Last month I visited the Savant Experience Center in New York City. It blew me away, to put it mildly. The place is packed with technology—most of which is centered around Savant’s friendly and powerful Apple-based automation system. Located in a building that was once home to the Singer sewing machine facility, the entire 8,000-square-foot space, which occupies the third floor, had to be gutted to better accommodate the technologies that would be incorporated, and to evoke the look and mood of a swank NYC condo. The end result is a marriage of high-tech and high-style, where floorstanding speakers, wall-mounted TVs and iPads befit the cool, contemporary design.
At Electronic House we focus our attention primarily on the engineering, programming and tailoring of a home’s electronic systems. But I felt in this case, it was time to give kudos to one of the pros who created such a beautiful backdrop for Savant to showcase its products, in this case, “celebrity” interior designer Thom Filicia. Known primarily for his role as the design expert on the series “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and one of “House Beautiful’s” Top 100 Designers, Thom shared with us his thoughts on technology and how it has had an impact on his designs.
Q: Technology is prevalent in most homes today. How does tech, specifically automation, help or hinder your design goals?
A: Automation provides designers more flexibility. The technology has become more streamlined, so there’s less clutter to deal with. Even the products that are left out in the open can be really beautiful and add to the overall visual of the space.
Q: Do you notice that your design clients are asking for technology?
A: Yes. People who don’t consider themselves to be “techy” are getting excited and interested in having technology in their homes. The fact that systems have become so intuitive, like Savant’s Apple-based automation system, is making it easier for anyone to walk into a home and know almost immediately how to operate everything.
Q: What specifically are your clients asking for?
A: First and foremost, it’s about user-friendliness. Clients also want to ensure that no matter what the technology, it seamlessly integrates into the existing look and feel of their home. And finally, my clients are looking for a way to implement different scenes—to make everyday routines more of an event. Being able to use technology to change the look, feel and functionality of a room is a big plus for both clients and designers—and it’s fun to do.
Q: How does your design philosophy carry through to the Savant Experience Center?
A: The whole concept of that space was to seamlessly implement advanced technology throughout, but in a totally sophisticated, comfortable and approachable way. We wanted to highlight the Savant brand while showing clients how it can be integrated into a beautiful environment.
Q: Which products today do you feel are making the biggest impact in interior design?
A: From a technology standpoint, I would say the iPad, for one. No longer do people need to worry about where to put their wall-mounted keypads. They can just grab their iPads and interact with their electronic systems. Also, flat-panel TVs and in-wall speakers continue to really influence design.
Q: What some of the trends in high-tech design?
A: The trend is about discrete, tasteful technology that complements its surroundings-both aesthetically and functionally. It’s not about hiding it necessarily, but more about integrating it appropriately. It also has to be effective and user-friendly.
To see what the inside of Savant’s Experience Center looks like, view the slideshow.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.