The Smarter Apartment

Photo: Courtesy of Walker Ridge Construction. Illustration by Mark Nerys.

For the Jetsons, the push of one button made beds, brushed teeth, and flipped pancakes. We aren’t there yet, but as more and more companies roll out “smart” products—household items that can connect to the Internet—futuristic living is well within our reach. (At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, nearly 900 vendors unveiled smart-home gizmos.) Just a few swipes on a phone or tablet—from inside one’s apartment or halfway around the world—and users can now flip their lights on or off, tweak a thermostat, and make sure their houseplants aren’t dead. None of this necessarily requires a Ph.D. from MIT or a trust fund, either, thanks to an array of affordable, easy-to-set-up technologies. This primer walks through more than a dozen gadgets for kitting out a home, tours one of the smartest (and priciest) apartments in New York, and sticks a head in the lab to see what other imaginative home technology is on the horizon. No wise-cracking Rosie the robot yet, but perhaps a recipe-suggesting refrigerator will do.

Out of Sight
Inside a deceptivelyhigh-tech home.

Financier John de Neufville sold his West Village townhouse for over $17 million last month, but not before tricking it out with the most comprehensive home-automation suite money—lots of money—can buy. Though its appearance is intentionally minimalist, as many “smart” homes are, the six-level residence is equipped with high-tech lighting, multiple entertainment systems, and more security than Rikers—a top-to-bottom gadgetization that, all told, cost him nearly half a million dollars. Mark Hernandez, founder of systems-design firm Cliqk and the mastermind behind the digitization ­project, walks us through the first floor.

1. Smart Shades:
Lutron QS motorized shades at the front and back of the house can be programmed to go up and down at designated times throughout the day. The blinds are iPhone- and iPad-controlled, so if you decide to take an impromptu nap, you can black out the sun without getting off the sofa.

2. Smart Video:
Two Samsung LED TVs, one built into the living-room wall and the other on a swing mount near the kitchen, plus a Seura Mirror TV in the bathroom, network through a central computer system, ensuring that no one misses a second of Game of Thrones while passing from the sofa to the bathroom.

3. Smart Lighting:
Keypads in the foyer, living room, and kitchen are programmed with high-, medium-, and low-lighting options as well as more inventive hues, like “welcome” and “vacation.” For a fast exit, there’s a whole-house on-off switch.

4. Smart Sound:
The living room’s recessed Bowers and Wilkens CI Series ceiling speakers and in-wall subwoofer make up one of eight interconnected “music zones” throughout the house. Playlists can be programmed wirelessly by room or by floor.

5. Smart Temperature:
Embedded in the wall for a flush look, Aprilaire IP’s thermostat-like system connects to the home’s central computer, making heating and cooling iControllable, too.

6. System Control:
The first floor has an in-wall iPad and two smart remotes that control many of the home’s systems. One app drives everything remotely, including the whole-house light switch and security cameras.

The Smarter Apartment