Loving Life in an Active Adult Community

Posted: June 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm by: NewHomesGuide

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How many times has this happened to you in your travels? You arrive at an exquisite location — quiet and beautifully maintained. The facilities and recreational opportunities are top-notch. And everyone there shares a love for the place. You just feel good being there. Naturally, you want to stay.

Until a decade or so ago, you could only feel this way at vacation resorts, tropical retreats, country clubs, and unique destinations. But now, builders are creating the resort and country club lifestyle you love in communities right here in the metro area.

Homes and communities like these are being created today specifically for active adults, that fast-growing demographic of Baby Boomers who are the largest-ever single age group to hit demographic charts. Just past 50, active adults tend to be healthier, wealthier, and more educated than any previous generation.


So spoil yourself!

Active adult-designed homes and amenities offer a full range of experiences, and locations near theaters, shopping, restaurants and the action of Washington, DC, and the Mid-Atlantic region. Some are gated with 24-hour security — offering additional peace of mind for singles and frequent travelers. Since friends are now almost as important as families, communities foster a strong social structure, with clubhouses, public areas, regular events and pedestrian-friendly living. Active adults may be empty nesters free of strollers and tricycles, but they may also form Harley-Davidson clubs, marathon-running groups and Tai Chi classes.

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Homes can be single-family detached, attached, or villa-style condos. They can be in mid- or high-rise buildings, too, or in neighborhoods within larger planned communities. But all are dedicated to spoiling residents big time.

Floorplans are usually one-story, with some two-story designs offering bonus space for a spare bedroom and bath, hobby/recreation room, or extra storage. Buyers will spend on luxury and upgrades, and dual master suites, covered patios and porches, great rooms and granite countertops are commonly built in.

Active adults also stay busy lowering their golf handicaps and improving their tennis games. In fact, they’re more vital, physically fit and wellness conscious than any other age. That’s why communities deliver amenities you would find at a country club, such as golf, tennis, basketball courts and pools. Developers know buyers also want low maintenance, with none of the endless household chores.  Services for residents can include concierge, dry cleaning, handymen, lawn care and snow removal. It’s all covered under monthly homeowner fees.

Clubhouses are important as a center of community activity. They can come with meeting rooms, pottery studios, bocce courts, pool tables and computer labs. Open-air pavilions are great for three-season parties. Fitness centers offer aerobics and dance studios, paddle-tennis, workout equipment, pools with lap lanes, and spas. Biker/hiker paths are often built into communities.

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Why Choose an Active Adult Community?

These communities have all the amenities a resort has to offer without having to travel, pay for a country club or health club, or take care of your own pool. There are a number of communities to choose from right here in the area, in delightful locations near water, green spaces, entertainment possibilities — and your friends and family. Plus, now you have the luxury of some time on your hands, to have fun, volunteer, travel and make new friends. These communities give you every opportunity.

Active adults have been working hard and raising children for several decades, and now they are rewarding themselves with travel and recreation. They have a lot of living left to do. Today, they can do it in a community with the feel of a luxury resort, close to the culture, convenience and fun of the entire Washington metro area and Mid-Atlantic region.

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of New Homes Guide. Reserve your free copy of New Homes Guide today for additional stories, community spotlights, advice and more.

The Great Outdoors: Tips to Make the Most of Your Exterior Living Spaces

Posted: May 12, 2017 at 1:58 pm by: NewHomesGuide

The indoor-outdoor connection is one of the most vital and potentially unique aspects of your home’s design. As we’ve written about previously, your home’s relationship to its surroundings is shaped by the elements that bridge the gap, with the spaces outside often considered as an extension of those inside. Whether it’s for entertaining or relaxation, and regardless of scale, climate and location — there ways to harness the most of your home’s potential for outdoor living. Here are few ideas we’ve compiled for inspiration:

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Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Your view is a primary consideration for the design of your exterior space. Orienting openings and sightlines will ensure you’re looking at something pleasing or have the privacy you desire from views into the space. This home is nestled inside an opening within a dense collection of trees, giving a stellar backdrop to the extensive amounts of glazing on the rear side of the home. With no visible neighbors, this design works to capitalize on the views and natural light without making its owners feel exposed.

