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How to Make Your House a Smart Home

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Builder Catherine Wilkes shares her advice for making your house tech-savvy.

By Courtney Runn, Headshot by Matt Lankes, Interiors by Thomas McConnell

As a third-generation builder, remodeling and constructing homes runs in Catherine Wilkes’ blood. She has spent two decades in Austin and the past 18 years as a builder and coowner of David Wilkes Builders alongside her husband. While the couple’s commitment to intentionality and excellence has remained strong, they are constantly evolving to keep homes modern and functional. Austin Woman asked Wilkes to share her tips for subtly and easily incorporating technology into your home.

INSTALL INVISIBLE SPEAKERS.

True to their name, invisible speakers are impossible to find when positioned properly. Installed behind the Sheetrock in the ceiling, these speakers offer high-quality sound without being eyesores or occupying valuable floor or wall space.

Wilkes recommends: Local audio company Captive Audio

GO WIRELESS.

Technology towers are out. Bluetooth is in. Going wireless is an easy way to incorporate technology into your home and create the perfect ambiance with adjustable lighting and audio.

Wilkes recommends: Hue lightbulbs by Philips

DECORATE WITH TECHNOLOGY.

A TV console rife with wires is outdated. Hanging TVs on the wall or, better yet, decorating with your TV, is the new trend. Wilkes loves installing TVs that double as art, like Samsung’s The Frame, which transforms into a lifelike piece of art when the TV component is turned off, making it easy to switch up a room’s look as often as you like.

Wilkes recommends: The Frame TV by Samsung

STREAMLINE YOUR UTILITIES.

When you’re traveling, allow technology to keep watch for you. Download software that controls lights, monitors the house via video and can even sense when there’s a pipe leak or overflow and shut off your water. Instead of keeping up with a variety of apps, find one system that can handle it all.

Wilkes recommends: Nest or Ring

DIGITALIZE ORGANIZATION.

For the avid wine drinker, Wilkes suggests installing organizational devices to keep track of the wine cellar and alert you when you’re running low on a favorite brand. The technology can link to bar codes or censors that activate when you remove bottles. Smart refrigerators provide a similar service, helping you keep track of groceries.

Wilkes recommends: Hammacher Schlemmer’s wine-cellar management system

HOW TO TALK TECHNOLOGY WITH YOUR BUILDER

• Have conversations early: Let your builder know sooner rather than later what technology you hope to incorporate into your home so there’s time to install devices like invisible speakers during the early stages.

• Set a budget: Know how much you want to spend ahead of time so your builder can plan more effectively.

• Be flexible: While it’s convenient to incorporate technology in the beginning, you can always add in more tech-savvy options later.

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