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The future is now
High-tech innovations find their way into the kitchen

By REBECCA KONYA

 

Cabinet drawers that open with a slight touch; lighting, window treatments and appliances controlled by your cell phone; a cooktop that heats only the area that comes into contact with cookware — these are just some of the latest innovations being incorporated into today’s kitchens, bringing speed and efficiency to families’ daily hustle and bustle. With the digital age firmly entrenched on the home front, technology plays a significant role in enhancing residential living spaces — especially in the kitchen. More than ever the kitchen is the central family hub, says Alex DeToro, co-owner of TechTeriors in Mequon. And these high-tech amenities promise to make life a little easier.

Remote Operations

More and more, kitchen appliances and utilities can be controlled remotely either by a central control panel in the home or with a handheld smart device. "People love to be able to do everything on their phone," Radiske says.

Using the Internet or a cell phone, homeowners can communicate with an appliance and activate it to begin cooking, clean the dishes or alter the room temperature, delivering both convenience and comfort.

"Everything from window treatments to ice makers can be programmed," DeToro says. "We’ve programmed kitchen lighting and shades to follow the astronomical clock." The solution helps maintain a comfortable indoor environment and protects flooring and furnishings from the harsh effects of direct sunlight.

LED Lighting

With the ever-increasing selection of LED lighting applications, homeowners can easily save on energy without skimping on style. Convenient and versatile, energy-efficient LED lights are being incorporated all over contemporary kitchens, from out-of-reach overhead cans to accent lighting for display cabinets.

And LEDs stay cool, so they’re ideal for under-cabinet task lighting, DeToro says. "You can leave a loaf of bread under LED lighting and it won’t go stale," she notes.

Powered Drawers

Cooks could often use an extra hand when disposing of kitchen scraps during meal preparation. Enter powered drawers that are activated by the knock of a knee or the nudge of a foot. The drawer automatically opens, you dispose of your garbage and your cabinet woodwork stays clean.

"Convenience is an important aspect in modern kitchens," says Rob Radiske, a designer and vice president of Wisconsin Kitchen Mart in Milwaukee.

Powered drawers are all about ease of use. At a single touch, drawers and pull-outs open by themselves. And if your hands are full, you can simply use your hip, knee or toe. How’s that for practicality?

Induction Cooktops

Imagine a cooking surface that lets you heat a pot of spaghetti, yet remains cool to the touch where there is no cookware. Induction cooktops rely on an electromagnetic field to heat cookware, providing fast, even heating at any temperature. "Induction technology uses the power of magnets to cook food," DeToro says. "You can boil a pot of water on the same surface as an ice cube and the ice cube won’t melt."

The smooth surface of induction cooktops makes for easy clean-up and the technology is as reliable and consistent as natural gas. One drawback — the technology requires pots and pans with a certain amount of iron to work. "Your cookware has to have iron content to allow the transfer of energy," Radiske says.

Concealed Sound Systems

Entertaining has become a primary function of today’s kitchens, and homeowners are embracing built-in sound systems to deliver mood-setting background music. But audio systems’ sometimes unsightly speakers can create an interior design conundrum. Enter modern sound systems that can be concealed behind a thin layer of drywall, eliminating the visible presence of speakers and allowing complete interior design flexibility. The invisible, in-wall solution can be wallpapered or painted right over, DeToro says. "It doesn’t change the aesthetics of the room."