As we outfit our homes with new furnishings, fixtures, and finishes, tech is playing an increased role in both the design and product choices we make. Ingrained in all aspects of our daily lives, “tech” keeps us connected while “technology” furthers convenience. Local design experts frequently factor in clients’ usage of both tech and technology and offer tips on creating a tech-balanced home that offers modern conveniences without resembling the inside of a computer. All agree — a home should still look and feel like a warm, welcoming place, not a mess of wires, media devices and contraptions. 

Perhaps the most ubiquitous of today’s devices is the TV, which began altering room designs in the ‘50s. Seventy years later, the devices have changed drastically in size, shape and quantity per household. For today’s interior designers, TVs are a force to be reckoned with. What should the focal point of a room be, and how do you prevent a 60-inch TV from automatically commanding that space? 

“If it’s possible to make something else the focal point — like a fireplace or architectural detail — then that always helps make the technology not a feature in the design,” says Designer Kelly Sutton. “I like using The Frame TV so that it looks like art in the space.”  

Growing in popularity — and sure to be a holiday season hit — Samsung’s The Frame TV has many of us wondering why we didn’t have this option sooner. With a flush-to-the-wall, near-wireless design and a variety of frame options, this non-reflective TV comes with an ability to display art when you’re not bingeing your favorite shows. Designer Chad Graci of Graci Interiors now recommends this product to clients for ease of aesthetic control. Owners can make their own art choice and frame choice without messy wires to worry about. 

“I have gone to great lengths in the past to disguise and hide technology,” he says, “but lately I have become more embracing of TVs and the like, as they are such a part of everything.” Even without a framed art display, unmounted TVs can be accommodated without sacrificing style. Graci loves to embed TVs into modern or antique bookcases or case pieces and also loves designing pop-up pieces of furniture — also known as TV lift cabinets — to house a TV at the foot of the bed. 

According to Penny Francis, owner and principal designer at Eclectic Home, furniture has evolved to accommodate most technologies. 

“Media cabinets are equipped with cut-outs in the back to feed wires and cables, shelves with channels for ventilation and remote-friendly and acoustically transparent handcrafted doors,” she says. “The trend is moving away from having the TV mounted on the wall — where most times people place it too high — to placing it on top of a piece of furniture.”

To provide some hand-crafted contrast to your media devices, Francis recommends retrofitting antiques like a wardrobe, armoire or server to accommodate the technology. Just ensure you can conceal equipment with any necessary modified shelving and hidden access for plugs. 

Kelly Sutton also likes to mix styles when tech is involved. In an office, she might recommend a beautiful vintage desk floating in space accompanied by modern shelving that can hide or manage tech components. For handheld devices, charging stations are making their way into furniture pieces, which means your furnishings can now help reduce excess cables and inconvenient or unsightly charger placement. 

Beyond antique furniture and art, another way to provide contrast in a high-tech home is to incorporate handcrafted finishes that rely on tradition and create architectural focal points. One such tradition is specialty painting, which adds depth and texture to ornate crown and plaster molding, floors, ceilings and walls. 

“Although technology is an important part of our lives today, it will never evoke the custom, handcrafted story that specialty painting tells and the emotion it contributes to a space,” says artist and painter Diane Killeen. 

According to Killeen, when it comes to painting a pattern on old wooden floors, mixing that perfect shade of plaster for your walls, or water gilding with genuine 23K gold, you not only elevate a space but you install centuries-old techniques that aren’t replicated by machines or wallpaper. Before starting her firm more than two decades ago, Killeen traveled extensively, restoring historic sites. Today, she works with architects, designers, fine art conservators, mural artists and plaster craftsmen to make sure projects are seen through a complete lens — one that encompasses both the past and present. 

Meanwhile, the future is also upon us. Both smart home automation and smarter-designed fixtures and finishes continue to evolve, giving homeowners and designers a variety of choices for increasing convenience. From motorized window treatments that open and close automatically to mood-setting lights, there’s an argument to be made for budgeting for better technology as you consider your furnishings’ and fixtures’ materials and colors. 

At MASON·ROS architecture, Design Principal Kristen Mason Klamer sees more clients integrating smart home controlling software and systems into their projects. From light and plumbing fixtures to door and window hardware, towel warmers, appliances, thermostats, fireplaces and more, nearly all aspects of the home can be controlled via mobile devices or by voice. A benefit of voice control is that it can be used by anyone in the home regardless of age or ability. 

According to Klamer, one of the newest and most advanced smart home technologies is Josh ai, a voice-controlled automation system that utilizes artificial intelligence to learn your patterns and preferences, making your home more comfortable and energy efficient while providing privacy and protection of personal data that “Big Tech” doesn’t necessarily offer. The Josh platform works with a wide variety of smart device and service brands, from major dealers of smart lighting and shades to sound systems, thermostats, media devices, door stations, fans, security systems, pools and more. 

“The majority of our clients are installing or preparing for smart controls and equipment, which are the way of the future,” says Klamer. “If a client’s budget doesn’t allow for these systems, equipment or devices, we do recommend running power or fiber-optic cable to ideal locations so that the home is tech-ready for smart products and platforms at a future date without major construction.”

Whether you go big with tech now or wait for demand to drive down prices of newer gadgets, there’s no putting the cat back in the bag. These technologies and our reliance on them are here to stay — we might as well have fun balancing convenience with design.