as well as homeowners. They report seeing a limited number of homeowners or builders seeking smart appliances, and 80 percent of consumers are not computer-savvy. The Appliance Center’s staff receives training on smart technology from the brands, which equips them with the knowledge to educate their customers.

Appliance brands need to educate their sellers and help them stay current with smart technology in order to efficiently sell it. Combine uneducated consumers with untrained sales professionals, and the percentages noted by RICKI are not surprising. If sellers cannot explain the benefits and uses of smart features, how can they close the sale?

Smart Technology in the Kitchen

Many appliance brands offer smart technology options. Dacor has refrigerators with features that simplify our lives: Doors open with a touch… interior LED lights illuminate what’s inside… Dual cameras pair with your smartphone so you can see inside your fridge as you shop.

Samsung brings cutting-edge technology to the masses with the Family Hub Refrigerator. With a panel similar to your tablet or smart phone, you can access multiple apps right from the fridge. Pull up the family calendar… Play music… Leave a note.

The Family Hub Refrigerator operates on Z-Wave technology. People lacking skills might want to consult a technology professional to ensure it functions as expected.

Great Appliances Help Us Prepare Great Meals

Maybe Bertazzoni president, Paolo Bertazzoni, has the right idea… The enduring Italian appliance company does not want their appliances to rely on a smart phone. The main objective for their appliances is that they cook well!


We live in exciting and changing times in the design industry. Some consumers will find the idea of smart technology in the kitchen irresistible. But me, I’d rather spend the extra money on a snazzy range and sit around the table talking with mi famiglia.

notech family dinner

Studying Modern Design and Trends at the Monogram Designer Summit 2018


I was honored to attend the Monogram Designer Summit 2018 in Louisville last week. This year’s theme was Journey: The Impact of One to Many.  Our gracious Monogram hosts began the summit with a cocktail reception and dinner at the historic Brown Hotel. This was followed by two days jam-packed with opportunities to learn and wander awe-struck through the modernist masterpiece that is Columbus, Indiana.

To help us get started on our journey, Bryan Goodpastor, Senior Creative Director of Trends and Forecasting at LPK, shared a dynamic presentation about trends for now and the future. At LPK, Bryan specializes in looking ahead to identify trends and help businesses optimize for the future.

Bryan’s team forecasts global trends and identifies shifts in socio-culture that affect consumer attitudes, values and beliefs—ultimately defining the consumer behaviors of the future.


Bryan’s presentation was a great segue to our trip the next day to Columbus, Indiana, an architecturally significant town that clearly demonstrates how one person’s vision can create a lasting impact.

Columbus, Indiana was forever changed as J. Irwin Miller and his wife, Xenia made extraordinary contributions in their home town. Miller clearly was a man ahead of  his time. Watch the following video and see for yourself:

J. Irwin Miller: Portrait of a Leader


The highlight of our visit to Columbus was touring the Miller House and Gardens, which is now owned and maintained by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Still photos cannot capture the magic of the house and grounds, but the following video gives you an idea:

Miller House and Garden

Unfortunately, the magnolia trees were not in bloom for our visit. Having grown up with a magnolia tree in my front yard, I immediately recognized the budding beauties and can only imagine the spectacle they created when all were in bloom.

If you want to learn more about Columbus, Indiana and J. Irwin Miller, read Columbus, Ind.: A Midwestern Mecca Of Architecture.

We ended the day  with cocktails and dinner at the KY Museum of Arts and Crafts.


Tuesday began bright and early at The Speed Art Museum with Bryan Goodpastor reporting on industry trends, followed by our dynamic facilitators Sunni and Jesse setting us up for an afternoon of discovery and innovation.


One of the most fun parts of the Monogram Designer Summits is being able to envision and create product prototypes. Building on Bryan’s information with Sunni and Jesse motivating us, we broke out into teams and let our imaginations run wild.

Using “junkyard” scraps of cardboard, foamcore, handles and knobs, we put our heads together and built full-size appliances. Each group was assigned a demographic based on Bryan’s presentation,and we had only a short time to come to consensus and build our prototypes!


Unfortunately, I cannot show you pictures of our top-secret, innovate creations or I will be sent away to appliance jail and tortured. Just kidding. Nyuck nyuck nyuck!

But seriously, folks, if you want to see truly innovative products that exceed your wildest dreams you only have to check out Monogram Appliances!

We wrapped up the 2018 Designer Summit with cocktails and dinner in The Crystal Ballroom at the Brown Hotel. As we savored as last hours together, Karl Champley, Master Builder, Humanitarian, and TV host shared his journey with us.

Thank you, Monogram, for hosting another fabulous designer summit!

Cupboards and counters and tile, oh my!

When homeowners first begin a remodeling project, they often feel like Dorothy when she suddenly found herself in the Land of Oz.

At first, the idea of a new space is energizing and exciting. Everyone you talk with is clamoring for your business and you become obsessed with making selections. But gradually the prospect of remodeling can become scary and panic sets in.

Stop and take a deep breath because you aren’t in Oz. Take things one step at a time. Work with both a designer and contractor to keep your project moving in the right direction.

First things first

So where do you begin? In what order should you select cabinets, tile, and counters? Maybe you have an idea how much you want to invest and a desired time-frame.

To recommend  materials in the right price range, your designer and contractor need to know how much you plan to invest in the project. Be honest and you are less likely to be disappointed. Always buy the best quality you can afford.

Choose the cabinets first, then tile and counter material. Higher-quality cabinets offer more options for material, style, and finish.


In most kitchen remodels, the cabinets are the most costly component. For the best results, select cabinets and appliances of the same quality. Choose all appliances and be certain of their dimensions, including cutout measurements for any built-ins, before ordering cabinets.

If you want stone counter tops and luxury appliances, you need well-built cabinets to support them.

If you are replacing the floor, verify with your construction team and flooring dealer that the new material can bear the weight of cabinets and appliances. Certain types of flooring must be installed around these items, not under them.

Wolf Sub-Zero Kitchen
Photo credit: Sub-Zero Wolf

This kitchen features fine cabinetry and high-end appliances. Items that won’t cost a fortune to replace (or tear up the room) provide pops of color. Neutral browns, blacks, and whites used for the big-ticket items will stand the test of time.


It will prevent many headaches if you select your cabinet style and finish before choosing tile and counter material. Especially if you want white tile and white cabinets.

Photo credit: Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.

If you intend to use white for both tile and cabinets, please take the time to view the samples in all types of light and times of day, as we recommend when selecting paint in Choosing Paint Colors with Confidence.

In upscale bathrooms, fixtures and plumbing supplies are usually more expensive than cabinets, especially if you are installing anything other than a standard five-foot tub. Luxurious items, including tubs with whirlpool jets, LED lighting, and heater; steam and glass-enclosed showers with body jets and multiple heads; and high-end faucets, can easily exceed $10,000.

Hansgrohe luxury bath
Photo credit: Hansgrohe

A high-end modern bathroom, like the one shown in the photo above, requires a very large plumbing budget.

Putting it all together

When shopping for materials, be sure to bring all your samples. Arrange them on a contrasting or neural surface to ensure they complement each other. Request the largest samples you can get.

2015-07-31 15.55.20

If you do your homework and make informed decisions, you will be happier with the results. Because there really is no place like home.