The smart home is here to stay. It seems every major manufacturer in the design industry has embraced the smart home as a fact of the future, pumping out tech that promises top-of-the-line performance and inventive new appliances that push the boundaries of "utility" with each successive year. Recently, this is becoming more and more apparent in the kitchen and bath spaces.
When designing a new home or renovating one of these spaces, the inclusion of smart tech is a given. But it’s important to carefully consider which appliances to include—what smart system does the client plan to use or is already integrated in the rest of the house? How will this new piece of technology accentuate the comfort and utility of whatever room it’s located in as a whole?
Here, we’ve rounded up new smart kitchen and bath appliances from industry heavyweights that demonstrate that manufacturers are thinking about these very questions. These selections demonstrate not only what these brands are capable of from a technological standpoint in 2020, but also how they approach thinking comprehensively about all aspects of the home, for today and for the future.
The Connected Kitchen
From air frying to sous-vide, the newest appliances from leading brands bring the versatility and oomph of an industrial kitchen into the home—all while fitting seamlessly into the reality of a day-to-day routine. Think smart features that remember favorite recipes, allow temperature control from your phone, and compatibility with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Luxury kitchen appliance brand Gaggenau continues to update its Combi-Steam Oven, an all-in-one wall unit that can braise, steam, bake, and sous-vide. The latest 400 series model is touted as the only professional self-cleaning, plumbed oven on the market. But it has other bells and whistles: a sleek, minimalist design comprising just two dials and a touchscreen; customization ranging from finish to hinge and control placement; a grill shielded by a ceramic-glass surface for easier cleaning; a multicore temperature probe; and, naturally, smart features. The latter uses Gaggenau’s Home Connect, allowing users to record up to 50 recipes or presets for their frequently cooked dishes, and to remotely control functions on a mobile phone such as preheating, adjusting, and monitoring.
Whereas the Gaggenau oven is designed to seamlessly blend into the wall, Dacor’s 48-inch Pro Dual Fuel Steam Range is meant to be a centerpiece. It may lack the sous-vide feature but, as its name plainly states, it boasts a pro-style range with six burners. In addition to stainless-steel or graphite finishes, the end user can select black or brass burner caps while illuminated knobs add a nice touch. Like many smart ovens, it features a Wi-Fi–connected touchscreen that tilts for easier reading, allows users to pre-program settings, look up recipes with step-by-step instruction, and check temperature and remaining cook time remotely via smartphone.
ThinQ InstaView Range with Air Fry is LG’s 2020 smart-oven entry. While it doesn’t steam-cook like the aforementioned products, it does have something the others do not: air-frying capability. Another nifty feature is the knock-knock tech which is standard on all LG InstaView products: a home chef need not open the oven door at regular intervals to check on progress. Instead, the user can knock twice on the oven window, which powers on the interior light. The unit also features Wi-Fi connectivity, and compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Additionally, LG has partnered with trending companies such as Sidechef, Innit, and Drop to provide recipe lookup. Drop, interestingly, can also tweak the recipes' temperatures and cook times depending on the oven model.
Farm-to-table has been a buzz-phrase for the last decade, one that has countertop contraptions such as hydroponic growers. High-end brand Natufia Labs upped the ante by producing a streamlined freestanding or built-in consumer version of the Natufia Hydroponic Kitchen Garden. Picture a full-height, glass-fronted beverage center, but instead of cans and bottles, it’s stocked with edible greenery. The system uses seed pods and porcelain pockets mounted onto slide-out racks. It’s fully automated down to the humidity levels and watering schedule. Fun fact: it even plays music that is thought to promote plant growth. Natufia is Wi-Fi–enabled, allowing the end user to monitor and analyze progress on a smartphone. While this is by no means an affordable appliance, it’s perfect for high-end residential projects and clients who like to flex their culinary muscles.
A spate of non-cooking kitchen products with smart features can come in handy, too. We previously told you about the voice-activated U by Moen kitchen faucet, but it isn’t the only game in town. Kohler Konnect faucets are similar in that they respond to voice commands for actions such as turning water off or dispensing precise measured amounts. Konnect is offered on five existing faucet lines including the contemporary Crue and transitional Graze.
Miele’s G7000 dishwasher automates both the amount of detergent and energy use based on how soiled the contents are and how full the washer is, making this both a water-and-energy-efficient product. Loaded the dishwasher but forgot to hit start before leaving for work? Not a problem thanks to the Miele@mobile app, which provides select controls via smartphone.
The High-Tech Bathroom
Moving beyond the tricked-out toilet, the smart bathroom now touches all phases of a hygiene and wellness routine. Both Kohler and Duravit launched intelligent toilets with bidet functions, giving the end user control over settings such as stream type and temperature. But 2020 feels more like the year of smart showers and secondary bathroom elements, such as lighted mirrors.
Kohler’s Verdera Voice is a voice-activated lighted mirror that works with Amazon Alexa. You can use it for more than switching on and dimming the integrated LEDs with your voice, though. It works like the Amazon Echo in that you can ask for the weather forecast or traffic conditions while getting ready for the day, and control other Kohler Konnect devices in the home. Verdera Voice saves presets for a specific user’s wake-up routine with lighting preferences and audio.
Kohler has also been updating connectivity features on some of its existing shower lines. DTV+, for example, provides a spa-like shower experience with multiple showerheads and body sprays, music streamed from a connected source, up to 11 presets, and mood lighting. But in addition to the wall-mounted interface and mobile app, you can power on and adjust the system with voice activation. A pared-down—but still convenient—version is Kohler’s DTV Mode with interface and valve. Well suited to simpler tub/shower combination bathrooms, it responds only to the wall control or mobile app and pre-fills bathtubs or controls two different shower sources simultaneously, among other actions.
Moen offers the U by Moen Shower. The initial product, launched a couple years ago, featured controls and up to 12 customizable presets managed remotely by smartphone. The recent edition does the same with voice activation and is currently compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant.
So, what smart features in kitchens and baths have you getting excited? What’s missing? And what’s just plain unnecessary?
Brooklyn-based design journalist Sheila Kim reports on architecture, interiors, and decor, as well as design-centric products that run the gamut from table lamps and home accessories to commercial flooring and acoustic ceilings. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Architectural Record, and numerous other publications.
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