My husband and I are sitting on the couch, binge-watching yet another BBC series on Netflix, and his phone dings to let us know he’s gotten a text. I check my watch. It’s 9:52 p.m.

“Who’s that?” I ask. After-hours communication makes me nervous: Doesn’t all bad news arrive when we’re supposed to be asleep? (That’s how it happens in BBC series, anyway.)

“The sprinklers,” he grins. He flips the phone to show me, like our kindergartener holding up an art project of which he’s quite proud. Sure enough, the message says that because of rain in the forecast, the system will skip the scheduled watering cycle.

“Our sprinklers text you?” I ask. “Since when?”

He explains that he upgraded the sprinkler controller to a system called Rachio, which connects to Wi-Fi and has a corresponding app that allows him to control the sprinklers “from literally anywhere.” He’s clearly delighted.

Perhaps I don’t have to tell you that I’m married to a technophile—one who is especially enthusiastic about devices that he can hook up to our home. He’s the early adopter; I’m the skeptic. From the first days of our marriage, his approach to tech has been to consider how much easier tools and apps will make our lives; mine, on the other hand, has always been to fret about each new gadget’s impact on our home’s aesthetic.

But the newest crop of smart-home tech promises to make us both happy—because much of it is nearly invisible. We don’t have to opt for clunky black speakers to have an excellent sound system, or a giant lighting-control panel to manage a room’s glow. Our TV can display artwork when it’s not playing our favorite shows, and outlet covers can be made to match a wall color or the kitchen backsplash.

I learned all of this and more while editing our guide to residential technology, “Alexa, Design Me A Home.” Give it a close read if you’re curious about to make your house smarter without compromising its good looks.

And if you’re ready to upgrade more than just your home’s brains, “Time For A Refresh” gives the best advice from local building and design professionals about how to tackle a renovation, from the players who should be on your team to the trends worth the splurge.

Whether you fall in love with a texting sprinkler system, a smart lighting solution, or a whole new kitchen, I hope this issue opens up your eyes to the possibilities of boosting your home’s brains and beauty, as it did for me.

This article was originally published in 5280 Home February/March 2018.
Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.