Image Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography & W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography & W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

When your home is situated on a small lot or you have other adjacent homes in close proximity, the design calls for a different approach. A small recess is carved out of the home’s footprint to create this terrace. Although it’s not inside, surrounding this space with the walls of the home on three sides, this space feels like a true “room.” It also allows for views between distant, otherwise disconnected, corners of the house — making it feel larger and more open.
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The New American Home Showcase for Modern Design

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 9:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

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For 34 years, the National Association of Home Builders’ Leading Suppliers Council and Professional Builder magazine have collaborated with architects, builders, product suppliers, home technology consultants and green building consultants to build a “New American Home” in conjunction with the annual International Builders’ Show.

This year’s home, designed and built by Phil Kean, architect and principal of the Phil Kean Design Group in Winter Park, Florida, is a contemporary-style lakeside home with a golf course view located in the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, home to numerous professional tennis players and golfers.

The design of the one-level house, which has 8,245 finished square feet, was inspired by the lavish mid-century modern houses in Palm Springs, California favored by Frank Sinatra and other members of the “Rat Pack.”  The house is on the market for $5.929 million. (more…)

New Interior Design Trends for 2017

Posted: April 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm by: NewHomesGuide

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These directives are moving the design marketplace to a clean, minimal and contemporary design styling that appeals to a broad market.

PhotoRefine
We are seeing refinement in furniture lines, art, appliance and finishes everywhere in the industry — design is clean, simple, crisp, fresh. A perfect example of refining is the toilet! Whatever brand you choose, the loo has become a fashion statement and footprint savvy. You can choose to conserve your flush, and you can admire your throne as museum worthy. Cool toilets are in!Photo

Restore
Repurposing, reclaiming and conserving is becoming mainstream in the design industry. Green is gold and good for the “footprint” generation. Natural elements evoke a positive move to a healthier decision. This trend is in our organic grocery shopping, our use of plants that require less water, and the choice to recycle antique furniture. Succulents are replacing more delicate, needy foliage inside and out, and live edge tables and rough-finished woods evoke ethical yet beautiful choices.Photo

Renew
What’s new and next has become a cultural expectation. Trends change at warp speed. Attention spans are short and demanding. Being innovative and savvy is essential if you want to grab attention and excite every generation today. We indulge in the innovations that live smart and inspire us. Induction stove tops cook faster, cool down instantly and are safer for little fingers. Smaller sinks can be multi-function as surface space when needed, kitchen storage needs to be more efficient and ergonomic, and washer/dryers are now sexy!

Guest blog by Interior Concepts, Inc., which is an award-winning full-service design firm based in Annapolis, MD. Please visit them at www.interiorconceptsinc.com.

Elevation Design: The Basics of What/How and Why It’s Important

Posted: February 26, 2017 at 4:20 pm by: NewHomesGuide

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

While it is not a term widely used by homeowners, or outside of architecture and construction circles, the elevation is a unique consideration and tool employed in the design of any home. As a drawing, an elevation is a two-dimensional projection perpendicular to the vertical plane – meaning, it is a flat view seen while the “observer” is looking forward.

Most commonly, elevations portray the individual sides of a house. In this sense, they’re an interpretation of a three-dimensional view and are not actually experienced when looking at the house. 

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Like other architectural drawings, elevations are a set of instructions. They’re directions for how many, where to position, how to connect the pieces of a puzzle…or house! They’re a means of communicating a connection between inside and outside (where the windows are located and how tall the roof is), but also a glimpse into the design process. 

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

When an architect or designer is developing a concept for a house, they’ll likely begin by loosely drawing the plan to organize spaces and determine how big it will be. In doing so, they’re considering things like “What room should get the most light?” and “Where is the best view?” or “What rooms need to be concealed for privacy?”. These all work together to establish the house’s footprint, which significantly defines the mass, or shape and scale, of the house. 

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

As the house takes shape, details such as the openings and trim are refined. Using the flat plane of an elevation drawing, the architect or designer is able to work through and verify the relationship of pieces that shape the face of the house. A design’s success is measured largely on the balance of its composition – nothing should be added/removed or enlarged/reduced without spoiling it. It should come as no surprise that the adage, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a mainstay among designers.   

