High-Tech Havens

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work and entertain_credit Guilder Rivera
With the help of technology, outdoor spaces can serve as both a place to work and entertain. | Photo by Guilder Rivera

Homeowners are incorporating technology into their outdoor spaces to maximize productivity and entertainment options.

By Ashley Probst

 

In our modern world, technology is woven into virtually every aspect of our lives, so naturally homeowners are incorporating it in their outdoor areas.

From long-range Wi-Fi for those working from home to wireless speakers and movie screens for alfresco entertainment, technology helps make any type of outdoor activity more convenient. This is because everything can be controlled from homeowners’ electronic devices, including lighting, sound systems, fire pits and more.

working outdoors_Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock.com
High-tech spaces are great for working outdoors. | Photo by Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock.com

“A smart home is controllable by your phone,” says Julie Laughton, CEO of her eponymous Laguna Beach-based custom home building company, Julie Laughton Design Build. “I just think that technology makes our lives much simpler and more carefree because it can save us time.”

With technological advancements readily available, it’s easier than ever to customize one’s backyard for any mood or event at the tap of a finger.

 

The Bare Necessities

Regardless of how deep homeowners want to get into the technological world, there are a few basic features that anyone needs to fully enjoy their outdoor area: heating and lights.

When it comes to heating systems, Laughton says that “infrared is safer in general.” This is, in part, because electric heaters help prevent fires that have previously been caused by old-fashioned gas heaters.

“[Infrared heaters] can be mounted on the ceiling or the walls … and they cover a large area of 200 square feet,” Laughton says.

2020 The Terrace Lifestyle Images_samsung
TVs like The Terrace by Samsung offer great picture quality even in full sunlight due to a weather-resistant, anti-glare screen. | Photo by Samsung

Lighting is also imperative for outdoor gatherings, especially at night, and some digital programs allow users to save their preferences to suit different moods like soft light for a romantic dinner or brighter light for an evening workspace. All of these can be controlled through an app.

“All the lights, for example, come programmable in your phone in any color, so you can change the theme of your backyard,” Laughton explains. “… You can have it preprogrammed so you just push a button and don’t need to adjust a dimmer switch on the wall.”

Outdoor technology is also typically waterproof and wireless for both safety and convenience.

 

Outdoor Offices and Alfresco Kitchens

With more people working from home than ever, opting for an outdoor office has become an increasingly popular exterior design trend. A weatherproof table and chairs make for the ideal place to set up a laptop and, with the right connection, homeowners can tap into their Wi-Fi network from anywhere on their property.

“[Most properties include] a central location in the house where everything is hard-wired. Then a wireless box in that central location is used to communicate with every device in the house—[and outside]—including TVs,” Laughton says, noting this may require the installation of Wi-Fi boosters depending on the size of one’s property. “… The days of the cable wires being run to every room are over.”

Not only are homeowners working outdoors, they’re also cooking in the open air. For these types of kitchens, Laughton says the most important piece of technology is proper lighting that’s placed strategically. She recommends smart LED light bulbs, which make great accent lighting and can be controlled with an app on your cellphone. Lighted barbecue tongs may also be helpful.

2020 The Terrace Lifestyle Images_samsung
From outdoor TVs to speakers for music, the addition of technology outside helps homeowners to expand their home’s living space. | Photo by Samsung

When it comes to outdoor appliances, these may include everything from smart dishwashers to stoves, grills, electric pizza ovens and more.

Laughton also notes that the home-tech industry is dramatically shifting to include artificial intelligence. One example that fascinates her is a refrigerator that tracks your food and drink supply to alert you when something runs out, or even add it to a virtual grocery list.

 

Open-Air Entertainment

Homeowners would be remiss not to incorporate technology in their outdoor play. One must-have item that Laughton suggests is a smart TV, which is wireless and powered by the internet instead of traditional cable.

When it comes to smart TVs, Samsung is the leading vendor worldwide with the electronics brand accounting for more than 25% of the global smart TV market.

The Terrace is one of Samsung’s TVs that’s designed specifically for outdoor spaces, according to a Samsung spokesperson. This premium outdoor home theater experience uses a quantum dot light-emitting diode (QLED) display for better picture quality. The Terrace allows for high-quality images even in full sunlight, which is possible because of a weather-resistant, anti-glare screen that has been verified for its outdoor visibility performance by safety science company Underwriters Laboratories.

Sonos Outdoor Speaker_courtesy of Sonos-1
Listen to music in your outdoor spaces with installed speakers. | Photo by Sonos

For an even bigger production and fun weekend activity, especially for those with kids, an outdoor movie screen can be installed virtually anywhere, though Laughton recommends placing it on a wall or under a canopy to help protect it from harsh weather. Screens can be as sophisticated as a motorized version that comes down at the push of a button to one that can be pulled down manually, or something even simpler.

“You can just hang a sheet and get the proper projector—you don’t have to get that fancy,” Laughton says, noting that portable projectors can even be stored indoors and only brought out for screenings.

No entertainment center would be complete without stellar speakers. Laughton’s go-to brand is Sonos, which specializes in wireless home sound systems and also serves as a Wi-Fi network. Speakers can also be hidden among rocks to maintain a natural aesthetic.

Overall, Laughton emphasizes the way technology makes homeowners’ lives essentially effortless, and recommends prioritizing that ease when integrating it into their daily routines.

“With tech, the simpler the application, the better because no one wants a complicated way to turn on your lights,” Laughton says. “… That’s what I enjoy about modern technology because, in the old days, it took a lot more work.”

And when this technological ease extends outdoors, it increases usable living space, making a home feel that much larger.

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