What’s cooking in your kitchen? If yours is like most, probably a whole lot. This room has evolved from a space that everyone but Mom avoided to a warm, inviting room where the kids’ schedules are organized, newspapers are read and family meals are consumed. A spacious floor plan, scads of cabinet and counter space and top-grade appliances might have a lot to do with the growing popularity of the kitchen. But there are other reasons why this room is commanding so much attention. TVs, music systems, computers and other electronic fixtures have started creeping into kitchens, giving friends and family even more reason to love them.
You cook, you clean, you entertain in your kitchen. Why not do all of this to the tune of a great song? There are many ways to bring music into the space: Playing a radio or boom box or even cranking the stereo in the adjacent family room works, but there’s a much more elegant solution that takes up no space on the counter and won’t blow an amp. A whole-house music system takes tunes from many of the components you probably already own—a CD player and a satellite receiver, for instance—and delivers them to a pair of connected speakers. These speakers can be installed into the ceiling so that they’re out of the way. And you can put as many in the room as you like. A large kitchen, for example, might need a pair over the island, another pair at the computer nook and a third pair over the breakfast bar to completely blanket the room with beautiful sound.
The only other item you’ll need for the area is a keypad to select and control the audio components. And those components can be located anywhere in the house. As long as your home systems installer can get wire to the spot, the keypad can control the devices.
Keypad designs vary, so be sure to choose one that will be easy to operate for anyone who visits your house. You may even want to consider a keypad that functions as an intercom station. That way, you’ll never have to yell for your kids to come to the dinner table again.
TV watching used to be a very focused activity. You sat down, stared at the screen and didn’t move for two hours. Sure, this is still the preferred method of viewing, but the fact is, most families simply don’t have the time to veg out in front of the tube for hours on end. They catch bits and pieces of their favorite programs when they can, often while they’re doing homework, returning phone calls and pulling supper together—all of which happen in the kitchen. For this reason, it makes sense to have a TV in the space. You won’t need anything large—a 17-inch screen should suffice. The most important thing to consider is the location of the TV because you’ll want to make sure it can be easily seen from various spots. The best way to ensure a great view from everywhere in the kitchen is by mounting the TV to special hardware that will enable you to tilt and swivel the set around. TV mounts come in a variety of styles, from those that attach to the wall or ceiling to ones that hang from the underside of a cabinet. You might even consider installing a mount that lets you keep a flat-screen TV against the wall and then pull it out whenever you’re ready to watch. Be sure to put in all the appropriate jacks at the TV location so that you can pick up cable or satellite programming. You can keep the DVD player and other video sources in a different room. A home systems installer can design a system that will allow the kitchen TV to tune into any movie that’s spinning on the DVD player. You can grab a snack and never miss a second of the action.
A kitchen TV can also help you monitor your surveillance camera. By tuning to a certain station, you can keep an eye on the kids at the pool while fixing dinner and check to see if the trash man has dumped your canister before you head out to retrieve it.
Wireless Internet Connection
Where’s the first place you plop down your laptop when you come home from work? If your portable PC often finds itself on the kitchen counter, do yourself a favor and have a wireless network installed. You’ll be able to surf the web, print out documents and answer emails conveniently from the kitchen workspace without having to plug your machine into anything. The wireless network can connect the laptop to your modem, printer and other peripherals located in your study.
Wireless networking systems keep getting faster and more reliable, but if you’re a stickler for speed, have a home systems installer wire your house with high-speed communications cabling. The kitchen (as well as other rooms of the house) will need to be outfitted with Ethernet jacks. Be sure to choose the location of the kitchen jack wisely. It should be in a place that’s comfortable to work at and that’s away from the stove, sink and prep areas.
The busiest place in your house is also bound to be the messiest. A central vacuum system can more quickly and easily rid the kitchen of crumbs, dust, dirt and other particles that find their way onto the floor more quickly and easily than any broom, mop or traditional vacuum can. All of those cleaning tools can stay in the closet—heck, you may even want to toss them in the trash. The largest component of a central vac, the canister where all the debris is collected, stays either in the basement or the garage. All you need to pull into the kitchen is a hose, which plugs into an inlet that siphons anything you pick up to the remote canister. Central vac manufacturers offer a variety of cleaning attachments suitable for hard-surface flooring, as well as for window blinds and the inside of your kitchen drawers and cabinets.
Floor Warming System
Many kitchen floors are covered with materials, such as ceramic tile and marble, that naturally feel cold to the touch. Warm up the area by having a radiant floor heating system installed. Placed beneath the floor, the system delivers warmth in the form of either hydronic (water) or electric energy. You can control the system with a separate switch or integrate it into your home’s central heating and cooling system. The latter choice offers the convenience of having the floor heating system activate automatically at a time that’s been preprogrammed into the thermostat.
You juggle a lot from your kitchen. It’s where you go when you arrive home from work, and it’s one of the last places you visit before you head off to bed. It makes sense, then, to include some sort of device that will enable you to control your home’s temperature, lighting and security system from one central location. A control station communicates with the various systems in your house through a home control processor, which is usually located in the basement or a utility room. The processor and control station are typically sold as a package, and the style of the control station varies by manufacturer. For the kitchen, choose a station that not only looks nice mounted to the wall but that is also able to clearly display all the information you’d like to see. A touchscreen-style control station is the way to go. Akin to the design of an automatic teller machine, a touchscreen can contain individual pages of controls for each system in your house. The security page, for example, would present only controls that are relevant to the security system. Some touchscreens can also display web content, video from surveillance cameras, satellite and cable TV programs and family photos, making it a device that’s as fun as it is helpful to a busy household.
By Lisa Montgomery, senior editor for Electronic House magazine. To see more articles from the editors of Electronic House magazine about the connected home visit www.electronichouse.com.