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Elevation drawings are emblematic. Unlike floor plans, they’re less abstract and don’t require much translating to comprehend. A well-executed elevation should be both informative and evocative. As basic drawing conventions in the design industry, lines representing building materials (like brick, stone, and siding) are intended to have a tangible quality. Looking at these images, you can recognize characteristics like scale, texture, and reflectiveness as much as you can identify doors, windows, roofs, and columns – even with an “untrained” eye.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

This is what makes elevations special. In residential design specifically, people are often drawn to and compelled by familiarity and nostalgia. Your home should be a place of comfort and this can be derived, in part, by association – the bay window off your living room reminds you of days waving back to your family as you left the house. Or, the chimney peaking over your roof makes you think of winters spent in front of the fire. These sentimental qualities are powerful and are rooted in visual memories. When working with an architect or choosing a design from a builder, this type of recognition will resonate with you – it will ensure that you not only understand the home you’re building and that it meets your expectations, but it captivates you as well. 

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Design Encyclopedia: Know Your Home’s Roof

Posted: January 30, 2017 at 11:54 am by: NewHomesGuide

The roof is one of the most fundamental elements of building. Beyond “keeping the rain out,” it also has a big impact on the appearance and style of your home. We’ve compiled this brief summary outlining the various conventional roof types found in residential construction. Use it as a guide to orient yourself in your next home purchase so that you can better understand how your home performs and achieve the right look for the style you desire.

Gable

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

The gable roof is iconic – beginning with the first illustrations we make of our homes as children, the simple triangular shape is one of the most universal images of “house” we can imagine. In essence, its functional merits also provide a clear visual for the design – a single ridge and sloped sides that shed water and snow, while providing attic space on the inside. The gable is simple and effective, which is one of the main reasons why it is so prolific in residential building. It is also one of the most versatile roof types, in that a slight change in pitch (steepness or slope) can give your home a completely different appearance, denoting a key trademark of a particular architectural style. Here are a few examples:

Photo Credit: Tom Fields Photography

Photo Credit: Tom Fields Photography

Craftsman style homes are often characterized by a wide, single gable with a very low slope. The wide roof overhangs can be traced back to the style’s origins in the western United States, where shading the coastal sun was a key design consideration.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

A steeper slope can give your home a more Contemporary flair. In this example, its simplicity makes a bold statement.

Hip

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Hipped roofs are sloped on all sides, terminating in either a pyramid-like point or a ridge that spans one direction across the house. Like gabled roofs, their simplicity is a key facet of the design – water sheds evenly to all edges of the roof, making it easy to distribute downspouts around your house and control water drainage on your lot. Because of their shape and assembly, hip roofs tend to be lower and, thus, limit available attic space. The hip shape also limits the amount of exterior finish material needed on your house – if you imagine the “triangle” shape of a typical gable roof being replaced with a hip, you can eliminate all of the siding or brick required to cover that wall surface.

Just as with gable roofs, a change in pitch and overhang can alter the character and style of your home. These variations below are classic takes on the hip roof:

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Prairie style homes exude low, horizontal lines. Their roots in the flat plains of the central United States are indicative of the solid, grounded feel these homes possess.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Georgian style homes lie on the opposite end of the spectrum with large, sweeping hip roofs. Their height gives the appearance of grandeur and anchors the symmetrical openings on either side of the central front door.

Mansard

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Another variation on the hipped roof is the mansard. Its popular origins are derived from French architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the government levied property taxes based on the number of stories a building had. The mansard roof was born as a response, tucking a habitable attic space under steep “roof” planes (which function more like walls) that cap the top of the building. Now, mansards are found most typically in urban neighborhoods in an evolved form with ornate details categorized under the Second Empire and Chateau styles. These roofs function just like a hip roof, but have two sloped portions with differing pitches on each side of the home.

Shed

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

The most straight-forward and distilled option in roofing vocabulary is the shed. Every component of the design is rooted in a particular function or consideration – from light and heat, to loads and structural assembly, to interior space and acoustics. Shed roofs are ideal for maximizing ceiling height, natural light throughout your home, and the efficiency of your heating/air conditioning system. They can offer the greatest amount of exposure where you want the sun to hit the house and reduce the heat that’s lost through surfaces on the cold, dark side. In terms of style, shed roofs make their appearance in more Contemporary applications, but were originally seen in the earliest, most humble forms of architecture.

