Luxuryculture takes you beyond the threshold of tomorrow’s homes as designers create innovative visions of high tech living for the 21st century.

In the 1950s families were liberated by machines that would clean our clothes and our homes, cutting laborious (and tedious) household chores by hours each week. Today machines rule the roost, as they perform the most sophisticated functions around the home. From dishwashers that automatically raise plates directly from the sink, to remote freezers that can control separate compartments individually on command, our surroundings are controlled by the push of a button.

Back then, who would have thought that technology advance so far? When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, could he have ever imagined that this simple tool of communication would have such an impact on our lives, not only emotionally and socially, but physically too? Apple’s iPhone has revolutionized telecom technology through a dizzying array of applications and add-ons that have rendered it indispensible among gadget hungry users. The beauty of the infinite array of applications is that even the non tech-savvy can perform impressive tasks from their handset, just by downloading a program. Take Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLink application, which links the home’s electronics to your iPhone, transforming it into a universal remote that performs a vast range of tasks, from drawing the curtains to switching music speakers from room to room and more – all from the tap of a button. And through its connection to the Master Link Gateway, a two-way operating system that enables the home’s networks to communicate with a home automation system, users have full control of the electronics throughout the home, without the customary agonising setup procedure.

Even storage spaces have become a target for gadget fans who seek cutting edge technology combined with wow factor, as interior designer Katharine Pooley explains “People often imagine that technology is essentially a male-domain but we have many female clients for whom technology is of key importance in their ultimate interior. In a recent Knightsbridge project we installed a glamorous walk-in dressing room, fully fitted with bespoke storage and custom-built furniture. For added appeal we designed wardrobes with a mirror system fitted with a motion-activated light that revealed the rows of clothes in the wardrobes behind as you approach. For the same project we designed humidity-controlled compartments within the wardrobes for the client’s valuable collection of furs. The temperature and humidity were controlled through a high-tech system operable from one panel.”

With new innovation also comes new materials, such as Corian and HI-MACS, solid surface materials that are a favourite among designers for their versatility and durability. Through thermo molding processes designers can create seamless organic forms that respond to a desire for holistic, sensory spaces. Corian’s Smart-ologic Corian® Living project, designed by Karim Rashid, was created with its new environmental range made from sustainable bio components and recycled content. Rashid’s signature morphic forms exemplify the futuristic appeal of these manmade materials. ““The 'Smart-ologic Corian® Living' project gave me the opportunity to design a modular holistic house concept, a metaphor for how materials, technologies, housing, furnishings and space can work together to evoke an increased sense of experience, positively affect our psyche and bring us a better contemporary life, while also enabling us to reduce the environmental imprint of our daily decisions and actions,” explained the designer.

Innovative materials inspire new designs, particularly within the kitchen. Michaël Harboun’s surreal Living Kitchen is not only an object lesson in what the future holds in terms of technology, it also responds to our desire for a more humanistic design approach. With the aid of Claytronic technology taps and basins miraculously morph out of the wall, then eerily vanish, back within their white backdrop. It may be a while before such a concept will see fruition, but the covert aspect is paradoxically becoming a prominent element in what is traditionally considered the center stage of the modern home. Forget handles and buttons, sensors and networked systems control the hands-free culinary zone, while hobs and hotplates meld seamlessly with surrounding surfaces.

Media rooms may be a must-have among hi-fi afficionados (particularly 3D home cinema systems) but it is the bathroom that has become one of the most unlikely rooms to accomodate electronic wizardry. Once a haven of peace and calm, TV, audio and ambient lighting are just some of the items designed to aid relaxation and wellbeing, particularly in South Korea, where an incredible 30% of consumers boast a TV screen in their bathroom. Last year Ideal Standard created the ultimate digital bathroom, incorporating all its innovative products in one high-tec bathing space. Digitized power shower and hammam units, MP3 players, digital sensory taps and wireless telephone are just some of the gadgets to be found behind the bathroom door.

At this year’s annual design fair, Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Japanese manufacturer TOTO introduced Italian style to its celebrated range of remote WCs. The Giovannoni Washlet, designed by Stefano Giovannoni, boasts remote a dizzying selection of functions, including a self-cleaning washing wand, heated seat, air dryer and deodoriser, all controled by remote. If you can hook this baby up to an iPhone app, it could be worth the investment based purely on entertainment value!

Fingerprint locks and voice activated controls are just some of the current high-tech home functions, but what does the future hold for radical residences? According to Matthew Tillman, Director of London-based audio visual specialists, Gibson Music Limited, fibre optic cabling will play a major role in the future “one of the things that we’re doing a lot of now is installing fibre networks through homes for the new generations of high definition TV, 3D TV and all the latest Ethernet technology. It cuts down on cables, you can have the equipment in the room and you don’t have to have them centrally located and you can get a lot more bandwidth. This is future proofing the house as much as possible.” He explains. Energy is also a prime concern, from blocking out of harmful electronic fields, to energy reduction. “The monitoring of power is becoming important. Lutron and Crestron systems use less power and on a touch screen you can see how much power your house uses. When you go away you can put it on standby as you walk out, or set it remotely so it doesn’t use so much power. What we’re also beginning to find is people asking for functions to shut off power completely, rather than just putting it into standby. At the moment the industry standard is standby mode, but in 10 years time I think that it will be possible to switch everything off completely from one switch.” Tillman concludes. We’ve come a long way.

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