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14 Life-Changing Home Products for 2015

Home expert Boyce Thompson previews this year's Duquesne Light Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show and speculates on which products will become fully integrated into our homes soon.


Boyce Thompson knows what will be in your house next year. And if you check out what he recommends, you can move into next year’s home early. The former editorial director of BUILDER magazine annually built concept homes during his time at the publication — not simply investigating trends and innovations in home design but implementing them for practical use.

At the 2015 Duquesne Light Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show, he’ll introduce and answer questions about “Life-Changing Products for 2015,” a collection of 14 state-of-the-art items that he predicts will change the way you interact with the space around you.

“This is not about making the dishwasher [color] almond this year instead of last year’s avocado,” says John DeSantis, executive director of the Home & Garden Show. “This is about lasting significance.”

Thompson, also a lecturer and author of “The New New Home,” spoke with Pittsburgh Magazine to preview this year’s selections and speculate on which products will become fully integrated into our homes soon.

How do you determine whether an item is a potential “life-changer” or a gimmick? Can you predict what people actually will use and incorporate into their daily lives?
What I tried to avoid was highlighting products that are just more energy-efficient or require a little bit less maintenance. Instead, I looked for products that fundamentally change the way you live at home — by saving you time or adding convenience . . . I think they point in interesting, worthwhile directions.

Connected devices, smart technology and the Internet represent the biggest difference between a home today and a home, say, 25 years ago. What will be the most visible difference between today’s home and a home 25 years from now?   
Floor plans are growing more open and more flexible. I think that 15 to 20 years from now, you’ll have the ability to configure homes the way you want them in a way you don’t have now.

A lot of the items on this list focus on making adjustments for you based on real-time data and observations. Should homeowners be worried about privacy concerns or devices in their homes being hacked?   
I’m not particularly worried about it — but I can see where some people might be. But there’s so much information we give away today [that] I don’t know that, on margin, having one of these products is going to matter. What matters is telling people on Facebook that we’re away from home; I think that’s a bigger deal than someone hacking your front door.

Are products on your list accessible to people in Pittsburgh with very old homes?
Plenty of us live in 100-year-old buildings that are far from “smart.” I tried my hardest to select some interesting things that would work in a remodeling application. Anytime you have an app-controlled product, as long as you have a wireless router you’ll be OK. [As another example,] all of these major window companies are coming out with window walls — they’re basically enormous foldaway window systems and doors, so you can create indoor/outdoor relationships that are really cool . . . If you were to do a remodel, it’s a pretty cool idea to merge into outdoor spaces.
What should people expect from you at the Home Show?
How will you introduce these products — and will people be able to buy them there?    One of my charges was to develop a list of where people can buy these things . . . At home shows, you’ve got a zillion booths . . . it’s tough for people to figure out what the trends are, much less what they should do. I decided on my own what these 14 products were going to be, and then I found vendors of these products . . . [So I’ll] have a smart washer and dryer connected to the Internet. I’ll have the Nest Thermostat; people will be able to monkey with it . . . They have me speaking all the time, like three times a day.


14 Life-Changing Products for 2015

DuPont Corian Solid Surfaces, countertops that can wirelessly recharge smartphones and tablets simply by placing the devices on them.

SageGlass, windows that dynamically darken or lighten automatically (or on command) for varying levels of light throughout the day.

The Kohler touchless toilet and faucet, which allows you to control your bathroom with (germ-free) waves of the hand.

The Mitsubishi Electric H2i Series, HVAC systems that sense hot and cold spots — that is, where you are in the house — and adjust the temperature automatically.

ECOS Air Pure Paint, a line of paints that filters pollutants out of the air.

Radio Frequency ID, a system that can read tags on items for varied uses — from telling you where you left your cell phone to opening a pet door for your pooch.

The Nest Thermostat, which remembers how you program it and creates a personalized heating and cooling schedule (and adjusts itself when you’re not home).

Energy-Monitoring Software to monitor your home’s energy uses down to individual circuits — helping you lower your electric bills one appliance at a time.

The Whirlpool Smart Duet Washer and Dryer, which waits to wash your clothes until energy rates are low — and can keep your laundry fresh if you leave the house with an unfinished load.

TerraSpan Lift & Side Doors by Kolbe Windows & Doors, next-generation sliding-glass doors designed to replace whole walls and bring the outdoors in.

Crestron Pyng, an app that works with smart devices throughout your home to control lights, shades, door locks, thermostats — and more — remotely from one program.

Rachio’s Iro app controls your outdoor sprinkler system by analyzing weather patterns, water in the soil, water-use restrictions and other factors before watering the lawn.

The Kevo by Kwikset, a door lock that opens with a touch from you or a family member.

Broan ULTRA-Sense Fans, which adjust automatically when people are present or the humidity and/or temperature changes.

The Duquesne Light Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show, featuring more than 10 acres of vendors and exhibitors, is set for March 6-15 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Boyce Thompson will appear throughout the home show to introduce and demonstrate the 14 “Life-Changing Products for 2015.”

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