Flat

Image Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography & W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

This classification is actually a bit of a misnomer, as roofs really can’t be “flat” and still effectively function as a means to distribute water off the top of your home. As we’ve explained, roofs rely on a positive slope to prevent the pooling of not only water, but also snow, ice, and leaves. The flat roof is a mainstay of Contemporary architecture, expressing the purest, most minimal way to terminate the walls of a building. In reality though, it is actually one of the most sophisticated roof types in residential construction – requiring multiple complex considerations of the way materials, edges, openings, and loads perform together. In the example above, a small wall around the entire perimeter of the home (parapet) conceals a network of subtle ridges that channel water to several deliberate openings (scuppers) that drain off the roof. The result is a hyper-clean look with only a few carefully curated materials and a shape that is equally bold.

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

Design Forecast: 4 Big Ideas for 2017

Posted: January 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm by: NewHomesGuide

A new year is upon us! As we leave 2016 behind and set our sights forward, we’ve compiled our list of the top residential design concepts that are ready to make an impact in the year ahead.

1. Clean & Modern

When it comes to home exteriors, this sentiment represents the preference of the overwhelming majority of prospective homebuyers. While one’s interpretation of “modern” seems to differ from person to person, this tends to suggest a couple key elements: clean lines and many (often large) openings. As general concepts, these are not exclusive to the contemporary style and can enhance the appearance and quality of any home.

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Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

As a prime example, Modern Farmhouse is a prolific style that is inherently both traditional and progressive. With roots derived from humble rural vernacular of the American South, these are simple houses with subtle detailing. The monochrome color palette, minimal trim, corrugated metal roof, dark windows, and mitered siding all give them a refined edge while preserving the qualities of their forebearers.
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Tricks of the Trade: Creating the Ideal Exterior Palette for Your Home

Posted: November 27, 2016 at 2:44 pm by: NewHomesGuide

As the dark and dreary days of winter begin to bear upon you, a feature on color is just the remedy you need. We’ve put together the following ideas and tips on everything you need to know when selecting the exterior materials and finishes for your home.

1. Site & Landscape

It’s important to consider factors that are beyond your immediate control – the land around your home typically falls into the category. When approaching or passing your home from the street, what effect do you want to convey? Is it more muted and nestled within the landscape (like the home below) or do you desire a stark contrast to the home’s surroundings? Color is a decisive factor for this consideration – adjusting the brightness and darkness of the hue will affect its visual impact among trees and other plantings.

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Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

If you live in an area that experiences a dynamic range of seasons, you’ll find that this decision is one that should be made with a variety of conditions in mind. The creamy almond color of the parged brick on the home below is well-suited to “pop” against lush green grass, vibrant oranges and red leaves in fall, and a stark white, snow-covered yard during winter. (more…)

How to Measure and Understand Your Home’s Square Footage

Posted: October 27, 2016 at 11:19 am by: NewHomesGuide

Square footage is an elusive unit of measure. Because it factors in multiple dimensions, it can be inherently difficult to visualize or estimate. In the world of real estate comps, lender appraisals, and construction costs, this figure is a commanding factor in assessing the value of your home. Because it commands so much influence and the actual methods of accurately computing it can vary, there is a lot of merit in having an intuitive ability to comprehend it.

Without training or familiarity though, this can be a frustrating endeavor to take on as a homeowner. Have you had an experience buying or selling your home when you have faced important decisions armed only with what feels like an over-simplified number and no context for how it was determined? Let us help you by breaking down the “what” and “how” in calculating square footage.

Let’s do the math.

The math behind determining square footage is relatively simple. Does the formula A = L x W ring a bell? To compute a room’s square footage, multiply the measurements from two opposing walls – the length and width of the room. You can acquire a fairly accurate overall total for your home by just adding the areas of individual rooms together.

Unfortunately, this is where the calculation tends to get obscured. Real estate agents, zoning municipalities, and contractors all use slightly different methods to determine square footage. Among these trades, there is a generally accepted standard, but no completely consistent or universal point from which the measurements are taken. In most cases though, the exterior footprint is the most reliable and widely applicable figure to use. This is potentially deceiving, however, because it includes the thickness of the house’s walls, which are not readily visible or experienced when inside the house’s living spaces.

Make it real.

The easiest way to conceptualize this abstract unit is to compare the square footages of more familiar things you use and inhabit on a regular basis. Here are some good examples to put it in terms that are more readily understandable:

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

Photo Credit: Hoachlander Davis Photography

King-sized Bed: 42 square feet. Most master bedrooms vary between 200 and 400 square feet OR a rough equivalent of 5-10 king beds.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Two-car Garage: One of the most consistent and regulated measurements in contemporary home building, 20’-0” x 20’-0” or 400 square feet is the standard protocol for this space.

