We’re all busy, and for many people that means eating on the run. So much so that dining rooms, breakfast nooks, kitchen tables are becoming relics used more for storing paperwork than holding hot family meals. There is hope, though. With a few high-tech additions, this poorly utilized space might finally become a family gathering spot. Here are some good high-tech choices, as well as two examples of tricked out dining areas.
This dining room was done my Innerspace Electronics.
Dimmable lighting: A dimmer switch can adjust the intensity of the lights to suit the occasion—bright for family dinners; soft for just you and the spouse. Take it a step farther by tying the dimmer (as well as other dimmers in the house) to a lighting control system. Installed and programmed by a custom electronics (CE) professional, this system allows you to engage various “scenes,” by touching a single button on a keypad, touchpanel or handheld remote. For example, a romantic scene could signal the lights to dim and the music to activate, while movie scene could dim the lights and close the window treatments.
Lutron® Light Control and Shading Solutions
Motorized shading: If you find yourself battling the glare of the sun during meals, consider having motorized shades installed on the windows. These can be operated from a remote or tied in with the lights and music via a home automation system. You can also ask your CE pro to put them on a timer to raise and lower automatically at certain times of the day.
seeTouch® wall-mounted keypad and Lutron Total Home Control+ app
Control: When the lights, audio and shades are all connected to a control system, you’ll want a simple means of operating them—without having to leave the table. One of the most convenient control devices for most people is an Apple iPad. Loaded with the appropriate app, it puts you in complete control of every technology in the dining room, as well as throughout the rest of the house.
In-ceiling speakers: Positioned above the table, a flush-mounted speaker can deliver music to the dining area. You’ll need to also invest in some type of whole-house audio system that can connect your audio components (iPod, media server, etc.) to the dining room speakers as well as to other speakers throughout the house.
Articulating TV mount: Depending on the layout of your eating area, an articulating wall mount for your flat-panel TV can be a wise addition. Once your TV is attached to it, the mount can be swiveled to face the table while you’re eating dinner, then toward the kitchen when you’re cleaning up. You can attach a soundbar to the bottom of the display for audio, or have your CE pro distribute the TV audio to the built-in speakers above the table.
The owners of the following two eating areas incorporated much of the above, plus more, to create comfortable, entertaining places to enjoy food, family and friends.
Innerspace Electronics, Port Chester, N.Y.
When a dining area opens up to the kitchen and family room, it’s important to treat all three as one main entertaining space, says Barry Reiner of Innerspace Electronics, Port Chester, N.Y. For this project Innerspace installed a whole-house audio system that can stream music from Pandora, Rhapsody and other service to speakers in the ceiling. The owners can use their iPads to select a music source and whether to play the song over the dining speakers only or speakers in the kitchen and family room as well.
The lights and 11 motorized Lutron shades can be controlled independently via the Savant home control app on an iPad, or the owners can let the shades move up and down automatically at prescribed times of the day.
Osbee Industries, Harrison, N.Y.
Before the CE pros at Osbee Industries, Harrison, N.Y., worked their magic on this breakfast nook, “the area was so bright from the uncovered windows that it was almost unusable,” says company vice president Jared Ross. Motorized shades from Lutron were the first update. Programmed to lift up and down based on sunrise and sunset, the shades never need to be fiddled with, but if the owners do need to adjust them, it’s a cinch to do so from a Crestron touchpanel. This portable 12-inch touchpanel typically hangs out in the breakfast nook, which has become command central of the 12,000-square-foot house, says Ross. From it, the owners can summon music to the in-ceiling speakers above the table, adjust the intensity of the lights, control a 65-inch flat-panel TV and view real-time images from several surveillance cameras on the property.
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More cool home ideas:
Make Your Kitchen Appliances Disappear
Inside HGTV’s 2013 Smart Home
Make Your Kitchen the Center of Your Connected Home
Follow Electronic House
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.