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Drop-ceiling tiles: Browsing listings on New Homes Guide from the office? Odds are that your building has at least a few spaces with prolific white acoustical ceiling tiles. These almost always come in the same 2’-0” x 2’-0” dimension. Add up the number of tiles in each direction and multiply them together to determine the square footage of your conference room for an easy comparison.

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Image Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects LLC

Three-fixture bathroom: This is one of the most conventional and efficient bathroom layouts around. Modern standards of code clearances and product dimensions put this room at an approximate minimum of 5’-0” x 8’-0” or 40 square feet. Would you have guessed that your bathroom is roughly the same size as your bed? This just demonstrates how abstract the raw number can feel.

Not all spaces are created equal.

In determining the overall square footage total of your home, there are a few exceptions and distinctions worth noting:

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Photo Credit: TruPlace Inc.

Finished vs. unfinished: Garages, Mechanical rooms, and Basements that are unconditioned (and/or generally unsuitable for year-round use) and not equipped with walls, floors, and ceilings similar to the rest of the house are excluded.

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Above-grade vs. below-grade: Basements that are buried both wholly and partially (i.e. a walk-out basement) below ground are usually listed separately.

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Photo Credit: Maxine Schnitzer Photography

Double-height spaces: Foyers and Great Rooms with ceilings that extend multiple floor levels are only counted once.

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Photo Credit: JTC Photography

Floor area: Bay windows and chimneys, which do not have space on the floor for you to “occupy” do not count towards square footage.

Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Photo Credit: Allen Kennedy Photography

Stairs: Runs/treads and landings both count in square footage totals. They are measured as a part of the floor “from which they descend,” so are generally counted twice in a typical two-story home with a basement.

Do you have any tips or tricks you rely on to visualize square footage? Share them with us by leaving a comment below!

Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.

The 9 Coolest Home Automation Products

Posted: October 21, 2016 at 7:57 am by: NewHomesGuide

Home automation products make your life easier, but they’re also just plain cool. You can control so many things in your home without moving more than a finger. There are endless products to choose from, some of which you never would have thought you needed.

The WeMo Insight Switch is a great place to start. It turns anything you want into a home automation product. Plug the WeMo Insight Switch into any gadget or appliance and download the app to control it from your phone. You can even see how much energy your devices are using and how much it costs you to run them.

WeMo Insight Switch (Dave Taylor via Flickr)

WeMo Insight Switch (Dave Taylor via Flickr)

L.U.C.Y. is your personal assistant, and she’s also a robot. L.U.C.Y. recognizes the faces of your family members and can learn to anticipate everyone’s preferences. You can ask her questions, set reminders and write notes. You can also use L.U.C.Y. to control all of your other home automation products.

Lutron’s Serena Remote Controlled Shades may be a bit of a novelty, but there is no denying that they make your life easier. Not only can you control your window shades from your phone, but you can set timers and even use voice control. This is especially helpful for windows that are hard to reach.

These Philips Hue Smart LED Lightbulbs are just lightbulbs, but they also happen to have features that allow you to change the colors of the lights, toggle the brightness and set alarms and timers, all from your phone.

The Kohler DTV+ Digital Shower Interface allows you to design your perfect shower. The waterproof touch screen is mounted inside your shower so you can customize water pressure, temperature, lighting and even music for up to six different people.

Check out the August Smart Lock for a durable and reliable way to lock your door. You can lock it from your phone, but you can also lock it manually if you want.

August Smart Lock (Scott Lewis via Flickr)

August Smart Lock (Scott Lewis via Flickr)

The Koubachi K001 Indoor Wi-Fi Plant Sensor makes sure your plants are never neglected. This device monitors water, temperature and soil. It will alert you when your plant needs attention and tell you what the problem is. It can even graph the plant’s data, so you can check up on its needs.

Think you know your pet? The Petnet SmartFeeder might know your dog or cat better than you do. It lets you set a feeding schedule for your pet and manage the portion sizes, so you can feed Fluffy remotely from your phone. It also allows you to have more pet food delivered right to your door.

The Toasteroid App-Controlled Toaster is exactly what it says it is. Not only can you use your phone to make perfect toast, but the Toasteroid lets you create your own designs and print them directly onto each slice of bread.

Give some of these products a try to see how much easier your life can be with just a few gadgets and a smartphone.

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